Saturday, December 26, 2015

Otherwise Unseeable by Betsy Sholl

Otherwise Unseeable
by Betsy Sholl
The Univesity of Wisconsin Press $16.95 (paper)

Former Maine Poet Laureate, Betsy Sholl, has seven collections of poetry. Her most recent, Otherwise Unseeable, is the winner of the 2014 Four Lakes Poetry Prize.
Assembled in three sections, the collection seems to start off locally mainly on the east coast of the United States. In “The Clam Diggers” written in ten couplets, we read “Through grit thicker than coffee grounds,/ they tend to look for what bores in// and spits air bubbles out.” By Section II we have traveled farther, to “Russian Bells” and then on to “U.S. Clamps Down on Pianos to Cuba”, written in sixteen tercets. “To get donated Steinways and Baldwins/ into Havana requires cranes, a cargo ship,/ . . . //which aren’t on the dock when the ship arrives./ So the young American who’s risking / arrest to break this sound barrier// worries and phones, paces and waits.” By Section III, we are happily almost anywhere as in “Bass Flute” “No talk here of Meaning, it’s all ing,/ raw urge that nudges the wall between/ music and noise.” The collection is both local and widely geographic. The style, while mainly short stanzas in relatively poems also includes one prose poem, “Wood Shedding” and a few that are as original in form as well as content. That last category would include “Shrines” presented in five parts with dialog offset in italics and time and place changes from Ireland back to a prison art room back to Ireland, at the foot of a statue of a saint. “where a stone Saint Colum was surrounded by// a yellow cigarette lighter, a key ring with green gremlin, a rain-swollen/ missal, toy train, crumpled cigarette pack, inhaler, cassette tape, a small/ heart-shaped stone ...// and we wondered what the saint made of all this.” 


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