Jill Bialosky

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Bialosky at the 2017 Texas Book Festival

Jill Bialosky (Born Jill Robin Bialosky, April 13, 1957 in Cleveland, Ohio) is an American poet, novelist, essayist and executive book editor. She is the author of four volumes of poetry, three novels, and two recent memoirs. She co-edited with Helen Schulman an anthology, Wanting a Child. Her poems and essays have appeared in The New Yorker, The New York Times Magazine, The Paris Review, The Atlantic Monthly, Harper’s, O Magazine, Real Simple, American Scholar, The Kenyon Review, Harvard Review, and chosen for Best American Poetry, among others. Her work has been published internationally in the United Kingdom, Spain, and Korea and has been collected by libraries worldwide.[1] A Los Angeles Times profile said Bialosky has "used literature to explore matters of loss and family. She is also executive editor at publisher W.W. Norton, where over the last two decades she has worked with, among others, Mary Roach and Nicole Krauss."[2]

Early life[edit]

Bialosky grew up in suburban Cleveland, Ohio. Her mother is Iris Bialosky and her father was Milton Bialosky who passed away when Bialosky's mother was 24, with three daughters under the age of three.[3] In History of a Suicide Bialosky writes about growing up with four sisters and a widowed mother and her youngest sister, Kim's suicide on 15 April 1990 aged 21.[4]


Bialosky has been called a "triple threat" as poet, editor, and novelist.[5] Cara Benson in an interview in Bookslut called her "a versatile and accomplished woman of letters. She’s published acclaimed works of poetry, memoir, and fiction, and is an editor and senior executive .... In whichever genre she is writing, to me her work stands out for its compassionate attention to the psyche of the imperfect humans struggling through their lives"[6]

Bialosky said her intention is to "probe the human experience"...and "privacy and the distinction between our public selves and private selves."[7]

Her free verse poems explore themes of desire, domesticity, and myth. In an interview with the journal Identity Theory, Bialosky spoke to the role of personal experience in her work: "It's the point at which you leap from the personal into the imagination that I think that the process of art is made. The emotional life of any work tends to be autobiographical."[5] And in an interview with the Los Angeles Review of Books she defines her poetics as having to do with ordinary experiences and everyday living.[8] In Bialosky's poem "History Lesson," she writes of gathering at Rosh Hashanah with her family and listening

to the story
of how my great-grandmother in Russia
braided bread for the evening meal,
lit candles, softened the white flame with her hands
and whispered the ancient prayer for bread,
dark wine, for all of us, even the unborn.[9]

Bialosky is "unquestionably a 'literary writer.'"[10] Her novels explore loss, desire, the pulls of family and the mercurial nature of the artist. House Under Snow her first novel is "about a transcendental loss."[11] The Life Room, involves a Columbia professor, preoccupied with "Anna Karenina" and "approaching 40 in a state of erotic conflict."[12] The Prize, {is} "about a gallerist at a small Manhattan art gallery."[13] Sam Sacks in the Wall Street Journal acknowledges that in The Prize, Bialosky, as "a book editor as well as a writer... knows something about the agonies and rewards of cajoling great work from basket-case artists."[14]


In an interview with Matthew Zapruder, Bialosky said, "being a writer and an editor means that one must also contribute and serve the literary community and to strive to extend beyond that community."[15]

About her work as an editor Bialosky wrote "I am serving the author’s imagination. Editing per se is not a creative act on the page. It is a response to creativity. An editor is good at puzzles, at seeing where a piece may belong and fit together. An editor is thoughtful and analytical; good at spotting holes in arguments and seeing through throat clearing...to get to the heart of the matter. Most important, an editor must be a voracious reader.[16]

Bialosky "has guided to publication recent books by poets as diverse as Eavan Boland, David Baker, and Major Jackson."[17]


The End of Desire (1997), was Bialosky's debut collection of poetry published by the poetry editor at Alfred A. Knopf, Harry Ford.[18] Hayden Carruth said of it "Quiet poems. Like whispers in a fierce forest. Bialosky has given us things we shall never be able to forget."[19] The New Yorker called it "graceful, mournful and often exuberant first book combines the best aspects of confessional and lyric poetry."[20] Carol Muske in The Nation compared the "domestic" and "feminine" aspects to "Sylvia Plath and Louise Bogan".[21]

