Rough Cradle

Betsy Sholl, Author . Alice James $15.95 (74p) ISBN 978-1-882295-73-9

Solid, moving and thoughtful, this eighth collection from the Maine poet laureate follows the real lives of real people: stanzaic lyrics, most unrhymed and most in quiet American language, depict the poet, her son, her daughter, her friends, her ailing or deceased parents, her kind stepfather and the locales and vistas that enter their lives, from the Atlantic shoreline to the California coast. Careful poems depict air travel; a fine elegy, “Twentieth Century Limited,” laments the heyday of rail travel while its tracklike couplets mourn a traveling father. Songbirds, migratory birds and bird-watching resonate throughout Sholl’s pages: “a bird/ flying off doesn’t have to mean gone ,/ it could mean: look at that bright going.” Sholl also listens to blues and jazz. A lively, long-lined poem imitates scat singing; another, in more typical language, questions the lost giants of Delta blues: “You who were not recorded to be touched up/ and played back later, did you love the raw world more,/ love the shy songbird’s refusal to be seen?” Sholl’s lesser poems grow predictable or dated, with the same consoling epiphanies each time. At her best, though, Sholl (Late Psalm ) represents patience, affection and generous attention to whoever she loves and to what she hears and sees. (Apr.)

Reviewed on: 02/16/2009
Release date: 04/01/2009
Genre: Fiction
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