Your Own,

A Verse Portrait
Of Sylvia Plath

Stephanie Hemphill
Here are almost 200 poems on the events and loves and despairs (and death) of Sylvia Plath. Each poem is titled ("Stigmata," "Theodore," "Taxi Driver") and carries a footnote in small type to explain what relevance it has to Plath's life, worth and work.

This critic is not too sure about the worth and work of Your Own, Sylvia. Plath's life was a mess, and a biography in poetic form trying to explain the complex weave of her life and last days would, I suspect, best have been written by Plath. And any verse about her should at least be as good as the worst of Plath's.

On her suicide, for instance, Hemphill tells us that she was "determined, ready as a knife, / Her letters sealed..."

    Wedges a towel under the children's door
    Righteous, happy as a rose...

    She unlatches the oven door. The gas
    Fills her nostril, sweet as blood, pungent as a sword.

Those of us who don't pretend to be professional poets might question phrases like "sweet as blood" or "pungent as a sword." Especially in this context. And how do we, or Hemphill, for that matter, know that Plath was, in the throes of death, "happy as a rose?"

And, come to think of it, how happy is a rose?

--- Rose Marie Weston, MA
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