Poem Review #3

Carmen Johnson

Poem Review #3

C.K. Williams The Singing

In his collection of poems, The Singing, C.K. Williams takes his readers through a wide range of conceit and style. The thing that most caught my eye about this collection of poems was the many different styles the poetry had, along with the many different topics used throughout the collection. While some of the poetry was hard to understand and took a couple of reads for me to catch, most of the poetry was very understandable and relatable to. His conceits range from humor to sarcasm to being absolutely serious, giving the collection a nice balance.

Williams uses sarcasm and humor in some of his poetry to show certain points about life, like his poetry writing for instance. In the poem Doves, the fourth stanza reads as follows, “So few poems entire,/such a meager handful/of precise recollections of paintings:/detritus instead, junk,/numbers I should long ago/have erased, inane/ “information,” I’ll doubtlessly/take with me to the grave./So much crap.” Here Williams is talking about his own poetry in a very sarcastic and self-critical manner, showing that even though he takes what he does seriously, he still has a sense of humor about it.

It wouldn’t do this collection justice if I didn’t talk about the range of styles Williams used in his book. While some of the poems are broken into traditional stanzas, many of his poems take the form of prose, and others yet seem to be just lone sentences on the page. For example, in his poem Narcissism, the poem reads as follows, “…The word alone sizzles like boiling acid, moans like molten lead,/but ah my dear, it leaves the lips in such a sweetly murmuring hum.” This poem is only two lines long, and doesn’t look like a poem at all! However, the language use within it does make is sound like a poem, which is I guess what the most important thing is J.

Williams usage of language is absolutely stunning in some parts of his collection. He uses very strong words and creates beautiful mental images for the reader about everyday things. For example, in his poem entitled Night, the first stanza starts out as reading, “Somehow a light plane/coming in low at three/in the morning to a local airstrip/hits a complex of tones/in its growl so I hear mingled/with it a peal of church bells/ swelling in and out/of audibility, arrhythmic” (1-8). When I read this stanza, I could almost hear what he was talking about, because it’s something that a lot of people can relate to. We’ve all heard a plane before, and the language he uses to describe its sound like “growl” and “swelling” shine a new light on something old.

Overall, I enjoyed this collection of poetry. Even though it was a bit cryptic at times, it was a relaxing read overall due to the language choice and vivid imagery. However, unlike the other two collections of poems I read, I didn’t feel like the ending of this collection was as strong as the other ones, which is something I wish Williams would have done because ending the collection with a strong line or poem leaves a lasting impression upon the reader.

Poem Review Two

Carmen Johnson

Review #2


Maya Angelou’s Phenomenal Woman


            In her collection of poems, Phenomenal Woman, Maya Angelou tackles many issues about being a woman of color. It’s a very short collection of only four poems, but each poem is loaded with different issues about race and gender. The poems are very easy to understand, and each poem is constructed in a similar manner, creating a sense of unity throughout the poems. Each poem had a solid conceit which was easy to comprehend, and all of the poems had similar conceits. I was able to understand every poem upon only one read, but reading them over and over again provided a better understanding each time.

            Angelou’s writing style in both simple and beautiful and is loaded with strong imagery. For example, in her poem Phenomenal Woman, there are several lines which read as, “It’s the fire in my eyes,/ And the flash of my teeth,/The swing of my waist,/ And the joy of my feet.” (22-25). In this poem, Angelou is describing her own unique traits that make her beautiful, and descriptive words like “fire” and “flash” not only add individuality to the poem, but also make me want to believe what she is saying more.

            Angelou also uses structure very well throughout this collection of poetry. Most of her poems are broken into quatrains, but every now and then she’ll add a completely new structure randomly to a poem. For example, in her poem Still I Rise, the last stanza is the only one in the entire poem that isn’t in the form of a quatrain, and reads as, “Leaving behind nights of terror and fear/I rise/Into a daybreak that’s wondrously clear/I rise/Bringing the gifts that my ancestors gave,/I am the dream and the hope of the slave./I rise/I rise/ I rise. This last stanza is written in free verse, but it doesn’t distract or take anything away from the poem in the manner she works it in with the rest of the poem.

            Angelou’s title choices were pretty dead-on descriptions of what to expect from the poems themselves, and she didn’t use any trickery or cryptic language in her title choices. For example, her poem entitled Weekend Glory is all about getting through the work week and being able to enjoy one’s weekend, and the poem Still I Rise is all about her strength and how nobody in this world can keep her down.

            Angelou continues with her overall theme about the strength of a woman of color through till the end of her collection. Her final poem Our Grandmothers is the heaviest poem of the bunch, and it seems as though she was trying to show her readers what it’s like to be a woman and all of the ordeals women, especially of color, have to go through in life. She ends her collections of poetry with line, “for I shall not be moved,” making concrete the idea that she is indeed a strong woman and wants to encourage that behavior in others.

            Overall, I enjoyed this collection of poems thoroughly. Their simple but beautiful style and common themes made for a very nice read, and offer a better understanding of what life may have been like for Maya Angelou herself.

Dark Wild Realm

Dark Wild Realm is a collection of poems by Michael Collier, published by Houghton Mifflin.