Subterranean (2001), was a finalist for the James Laughlin Award from the Academy of American Poets. Publishers Weekly wrote "This second collection... comes bespangled with impressive encomia from the likes of Harold Bloom, Eavan Boland and Molly Peacock, praising Bialosky's voice, her 'dark chill power' and the volume's 'mythic underworld collage.'"[22]

Intruder (2008) was a finalist for the Paterson Prize.[23] The Los Angeles Times wrote, "Jill Bialosky's powerful third book of poetry, is sharply perceptive, reminding readers about the way life forces us to our knees while restoring us to our true selves." [24] "'Intruder’ is the accomplished work of a poet in mid-career, grappling with both the mystery and the will to embody it."[25]

The Players (2015), "Bialosky’s fifth collection of poems takes cues from the laconic dicta of baseball."[26] "Probing the experiences of motherhood and childhood in clear, musical language, the poems alternate in tone from ludic to elegiac"[27] "Flashes of dark humor embedded in prim lists call to mind Marianne Moore or James Schuyler"[26]

House Under Snow (2002), was Bialosky's debut novel. The New York Times Book Review wrote: "With its portentous weather, 1970's setting and juxtaposition of adolescent sexual awakening with adult yearning, this artful first novel by the poet and editor Jill Bialosky is a quiet stepsister to Rick Moody's 'Ice Storm.'"[28] Pulitzer Prize winning Jennifer Egan wrote: "A passionate, sensually written tale of a daughter's struggle to wrest free of her mother's fitful and destructive influence."[29]

The Life Room (2007), "Rife with allusions as well as foreshadowed yet satisfying surprises, 'The Life Room' is a novel that takes on the formidable task of laying bare the interior life of a conflicted woman."[10] Colum McCann called it "A lovely, genuine, deep work of art."[30]

The Prize (2015), received broad praise.[31] Selected as an Editor's Choice by The New York Times Book Review, "is a graceful, quiet novel that finds its gravitational pull in the dissonance between the transcendence of art and the slog of everyday life...her writing glows with insight"[32] "This sharp-eyed novel of the art world follows the fortunes of a partner in a prestigious New York gallery... The plot is well crafted, carrying the reader to a surprising end."[33] John Banville praised it for its "subtle, incisive, and erotically charged exploration of the dark crossroad where art, money, and obsession converge...a true and dangerous novel."[31]

History of a Suicide: My Sister’s Unfinished Life (2011) was a New York Times Bestseller. It received universal praise including a four star People (magazine) review calling it "searing...reads like butter and cuts like a knife."[34] and was deemed one of the top ten books of the year by Entertainment Weekly. In the UK it was reviewed by The Guardian, as "honest and insightful".[35] It was a finalist for the Ohioana Award[36] and Books for a Better Life.[37]

Poetry Will Save Your Life: A Memoir (2017), a "hybrid that blends [Bialosky’s] coming-of-age story with engaging literary analysis"[38] and "a sketchbook of personal experience through the lens of poetry...Bialosky convinces us that poetry is alive and ready to breathe with us – through love, loss, joy, pain and the immensity of experience life brings us."[39] The Washington Post review wrote, "Wisdom and deep compassion...make [Bialosky’s book] a tremendous asset both to readers and other writers.".[38]

Personal life[edit]

Bialosky received a Bachelor of Arts degree from Ohio University, a Master of Arts degree from Johns Hopkins University and an MFA degree from the University of Iowa’s Writer’s workshop.[40] In Poetry Will Save Your life she recounts the "tragedy of losing a first daughter at 10 hours old when she was 32[41] and then a second baby, this time a son, lost within the first 24 hours of birth, before the healthy birth, finally, of her third child, also a son." [42]

Jill Bialosky is a vice president and executive editor at W.W. Norton.[43] and lives in New York City.


