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About this poet

Betsy Sholl was born in Ohio in 1945 and grew up in New Jersey. She received a BA in English from Bucknell University. She was largely self-taught as a writer until she enrolled in the low-residency MFA program at Vermont College later in her career.

After college, Scholl moved to Boston, and  in 1973, she cofounded Alice James Books, a nonprofit poetry press meant to provide women with greater access to publishing. Alice James Books published Sholl’s first three poetry collections, Changing Faces (1974), Appalachian Winter (1978), and Rooms Overhead (1896).

Scholl’s most recent book of poetry, Otherwise Unseeable (University of Wisconsin Press, 2014), was awarded the 2014 Four Lakes Poetry Prize. In an interview with Image Journal about the transformations she’s seen in her own work, Scholl says, “I try to look outward more, to be an ‘eye’ some of the time, rather than an ‘I.’” Her poetry is influenced by her Catholic faith and by her social activism, which she came to through her husband, Doug Sholl, who is a social worker.

She is the recipient of an AWP Prize for Poetry, a Felix Pollak Award, the Maine Arts Commission Chapbook Competition, two Maine Artists Fellowships, and a fellowship from the National Endowment for the Arts. In 2006, she was chosen to be the Poet Laureate of Maine, a position she held until 2011. She teaches at the University of Southern Maine and at Vermont College, and she lives in Portland, Maine.


Otherwise Unseeable (University of Wisconsin Press, 2014)
Rough Cradle (Alice James Books, 2009)
Late Psalm (University of Wisconsin Press, 2004)
Don’t Explain (University of Wisconsin Press, 1997)
The Red Line (University of Pittsburgh Press, 1992)
Rooms Overhead (Alice James Books, 1986)
Appalachian Winter (Alice James Books, 1978)
Changing Faces (Alice James Books, 1974)

Back with the Quakers

You think you can handle these things:
sunlight glinting off a red Jaguar
honking at the old woman who has snagged

her shopping cart on a snow rut,
or the swaggering three-piece suit who steps
outside the bank, earless to the mossy voice

at his feet asking for spare change,
but then the crunch of something, nothing really,
under your shoe--a dirty comb, a pen cap--

completely undoes you, and it's too much,
too much, being balanced, considering
the complexity of all sides in one

syntactically correct sentence.
All the driver has to say is "Move it,
Lady," and you're back with the Quakers

who trained you to lie still and limp in the street.
Three days they stepped on your hair,
ground cigarettes half an inch from your nose,

while you lay there, trying to be against 
violence, your fists tight as grenades
and a payload of curses between your teeth,

O woman, with a mind Picasso
could have painted, giving you many cheeks,
each one turned a different way.

From Late Psalm by Betsy Sholl. Copyright © 2004 by Betsy Sholl. Reprinted by permission of the University of Wisconsin Press. All rights reserved.

From Late Psalm by Betsy Sholl. Copyright © 2004 by Betsy Sholl. Reprinted by permission of the University of Wisconsin Press. All rights reserved.

Betsy Sholl

Betsy Sholl is the author of Otherwise Unseeable (University of Wisconsin Press, 201), winner of the 2014 Four Lakes Poetry Prize. She lives in Portland, Maine.

by this poet

   The child takes her first journey
through the inner blue world of her mother's body,
   blue veins, blue eyes, frail petal lids.

   Beyond that unborn brackish world so deep
it will be felt forever as longing, a dream
   of blue notes plucked from memory's guitar,

   the wind blows indigo shadows under