AMY BILLONE is a scholar and a poet who has published widely in both academic and creative journals and books. She is an Associate Professor of English at the University of Tennessee where she teaches courses on 19th Century Literature, Children’s and Young Adult Literature and World Literature. She holds a B.A. in General Studies in the Humanities from the University of Chicago and an M.A. and Ph.D in Comparative Literature from Princeton University. Her areas of expertise include Romanticism, Children’s and Young Adult Literature, Victorian Poetry, Gothic Studies, Creative Writing, Women Writers and Continental Poetry. Her scholarly book _Little Songs: Women, Silence, and the Nineteenth-Century Sonnet_ (2007) is informed by her unique perspective as a woman poet. As the only extended study of nineteenth-century female sonneteers, _Little Songs_ sheds light on the overwhelming impact that silence makes, not only on British women’s poetry, but also on the development of modern poetry and thought. She also wrote the Introduction and Notes for the Barnes and Noble Classics edition of _Peter Pan_ (2005). Billone’s recent poetry collection _The Light Changes_ (2013) invokes the biographical and creative worlds of Virginia Woolf and Elizabeth Barret Browning as it opens up pathways toward light even in the most unimaginable darkness of our personal experiences and the times we inhabit today. She lives with her two sons in Knoxville, Tennessee.
“Thrilling in its courageousness, breathtaking in its vividness.”
– Kirkus Reviews
Moving, psychologically nuanced free verse on death, rebirth and the powerfully generative potential of loss.
Billone’s debut poetry collection opens with the distinctly violent thud of metal on flesh: “I was raped by a speeding train. I asked it to. / I threw myself before it….Oh what enormous / metal thighs. Oh what fast thudding hips. Again / again against my blackening eyes, skull, chest, waist.” The rattle of crushing bones reverberates through this volume as Billone revisits again and again this vivid moment of loss, of clarity and of new beginnings. For all the isolation this act of surrender implies, Billone’s narrator seems as concerned about the repercussions for her father as for herself. Recently emerged from a coma, she peers from the buzzing confines of her damaged skull and notices his small discomforts: “Now almost dead I wake to feel him stroke / my hand with his weary feet in buckets / full of ice.” Though headed by epigraphs drawn from Virginia Woolf and Elizabeth Barrett Browning—their influences here are undeniable—this volume’s insistent attention to self-violence, suffused with a complex longing for, and yet wariness of, paternal blessing begs for comparison to Sylvia Plath, a comparison in which Billone more than holds her own. Poems such as “Invitation from a Carnival after a Storm,” “Paris to London” and “If Nothing Else” demonstrate her ability to convey a rich, fraught sensuality with sharply lucid verse. Like Plath, she evokes a father both omnipotent—one who can tear down her “tiny words” with “bare / gigantic / father arms / overwhelming”—and omnipresent, a hovering, suffocating presence whose “terrified eyes” and “gasping face” may have been prescient or may have pushed the narrator to attempt suicide. Unlike Plath, however, she learns—from her father’s fears, from that thudding train and from her late mentor, the poet Jack Gilbert—to savor the profound intensity of approaching loss. As her attention moves from her own recovery to the birth of her son, she cherishes each exquisite moment preceding the loss of their shared bodies: “My God, I have never loved / anything as much as these / ripples inside me.” Indeed, in this tightly woven exploration of how to hold onto something important amid constant change and loss, the “gray light changes / will change // is changing now / as it always does.”
Thrilling in its courageousness, breathtaking in its vividness.
Pub Date: June 5, 2013
Page count: 78pp
Publisher: Hope Street Press
Review Posted Online: Sept. 12, 2013
Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 15, 2013
Favorite line from a book
“No familiar shapes/Remained, no pleasant images of trees,/Of sea or sky, no colours of green fields;/But huge and mighty forms, that do not live/ Like living men, moved slowly through the mind/By day, and were a trouble to my dreams.”
Unexpected skill or talent
A fascinating combination of vivid memories and the ecstatic fluidity of forgetfulness.
Passion in life
THE LIGHT CHANGES: Kirkus Star
THE LIGHT CHANGES: Named to <i>Kirkus Reviews'</i> Best Books, 2013
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