Writer’s Voice Spotlight: Carole Simmons Oles


CSU, Chico Writer’s Voice is proud to welcome poet and retired English department faculty, Carole Simmons Oles, Monday, March 30th at 7:30pm in Colusa 100A.

Oles will be reading selections from her latest book of poetry A Selected History of Her Heart. Her work has been featured in notable publications such as Ploughshares, American Poetry Review, Rattle, Prairie Schooner, Touchstones and others. Her poems speak about life experiences, inviting the reader to feel and connect with our human struggle and hard-won peace.

The greatest gift an artist can do for another artist is to inspire. In reading the breadth of Carole Simmons Oles’ poetry, I was left not only with the courage to go forth and tell my own story, but also carries with me the feeling, the heart, and the emotion of the speaker in her collections. Oles brings the reader into her own heart, and creates an empathic bond with them. She speaks of her own unique experience, her own family, and yet the reader connects with that motherly instinct, that love and fear. A connection they can feel to their core.

One of the most striking poems I encountered was “Rape Counseling, the 60’s,” found in her book, Sympathetic Systems (Lynx House Press, 2000). The title alone evokes a tightness in the chest when considering what will unfold. Oles is never predictable, or reliant on familiar tropes. Instead, she makes a bold statement about the act, the time, the treatment of victims, and challenges the idea of what a rapist is. The poem is intelligent and true to life, a feminist statement that reclaims power over a situation that does not end with the crime itself. Oles brings intention to the most incremental shifts in language when the speaker says, “At the Health Center, the woman psychiatrist / let me talk about / what I had / let happen.” And hints that still, today, the speaker suffers with the insinuations that perhaps she was to blame saying, “then she bore her gray eyes behind glasses into me / “Well…you’re not exactly Marilyn Monroe…”/ a verdict I’m still deconstructing.” The poems in her catalogue often leave you feeling as if you’ve been offered some bit of mysticism, and require you to return again and again to the page.

Oles speaks with a voice of wisdom, wit, and authority. This reading is not to be missed. Please join us for an exciting evening with Carole Simmons Oles, Monday, March 30th at 7:30pm in Colusa 100A. Thanks to contributions made by the Department of English and the College of Humanities and Fine Arts, Writer’s Voice readings are free and open to the public.

By Natalie Windt