On October 4, 2017, the website TourniquetReview.com published William Logan's review of Poetry Will Save Your Life, in which he accused Bialosky of plagiarism, citing passages in the book that bore similarities to uncredited sources, including Wikipedia articles.[44] Subsequently, The New York Times covered the allegation.[45] TheWalrus.ca later published an article written by William Logan about Jill Bialosky's first memoir, History of a Suicide: My Sister's Unfinished Life, accusing Bialosky of further plagiarism.[46] Jill Bialosky's publisher (Simon & Schuster) and her employer (W.W. Norton) both spoke out in Bialosky's defence.[45] Seventy-two authors signed a Letter to the Editor in The New York Times stating: "We, as writers and friends of literature, wish to register our concern in regard to 'Author Fights Plagiarism Charges by Critic' […] It would be a terrible disservice to Ms. Bialosky and to your readers if the article kept people from appreciating her substantial contributions to American letters." Nowhere in the letter, however, did the signatories dispute the accuracy of Logan's accusations.[47]



  • Asylum: A Personal, Historical, Natural Inquiry in 103 Lyric Sections (2020, Knopf)[48]
  • The Players (2015, A. A. Knopf)
  • Intruder (2008, A. A. Knopf)
  • Subterranean (2001, A. A. Knopf)
  • The End of Desire (1999, A. A. Knopf)


  • Poetry Will Save Your Life--A Memoir (May 2017, Atria Books)
  • History of a Suicide: My Sister's Unfinished Life (2011, Atria Books)


  • The Prize (2015, Counterpoint)
  • The Life Room: A Novel (2007, Houghton Mifflin Harcourt)
  • House Under Snow: A Novel (2002, Houghton Mifflin Harcourt)


