The Girls with Stone Faces
A long poem memorializing the art and lives of sculptors Frances Loring and Florence Wyle
Arleen Paré, in her first book-length poem after her Governor General Literary Award–winning Lake of Two Mountains, turns her cool, benevolent eye to the shared lives of Florence Wyle and Frances Loring, two of Canada’s greatest artists, whose sculptures she comes face to face with at the National Gallery of Canada. In the guise of a curator, Paré takes us on a moving, carefully structured tour through the rooms where their work is displayed, the Gallery’s walls falling away to travel in time to Chicago (where they met at art school and fell in love in the 1910s), New York, and Toronto (where they lived and worked for the next six decades). Along the way, Paré looks at fashions in art, the politics of gender, and the love that longtime proximity calls forth in us. The Girls with Stone Faces is one of the finest collections of poetry about the lives of artists—and most importantly their work—to appear in Canada in many years.
Although Wyle and Loring were well known during their lifetimes, they have dropped out of common memory. Paré’s collection is art loving art, women loving women, words loving shape, poetry loving stone, the curve of jaw, the trajectory of days.
“… Like the sculpted female figures she describes as ‘tacking their bodies against the history of storm,’ Paré has positioned her own graceful, finely chiselled lines to recast the history of women
“Paré’s poems vibrate with contextual awareness: the artists’ personal lives, their professional milieu, the painting in the next room as the poet meets Loring and Wyle’s sculptures for the first time. . . . A distinctive and memorable book, sympathetic and gloriously questioning.”—Stephanie Bolster