Alfred A. Knopf, Paperback, 9780375709722, 96pp.
Publication Date: February 4, 2003
Jill Bialosky follows her acclaimed debut collection, The End of Desire, with this powerful sequence of poems that probes the subterranean depths of eros. Gerald Stern has called Bialosky “the poet of the secret garden, the place, at once, of grace and sadness,” and here she enters that garden again, blending the classical with the contemporary in bold considerations of desire, fertility, virginity, and childbirth. Written against the idealizations of romantic love and motherhood, she tells of the loss of one child and the birth of another, the fierce passions of life before children, the seductions of suicide, and the comforts of art. Throughout, she braids and unbraids the distinct yet often inseparable themes of motherhood, love, and sexuality. “When he comes to me,” she writes,
in his hand, wanting
me to touch him, I hear
you stir in your crib. I know what your body
The soft skin of a flower, not bruised, not yet
in torment . . .
Subterranean is the moving and intimate account of the emergence of a female psyche. Like the figures of Persephone and Demeter, who appear in various forms in these poems, Bialosky finds a strange beauty in grief, and emerges from the realms of temptation with insight and distinction.
"Jill Bialosky slips Persephone's pomegranate seeds into her own poet's hand, then dives deep in Subterranean, locating fragments of girlhood and womanhood to assemble into a mythic underworld collage. If Beatrice herself were a suburban American girl who preceded Dante on his journey, these lyrics might be what she would tell us. You never get to heaven without the descent, as she, the Greek gods, and Jill Bialosky know very well--and we come to know through this alluring, surprising second volume of poems, where this poet comes into her own."
"These wonderful poems call to us at first with their lyric surfaces. But the music of their language is really thin ice and not far underneath is the dark, chill power of the book's true themes: sexuality, regret, the loss of children, the tainting of childhood, the nature of erotic pain. It is rare that a reader can be enchanted and endangered at the same time. This is a book of splendid and disturbing ambition."
"Bialosky takes certain essentialities--spring and winter, suffering and desire, the surface life and the sweetly subtle pull of the life below--and makes them achingly local. The poems in SUBTERRANEAN reveal one woman's psychic territory, lucidly and passionately mapped."
"Jill Bialosky's second book of poems, SUBTERRANEAN, is an advance in psychic depth and expressive eloquence beyond her distinguished THE END OF DESIRE. Her new work fully establishes her voice: poignant, perilous, overwhelmingly aware of the extent to which our lives, inner and outer, are deflected by contingency, and by drives of love and death that govern us."