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Review: The Skiers, by Jill Bialosky

(From 'Finding Light In Dark Matter')

The Skiers collects from a trio of titles that span eleven years: the latest being Intruder (published in 2008). The earlier work confirms an empathetic, narrative sensibility that delicately outlines this collection. The End of Desire, Bialosky's debut, interweaves elegies (for the living and the dead) with an array of family nostalgias and flashbacks that are vividly seen, almost crafted as event-in-portraiture. The most moving example of this is in the book's opener, the ten-part sequence 'Fathers in the Snow', a seemingly free-moving elegy which involves a family trying (quite literally) to rebuild after the death of a father: My sisters and I were outdoors / building fathers out of snow.
Certainly, natural elements provide winning motifs throughout The Skiers. Weather is perhaps most attentively approached in the book's strongest poem, Four Versions of Rain. Here, under the influence of Stevens's Blackbird, Bialosky pares her language down to its essential, laconic syntax:

Underneath
the dim light
of the library

carrel,
the rain
battering

its frail
apology
against the window.

In her more recent work, Bialosky sometimes refuses the confessional. Making a welcome move towards ambiguity, the swerving sonnet sequence, The Skiers also begins with snaow and eventually allows nature to triumph over the figure of a lone skier who has intruded on two lovers. By exiting the poem whilst looking across the mountain peak to the shadow of a deer / and her hart neither frivolous nor star- / struck, Bialosky cleverly mythologizes and transforms the poem's unnamed protagonists, creating as she does something of a paradise regained.