September 25, 2008

Review by Wendy Vardaman

by Lesley Wheeler

Finishing Line Press
P.O. Box 1626
Georgetown, KY 40324
ISBN: 978-1-59924-226-2
25 pp., $12.00

Scholarship Girl is Lesley Wheeler’s first poetry collection, although Wheeler, Professor of English at Washington and Lee University, is the author of two scholarly books, and the co-editor of Letters to the World, a just-published anthology of contemporary women’s poems from the Women’s Poetry List-Serv. The chapbook displays a careful attention to craft, particularly to sound, a deft use of form, and considerable thought regarding some significant problems in contemporary poetry, especially the viability of the historical poem, whose devices, like description and personae, Wheeler demonstrates command of while simultaneously pointing, as a contemporary ethnographer might, to their limits.

Thus the collection opens with “Remembering My Mother’s Childhood,” a poem written in unmetered quatrains where near-rhyme and assonance replace the exact rhyme of the older historical poem, and personal content—here the mother/daughter relationship—is foregrounded against a particular geographical and historical background that comes in and out of focus throughout the book to form, along with family connections, the force that binds these poems together:

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