Otherwise Unseeable by Betsy Sholl, The University of Wisconsin Press, 2014, 78pp/, $16.95
Betsy Sholl’s seventh book offers a world of contradictions, the friction of disparate and contradictory objects and experiences struggling to coexist. The first poem, “Genealogy,” begins, “One of her parents was a flame, the other a rope.” Odd juxtapositions continue with a light bulb’s envy of an apple, (“Still Life with Light Bulb”) and the contrast between the wind’s “little ruckus” and the solidity of a wooden clock (“The Wind and the Clock”). “Rush Hour” finds two friends, their “words/making light of whatever they touched,” confronted with a deaf woman struggling to communicate. In “Traps and Groove,” the speaker wants “her chair/at the table, and a waiter to take orders—” while simultaneously drawn to “something the drums were saying” inside a seedy club.
The book’s heart, however, is the question of how to celebrate a world containing violence, poverty, and loss. “[L]ast night my mind split between euphoria/and grief,” she announces in “Waiting Room,” a split projected onto a crow in “The Argument.” The speaker wants to praise Nature, while the crow admonishes, “For the sake of the dead, for the sake/of the murdered, don’t wax too eloquent…”