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Catalog Archive / Fall 2022

As If a Song Could Save You

Wisconsin Poetry Series
Sean Bishop and Jesse Lee Kercheval, Series Editors

Winner of the Four Lakes Prize in Poetry

“Attuned as she is to harmony—musical, spiritual, earthly—Sholl weaves seemingly miscellaneous notes into vibrant wholes. She references Dante more than once and it’s apt, for she is very much a pilgrim, someone who conveys the feeling of being in it—the tangle that is a moment, a street scene, a biblical incident—and that is a key to her achievement, her openness to the ways of being. Great compassion marks these poems, that inestimable talent for tracing the ways of kinship, how one occasion graces another.”
—Baron Wormser

Sounding out the melodiousness and meaning of life’s ups and downs

Blue sky, yellow flowers, cool jazz, and Renaissance poetry all inhabit Betsy Sholl’s latest collection of poetry. Grounded in the everyday but never mundane, these poems remind readers of the wonders that surround us. From a child’s drawing tattooed onto the arm of a mechanic to bats under the Congress Avenue bridge in Austin, Sholl points to the richness of life.

As the volume carefully and slowly immerses us in the poet’s world, we gradually begin to understand that this is our journey of exploration as much as hers. Where does one find joy in the face of loss? Why does music exist in a world of grief? How long does it take love to overwhelm pain?

Through these powerful poems we learn to see past the unreliability of memory and into the depth of the present.

The child makes you a blue inch at the top of the page,
and it’s still hard for grown-ups to think you come
all the way down to the space between grass blades
—Excerpt from “Dear Sky”


Betsy Sholl. Photo credit, Hannah Tarkinson. Betsy Sholl is the author of nine previous poetry collections, including House of Sparrows: New and Selected Poems, Otherwise Unseeable, Rough Cradle, Late Psalm, Don’t Explain, and The Red Line. A former poet laureate of Maine, she teaches at the Vermont College of Fine Arts.




“Unflinching in their willingness to engage with matters of faith, personal loss, and empathic witness, these poems probe and speculate, articulating rather than resolving their uncertainties. They sweep jazz and religious thought into their ample net, are gracefully informed, never doctrinaire, and leave us lifted by their uniquely devotional spirit.”
—Leslie Ullman

“Keenly alert to a world where ‘the light that falls is knit with shadow,’ Betsy Sholl creates an encompassing vision of nature and spirit, past and present, self and others, music and word. Always ‘going griefward’ toward the gorgeous elegiac poems of the last section, she offers us difficult but sustaining wisdom. ‘Yes, it is hard, but there are gifts’—including these exquisite poems.”
—Martha Collins

“Pulses with the tension between irrepressible life force and inevitable loss. . . . Though this book is Sholl’s extended meditation on the loss of her husband, she hears music even in the trauma of her bereavement.”
Portland Press Herald



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Table of Contents


There Is a Fountain
Big Box
The Daffodils
On Reading
Morning’s Only Yellow
Thinking of Jonah at the Children’s Museum
The Recital
Hurdy Gurdy
The Birthday Party

Dear Sky
A rabbi, a minister and a priest walk into a bar
On a Line by Charles Wright
Ladders of Paradise
Once in an Antique Shop
Missing Person
A Showing of Acorns
Ugly Beauty
Happy, Happy, Happy
Slow Night at the Piano Bar
Thomas Merton Experiments with Meditations on Jazz

The Cocoon
Reading Revelation
On Ladders, Mystical and Otherwise
After the Keynote Address, the Drive Home
Thin Places
Elegy with Bats
Corcomroe Abbey
The Sparrow in the Banquet Hall
Whatever Alights

At the Dealership
One Step
Advent and Lamentation
Without You
Widow, Walking
The Bridge
Talk Radio
Crossing: Casco Bay
To Vincent Van Gogh in Heaven
Rainy Street, Portland, Maine
The Caterpillar
Miserere Mei, Deus His Shaving Cuts



Of Related Interest

The Sound Boat: cover depicting a dark blue and white piece of abstract art contained within a white border.

The Sound Boat
New and Selected Poems
Judith Vollmer

Fruit, winner of the Four Lakes Prize in Poetry, collection by Bruce Snider. Cover image of two anatomical illustrations of male figures meeting in the center where a large black dot announces title and poet.

Bruce Snider

As If a Song Could Save You: a navy blue cover with gold and red ornamentation. The title text is written in white font upon a red curved strip that flows across the middle of the page.

Larger images

November 2022
LC: 2022013231 PS
128 pp. 7 x 9

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Paper $16.95
ISBN 9780299340742
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