  1. ^ "Bialosky, Jill". worldcat.org. Retrieved December 7, 2017.
  2. ^ Ulin, David L. (20 February 2011). "Finding words to talk about the hush-hush topic of suicide". latimes.com. Retrieved 8 December 2017.
  3. ^ Kohda Hazelton, Claire (6 November 2015). "History of a Suicide by Jill Bialosky review – a sister's search for answers". theguardian.com. Retrieved 8 December 2017.
  4. ^ Adams, Tim (16 March 2015). "History of a Suicide: My Sister's Unfinished Life review – not one tragedy but many". theguardian.com. Retrieved 8 December 2017.
  5. ^ a b Birnbaum, Robert (28 October 2002). "Author Interview: Jill Bialosky". identitytheory.com. Retrieved 9 December 2017.
  6. ^ "An Interview with Jill Bialosky". bookslut.com. November 2015. Retrieved 9 December 2017.
  7. ^ Slate, Ron (29 March 2009). "on Intruder, poems by Jill Bialosky (Knopf) – and an interview with the poet". ronslate.com. Retrieved 9 December 2017.
  8. ^ "Jill Bialosky". poetryfoundation.org. Retrieved 9 December 2017.
  9. ^ Mishan, Ligaya (14 September 2015). "The Artistry in Jill Bialosky's Pastry Brush". nytimes.com. Retrieved 8 December 2017.
  10. ^ a b "'Anna' Begins: Jill Bialosky". Washington Post. 13 August 2007. Retrieved 18 December 2017.
  11. ^ Bialosky, Jill (6 January 2015). House Under Snow. Houghton Mifflin Harcourt. pp. 3–. ISBN 978-0-544-59915-4.
  12. ^ Finnerty, Amy (5 August 2007). "The Life Room - Jill Bialosky - Books - Review". The New York Times. Retrieved 18 December 2017.
  13. ^ "When the Editor Becomes the Writer". Literary Hub. 24 August 2015. Retrieved 18 December 2017.
  14. ^ Journal, Wall Street (4 December 2015). "Fiction Chronicle: A Tender and Mournful Homage". WSJ. Retrieved 18 December 2017.
  15. ^ "Think What a Poem Might Do: A Conversation with Jill Bialosky and Matthew Zapruder". The Millions. 17 August 2017. Retrieved 3 January 2018.
  16. ^ "When the Editor Becomes the Writer". Literary Hub. 24 August 2015. Retrieved 3 January 2018.
  17. ^ Cheung, Ysabelle (16 October 2015). "How to Write a Poem About Baseball". Los Angeles Review of Books. Retrieved 3 January 2018.
  18. ^ Thomas, Robert McG. Jr. (12 March 1999). "Harry Ford, 80, Poetry Editor With Unerring Ear, Is Dead". The New York Times. Retrieved 18 December 2017.
  19. ^ Bialosky, Jill (11 June 2014). "The End of Desire by Jill Bialosky". Penguin Random House Canada. Retrieved 18 December 2017.
  20. ^ "Another Loss to Stop For". The New Yorker. 10 March 1997. Retrieved 18 December 2017.
  21. ^ The Nation. Nation Company. July 1997.
  22. ^ "Nonfiction Book Review: SUBTERRANEAN by Jill Bialosky, Author . Knopf $23 (96p) ISBN 978-0-375-41314-8". PublishersWeekly.com. 17 December 2001. Retrieved 18 December 2017.
  23. ^ "Jill Bialosky". Poetry Foundation. 18 December 2017. Retrieved 19 December 2017.
  24. ^ "'Intruder: Poems' by Jill Bialosky". latimes. 12 April 2009. Retrieved 18 December 2017.
  25. ^ "on Intruder, poems by Jill Bialosky (Knopf) – and an interview with the poet". On the Seawall: A Literary Website by Ron Slate (GD). 29 March 2009. Retrieved 18 December 2017.
  26. ^ a b "Briefly Noted Book Reviews". The New Yorker. 13 April 2015. Retrieved 18 December 2017.
  27. ^ Cheung, Ysabelle (16 October 2015). "How to Write a Poem About Baseball". Los Angeles Review of Books. Retrieved 18 December 2017.
  28. ^ Porter, Michael (25 August 2002). "BOOKS IN BRIEF: FICTION". The New York Times. Retrieved 18 December 2017.
  29. ^ Bialosky, Jill (6 January 2015). House Under Snow. Houghton Mifflin Harcourt. pp. 4–. ISBN 978-0-544-59915-4.
  30. ^ Bialosky, Jill (6 January 2015). The Life Room. Houghton Mifflin Harcourt. pp. 3–. ISBN 978-0-544-59916-1.
  31. ^ a b "The Prize". Counterpoint Press. 2 October 2015. Retrieved 18 December 2017.
  32. ^ Kokernot, Sarah (27 September 2015). "Marriage Plots". The New York Times. Retrieved 18 December 2017.
  33. ^ "Briefly Noted Book Reviews". The New Yorker. 21 September 2015. Retrieved 18 December 2017.
  34. ^ "Picks and Pans Main: Books". PEOPLE.com. 7 March 2011. Retrieved 18 December 2017.
  35. ^ Adams, Tim (16 March 2015). "History of a Suicide: My Sister's Unfinished Life review – not one tragedy but many". the Guardian. Retrieved 19 December 2017.
  36. ^ "Award Finalists". Ohioana Library. Retrieved 19 December 2017.
  37. ^ Bialosky, Jill (7 March 2017). The Players: Poems. Knopf Doubleday Publishing Group. pp. 77–. ISBN 978-0-8041-7095-6.
  38. ^ a b Lund, Elizabeth; Bialosky, Jill (8 August 2017). "Can poetry actually save your life?". Washington Post. Retrieved 19 December 2017.
  39. ^ The Christian Science Monitor (24 August 2017). "'Poetry Will Save Your Life' is a sketchbook of personal experience through the lens of poetry". The Christian Science Monitor. Retrieved 19 December 2017.
  40. ^ Bialosky, Jill (17 August 2017). "Jill Bialosky: The Time I Moved to New York City to Be a Poet". lithub.com. Retrieved 8 December 2017.
  41. ^ Bialosky, Jill (11 September 2015). "Two Kinds of Goodbyes". slate.com. Retrieved 8 December 2017.
  42. ^ "'Poetry Will Save Your Life' is a sketchbook of personal experience through the lens of poetry". slate.com. 24 August 2017. Retrieved 8 December 2017.
  43. ^ "'Jill Bialosky". slate.com. Retrieved 8 December 2017.
  44. ^ "Jill Bialosky, Poetry Will Save Your Life: A Memoir (Atria Books, 2017)". Tourniquetreview.com. Retrieved 23 October 2017.
  45. ^ a b Salam, Maya; Stevens, Matt (4 October 2017). "Jill Bialosky Says Plagiarism Claims 'Should Not Distract' From Her Poetry Memoir". Nytimes.com. Retrieved 23 October 2017.
  46. ^ https://thewalrus.ca/new-plagiarism-accusations-against-bestselling-author-jill-bialosky/
  47. ^ "72 Friends of Literature, in Defense of the Poet Jill Bialosky". Nytimes.com. 10 October 2017. Retrieved 8 December 2017.
  48. ^ Review: Asylum: A Personal, Historical, Natural Inquiry in 103 Lyric Sections, Publishers Weekly. Retrieved 18 Oct. 2020.

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