Four Lakes Prize in Poetry
Ronald Wallace, Series Editor
Winner of the 2014 Four Lakes Poetry Prize
Winner, Maine Literary Award, Maine Writers and Publishers Alliance
What if ruin is a good thing? What if each day is built on the ruin of the one before? What if all our attempts to avoid ruin only make us bitter or closed off from what’s around us? What if only by exploring our ruins do we become human?
The poems in Otherwise Unseeable examine such questions. It is a poetry full of music and surprise, in voices that are personal, invented, and historical, sometimes belonging to the poet and sometimes to others. Betsy Sholl probes what there is still to learn from the devastations of the twentieth century, and she explores the roots of human envy, greed, and generosity in lively, unexpected ways, enacting the kinds of arguments we have with ourselves: between control and relinquishment, grief and ecstasy, regret and acceptance, faith and skepticism. The end result is a book of verbal wrestling, a girl-Jacob mixing it up with one kind of angel or another, limping for sure, but still blessed.
“Whether in praise or in mourning, what bears these poems up is Sholl's wonderful ear for the music within language. . . . Sholl has a way of making words crackle and sing over an otherwise silent page.”
“For a good four decades now, Betsy Sholl has been producing a poetry of stern self-reflection, risky lyrical fluency, and a deeply empathetic social consciousness. With Otherwise Unseeable, she gives us her finest collection thus far, a book which has refined itself into something I can only call wisdom—sometimes rueful, sometimes fierce. This is work in which, as one poem memorably puts it, we must ‘unlatch our wounds and love our ruins.’”
“Otherwise Unseeable is faithful, as is all [Sholl’s] work, to the contradictions we live with from day to day. These deeply earned, masterful poems take in the full range of human nature, looking unflinchingly at human evil and human suffering, while also acknowledging the ground-note of joy that waits to be heard in our daily lives. Sholl’s poems can be elegiac and mournful; they can riff and fly on the force and spirit of their own language as they chart a path between despair and hope, making seeable what is ‘otherwise unseeable,’ as they give us glimpses of a ‘kingdom’ which is always here and always to come.”
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LC: 2013033690 PS
90 pp. 5 1/2 x 8 1/4