Review by Brian Spears
by Carole Simmons Oles
The University of Arkansas Press
201 Ozark Avenue
Fayetteville AR 72701
2006, 99 pp., $16.00
When I was in my first year of the MFA program at the University of Arkansas, the visiting poet Dave Smith said of one of my poems, “That’s an Arkansas title.” He explained to me that two of the founding voices of the Arkansas program, Miller Williams and James Whitehead, had a tendency to write personae poems with long titles that provided information about the dramatic situation. Whitehead’s “Long Tour: The Country Music Star Explains Why He Put Off the Bus and Fired a Good Lead Guitar in West Texas” is a good example of that.
Waking Stone by Carole Simmons Oles, published by the University of Arkansas Press, doesn’t have any titles quite as detailed as Whitehead’s, but the spirit is the same. Oles’ book is largely an examination of the life of the 19th century sculptor Harriet Hosmer. Most of the poems are written in Hosmer’s voice and focus on the challenges Hosmer faced as a woman in a male-dominated field. She pulls from Hosmer’s letters and other sources to produce a solid, sturdy book of poems.