Poetry Will Save Your Life

A Memoir

Poetry Will Save Your Life

“Bialosky’s erudite and instructive approach to poetry [is] itself a refreshing tonic.” —Chicago Tribune

“Wisdom and deep compassion...make [Bialosky’s book] a tremendous asset both to readers and other writers.” —The Washington Post

An unconventional and inventive coming-of-age memoir organized around fifty-one remarkable poems by poets such as Robert Frost, Emily Dickinson, Wallace Stevens and Sylvia Plath, from a critically acclaimed New York Times bestselling author and poet.

For Jill Bialosky, certain poems stand out like signposts at pivotal moments in a life: the death of a father, adolescence, first love, leaving home, the suicide of a sister, marriage, the birth of a child, the day in New York City the Twin Towers fell. As Bialosky narrates these moments, she illuminates the ways in which particular poems offered insight, compassion, and connection, and shows how poetry can be a blueprint for living. In Poetry Will Save Your Life, Bialosky recalls when she encountered each formative poem, and how its importance and meaning evolved over time, allowing new insights and perceptions to emerge.

While Bialosky’s personal stories animate each poem, they touch on many universal experiences, from the awkwardness of girlhood, to crises of faith and identity, from braving a new life in a foreign city to enduring the loss of a loved one, from becoming a parent to growing creatively as a poet and artist.

In Poetry Will Save Your Life, Bialosky has crafted an engaging and entirely original examination of a life while celebrating the enduring value of poetry, not as a purely cerebral activity, but as a means of conveying personal experience and as a source of comfort and intimacy. In doing so she brilliantly illustrates the ways in which poetry can be an integral part of life itself and can, in fact, save your life.
  • Atria Books | 
  • 240 pages | 
  • ISBN 9781451693201 | 
  • August 2017
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Reading Group Guide

This reading group guide for Poetry Will Save Your Life includes an introduction and discussion questions for your book club. The suggested questions are intended to help your reading group find new and interesting angles and topics for your discussion. We hope that these ideas will enrich your conversation and increase your enjoyment of the book.

Introduction

For Jill Bialosky, certain poems stand out like signposts at pivotal moments in her formative years: the death of her father; first love; leaving home; a sister’s suicide; the birth of a child. Drawing from fifty-one remarkable poems by masters ranging from Robert Frost to Wallace Stevens, Elizabeth Bishop to Gwendolyn Brooks, Shakespeare to Adrienne Rich, this engaging and original memoir celebrates poetry as a means of conveying personal experience and as a source of comfort and intimacy.

Topics and Questions for Discussion

1.Bialosky has the uncanny ability to remember poems tied to specific memories as far back as ten years old. What is the first poem, nursery rhyme, or song that you can remember from childhood? Is there any memory you associate with it?

2. Bialosky is profoundly moved by Robert Frost’s “The Road Not Taken” when it is read aloud. Pick one poem from the book, read it first to yourself and then read it aloud to a few other people. How does this exercise change your understanding of the poem? What is s see more

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From acclaimed poet and novelist Jill Bialosky, the New York Times bestselling exploration of her sister’s suicide and the lifelong impact it had on those left behind—“a beautifully composed, deeply reflective work” (Publishers Weekly).

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On the night of April 15, 1990, Jill Bialosky’s twenty-one-year-old sister Kim...

About the Author

Jill Bialosky
Photograph © Beowulf Sheehan

Jill Bialosky

Jill Bialosky is the author of four acclaimed collections of poetry. Her poems have appeared in The New Yorker, The New York Times, The Kenyon Review, and The Atlantic, among others. She is the author of three novels, most recently, The Prize, and a New York Times bestselling memoir History of a Suicide: My Sister’s Unfinished Life. Jill was honored by the Poetry Society of America for her distinguished contribution to the field of poetry in 2015. She is an editor at W. W. Norton & Company and lives in New York City.

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