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Don't Explain (Felix Pollak Prize in Poetry)

5.0 out of 5 stars 1 customer review
ISBN-13: 978-0299157203
ISBN-10: 0299157202
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Editorial Reviews

Review

"Don't Explain accomplishes that most difficult of tasks: the weaving together of seemingly unrelated events so that revelation unfolds effortlessly. These poems are what narrative can aspire to—namely, the grace and ease of the lyric rhapsody. And yet the charm of the anecdotes, her facility with line and image, never take precedence over the hard facts of our daily living."—Rita Dove, Judge, Citation for 1997 Felix Pollak Prize in Poetry


"These poems remind us that the most memorable verse is not merely the product of talent or skill (although Sholl's poems have always possessed both of these things in abundance), but of something more raw and ineffable—call it courage. Sholl's poems insist that there is no separation between self and world, and that the moral duty of poetry is to carry the world with the same delicacy and grace with which their speaker bears herself. Don't Explain is an urgent and prophetic book."—David Wojahn


"Our fallen world, these unflinching poems say, is not a world of lost souls—that's too Tragic, too literary—but of souls getting lost, that is, living…eventually keeping nothing out. Sholl gets to the midst of that progress by refusing the exalted aerial view—which is why Don't Explain is cause for exaltation—as again and again these poems fall back to their world, a world, Sholl says, "worth falling for." The result: poetry: the past becomes passage, undergone but never gone under."—William Olsen

About the Author

Betsy Sholl grew up on the NewJersey shore, lived in Boston and Big Stone Gap, Virginia, and now lives in Portland, Maine. She teaches at the University of Southern Maine and in the MFA in Writing Program at Vermont College. She has published four books of poetry, including Changing Faces, Appalachian Winter, and Rooms Overhead . The fourth, The Red Line, won the 1991 Associated Writing Programs Award for Poetry.
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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 80 pages
  • Publisher: University of Wisconsin Press (November 15, 1997)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0299157202
  • ISBN-13: 978-0299157203
  • Product Dimensions: 6 x 0.5 x 9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 12.6 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 5.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (1 customer review)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #8,987,667 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Format: Hardcover
Have a pilot to fly you out to the middle of the Atlantic Ocean, whereupon you will skydive. Not a parachute on your back, mind you, but instead, a thousand pound anvil strapped to your ankle. Into the briny water you descend, past sharks, giant squids, down to area where the sun's glow is as foreign as another universe, all the way until you reach the bottom. Your feet connect with a ground you had almost forgotten existed within this beautiful netherworld. Welcome to "Don't Explain".

It makes me cringe, having the first review of Betsy Sholl's "Don't Explain", quite simply the finest work in poetry this past quarter century. Great penmanship has become lost in an increasingly stupid and commercialized society. And thus great writers a sadly unable to gain even the smallest snippets of recognition.

"Don't Explain" isn't for the casual reader. Nor is it for the beginning poetry reader. Betsy Sholl writes in a style unwitnessed in the works of any other. If one were to make a seismograph of the bodies of Sholl's poems, they would be charted as a 10 on the Richter scale; thoughts and conveyed ideas constantly diverting from the center, yet always managing to come back to the main point. This is literary brilliance which simply can't be mimicked. She writes in a similar style that her jazz idols such as Coltrane played sax/trumpet: mind bursting, seemingly sporatic, yet all the elements adheasing together in ways one would think impossible. Sholl's trademark style is most well executed in "Don't Explain". I have the impression that this is what Sholl was aiming for in "The Red Line" and other older works, yet "Don't Explain" is when all the elements of her writing seem to congeal into it's most solid state.
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