The Red Line


Winner of the 1991 Associated Writing Programs' Award Series in Poetry

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Winner of the 1991 Associated Writing Programs' Award Series in Poetry

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Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher
"The Red Line would be worth reading for this honesty, an intensity and clarity of vision that can be the same as joy. . . . This is a greatly impressive collection, which recounts pain without pretending it can go away, without claiming there's nothing else."
—American Book Review

"With the sad, sweet urgency of a blues harp player, Betsy Sholl illuminates the dark undercurrents of American life. In a world of 'hunger and trembling,' where 'truth's not supposed to be pretty anymore,' her poems are inimitable and indispensable, luminous parables of love and grace."
—Ronald Wallace

"Tough-minded and uncompromising, the poems of Betsy Sholl's new collection flare out at the reader like 'little parables of survival.' The Red Line's title poem makes us think of those neighborhoods insurance agents term 'high-risk,' and these are indeed high-risk poems that cross the borders into territory that is socially and spiritually charged. Sholl's richly layered narratives sizzle alternately with tense jazz and sudden lyric swoops of grace, and I mean grace in all its manifold definitions. This book's an arrival to celebrate, a bracing and necessary anodyne in a time marked by too much tamely risk-free verse."

—Lynda Hall

Publishers Weekly - Publisher's Weekly
Most of the poems in Sholl's ( Rooms Overheard ) new collection focus on moments of high tension enacted amid the squalor of laundromats, burned-down houses and decaying boardwalks, with their prostitutes, abused children, derelicts and pimps. At one point she remembers, ``My mother used to ask why I collected / such people . . . ,'' and the answer seems to be simply that she feels a bond of sympathy and understanding with the alienated and the down-and-out. The title poem, for instance, begins by linking the speaker's sexual desire to the ``neon craving of a train.'' The red line, which stands for both the train route and her passion, leads to the observed image of a drunk ``spitting onto the third rail . . . ,'' his saliva gleaming like the lurching movement of light on a train's window, which she compares in the final line to ``a scorched rosary of light.'' Some of the images, however, remain undeveloped and unclear. This work follows a tradition of sorts--that of observations and meditations presented in the form of a private journal. Too often, unfortunately, the observations seem pat, as in the sweeping pronouncement: ``What we love too easily betrays us.'' (Dec.)
Winner of the 1991 Associated Writing Programs' Award Series in Poetry--selected by Ronald Wallace. Annotation c. Book News, Inc., Portland, OR (
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780822954828
  • Publisher: University of Pittsburgh Press
  • Publication date: 11/19/1992
  • Series: Pitt Poetry Series Series
  • Edition description: 1
  • Pages: 80
  • Product dimensions: 6.00 (w) x 9.00 (h) x 0.60 (d)

Meet the Author

Betsy Sholl's previous books are Changing Faces, Appalachian Winter, and Rooms Overhead. She was the 1991 winner of the Maine Arts Commission chapbook competition, and a recipient of an Individual Artists Fellowship from the Maine Arts Commission. She lives with her family in Portland, Maine and teaches at the University of South Maine.

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Table of Contents

Real Faux Pearls 3
Thinking of You, Hiroshima 5
The Coat 7
The Distinct Call of the Alligators 10
The Y 12
A Girl Named Spring 14
Dawn 16
Lights Out 18
The Hospital State 21
Something to Say 23
Outside the Depot 25
The Argument, 1973 26
Midnight Vapor Light Breakdown 27
Sex Ed 29
"The Blues Is a Thief" 30
A Small Patch of Ice 32
You Figure It Out 34
Soup Kitchen 36
The Red Line 41
Pick a Card 43
144 Minden Street 45
Drifting Through This Pious Town 47
Bird Lady 48
24 Hours 50
Too Deep 52
Old Birds 54
The Feel 56
St. Mary's Blues 59
Three Wishes 62
Forget Your Life 64
Ladders and Ropes 66
The World Snow Posits 69
At the Aquarium 74
Into the Woods 76
Joining the Circus 77
Three Deaths 79
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