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Two Poets Seeking Asylum From Grief

Thu, 08/06/2020 - 13:46

Jill Bialosky's "Asylum," out this week from Knopf, is described as "a seeker's story" in 103 lyric sections that explore traumas both personal (her sister's suicide) and historical (the lasting effects of World War II) and how to make sense of them. Kathy Engel's latest collection of poems, "The Lost Brother Alphabet," reviewed in these pages two weeks ago, grapples with the grief that followed her father's death and her brother's suicide.

The two poets may have some overlapping territory to discuss, in other words, and they'll do just that in the course of reading from their works live and in person at Guild Hall on Aug. 13 at 7 p.m. The cost is $30 for a six-foot-diameter "lawn circle" in the backyard theater. Each circle sits up to two people at a distance of six feet from others. 

Ms. Bialosky, who lives part time in Bridgehampton, is an executive editor and vice president at W.W. Norton. Ms. Engel, of Sagaponack, is chairwoman and associate arts professor in the department of art and public policy at New York University's Tisch School of the Arts.

Below, for an early taste, is the prelude from "Asylum."

It was like the music of an afflicted bird, 

a screech owl from the underworld, querulous, 

seductive, a fugue of death. Or so you thought — 

one sound imitating the other, taunting its refrain, 

& though each morning it was as if it had entered 

you & was your own voice wanting to take you 

down, it took years, maybe decades, 

before you realized you had gotten it wrong: 

it was the fugue of life.


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