House of Sparrows
New and Selected Poems
Wisconsin Poetry Series
Ronald Wallace, Series Editor
Winner of the Four Lakes Prize in Poetry
“House of Sparrows collects poems that conjure the work of Philip Levine, Ruth Stone, Robert Hayden, and Gwendolyn Brooks. Like those great poets, Sholl interrogates the gravity and grace of living. This terrific collection, full of remarkable soul and language, reminds poets and poetry lovers of her enduring talent and significance.”
The bluesy, rich, and vital poems in House of Sparrows look for grace and beauty not outside of the suffering world but within it. Betsy Sholl explores the shifting ironies and contradictions in the stories we tell—how the apple is both medicinal and poison, and how the poor are spiritually rich. Her language mines the landscapes of Appalachia, New England, and the works of Dante and St. Francis, seeking music and moral clarity in the breakages and noisy contradictions of life. By turns meditative and vivid, these poems suggest that all journeys are in part journeys of the spirit.
What is a story but a nest, and what is a nest.
but a vessel made for breakage and flight?
Those girls were not made for the story
they had to tell. But tell it they did.
Out of such troubled bodies, a shattered song,
out of the thicket, pouring forth.
—excerpt from "Philomela" © Betsy Sholl. All rights reserved.
“Her work brings the poetry of Nathaniel Mackey to mind: its specificity, its engagement with and curiosity for living, even in the bluer stretches.”
“Very polished poetry that with careful attention can, in Wordsworth’s phrase, lift us up when fallen.”
“A quiet, yet powerful journey through nature, memory, regret, and hopefulness. Readers will find themselves returning to its deftly understated voice again and again.”
—Split Rock Review
“This magnificent collection proves yet again why Sholl is one of our truly indispensable writers, whose poems engage what must be addressed if we are to fully encounter, as she writes in her triumphant title poem, ‘the wailing, the how, the when.’ I remain awestruck by her artistry.”
“I love Sholl’s unyielding honesty, the great heart and deep intelligence of her vision.”
“It’s difficult to love the world enough, especially for someone like Sholl, who sees with such searing clarity its cruelty and sorrow. But, like Keats, she dares to, in poem after poem in this masterly collection. And we are all the richer for it.”
Also By Betsy Sholl
LC: 2018040967 PS
176 pp. 7 x 9