This collection is a narrative of grief and the perception of the world after the loss of a close friend. The collection is split into three sections. The first one gives an account of the death as well as the funeral. The second and third seemingly take place at various times after the death, and account for the speaker’s struggle to come to terms with the loss and eventually gain some solace.

Collier’s account of the funeral is a somewhat funny, certainly engaging one. In his poem “To the Mortician’s Son,” the speaker extends forgiveness toward the man who mediated the funeral, whose mistakes during the ordeal the speaker feels would make his deceased friend happy:

“…my friend would have loved
how unfit you were for the family trade
and perhaps even enjoyed
how you peeved his former wife,
though not from malice,
and made of his death some melodrama,
human and absurd.”

Collier’s reflections are usually quite poignant and skillfully rendered. The poetry sometimes has a single flash of an incident, or a turn that really makes the poem. For example, “The Watch” is about the heartless priest who is emotionally detached from the funeral itself. When he looks down to check his watch, Collier seems to just glance over the fact and let the event hit the reader as it should. He then gives a response to such a heartless action: he describes the way his friend play the guitar and closed his eyes and felt the music he created. What an incredible tactic!

Collier uses nature imagery heavily throughout. For example, the motif of birds reflects the different stages of grief throughout the poetry. A poem in the first section describes a bird who had died crashing into a window. In the second section, “A Winter Feeding” tells of a dead tree that can still somehow provide sustenance to countless robins who flocked there to eat.

The third section focuses on what is left behind after death. A moving poem called “Shelley’s Guitar” discusses the mountains of possessions he left behind, now being exhibited simply because they were his. The poet remarks that the guitar was meant to be a gift for a friend, but it doesn’t matter now. Collier’s reflections and observations are incredibly unique and beautiful, and certainly worth a peek.

The Autobiography of Red

The Autobiography of Red is a “novel in verse” by Canadian poet Anne Carson. I’ve always been really into narrative poetry. I think that life situations and stories make the most interesting poems. When I found this “novel in verse” online, I got really excited. The idea of a long poem telling a story seemed like an interesting anachronism; something I associated with Homer and thought had died with Lord Byron.

The novel in verse tells the story of Geryon, the monster that Hercules destroyed in his tenth labor. Carson takes this story further and places Geryon in modern day Canada. Herakles is Geryon’s love interest, and Geryon’s “destruction” happens due to harmful romantic relations. The novel in verse has elements of magical realism as well; Geryon is red-skinned and winged.

The form for the most part seems to work, though poetry itself sometimes runs the risk and then succeeds in being simply prose broken into lines. The book is completely in free verse, and the plot seems to be the mechanism driving the book. It’s not all bad, though. Certainly not; every once in a while, you’ll get a great line or so:

“Then he met Herakles and the kingdoms of his life all shifted down a few notches.
They were two superior eels
at the bottom of the tank and they recognized each other like italics.”

But for the most part, it definitely reads like a novel instead of a long narrative poem. That’s not to say that I didn’t enjoy it; I found the story interesting, and enjoyed the character of Geryon. I sometimes wish that it was more of a long narrative poem than a novel. Carson does succeed towards the end in creating a poetic atmosphere when the narrative moves to focus on specific photographs taken by Geryon, and the significance of each. The poems act as photographs themselves; short peeks into the life of the characters and the action at hand.
Similarly, the expository section in the beginning I feel works very well. It is similarly set up as short five or six line poems that give the necessary information and place the novel in terms of how it fits in the tradition of the poetic epic, while still maintaining a poetic, pleasing feel. For example, the short poem “Geyron’s War Record”:

“Geyron lay on the ground covering his ears The sound
Of the horses like roses being burned alive”

Like I said, sometimes Carson really delivers. You’re able to get a glimpse into the character and still be treated to that great rose metaphor. Carson also includes an interesting introduction to the ancient Greek poet Stesichoros, who penned the original epic documenting the Geyron/ Hercules story. Overall, this collection/ novel/ epic is certainly worth your time and energy despite the periodic lapses into prosidy.

The Hollow Log Lounge

The Hollow Log Lounge is a collection of poems written by R. T. Smith and published in 2003 by the University of Illinois Press.

Some collections of poetry are held together by a common theme or a common voice. This collection is incredibly interesting, as it is held together by a common setting. The Hollow Log Lounge is a bar somewhere in Alabama where the country music provides the soundtrack for these poem-monologues. Smith has a remarkable ability to make a poem funny, poignant, and still work as a realistic monologue.

Most of the poems have a definite comic undertone:

“God bless Mr. Daniels’s distillery!
See that gal in the translucent blouse?
If she steps between your eyes and the light,
you’ll discover what sight was made for.”

Other poems, such as “Tull Jackson’s Slow Confession” carry a semi tragic quality, commenting on his wife’s lamentable knack to be sucked into religious scams due to her inability to have children and the fear that she’s somehow done something wrong in the eyes of God.

The dialogue throughout the collection is set in a distinct dialect. Lofty language is not abandoned, but altered through Southern vernacular. The poems seem more true and more natural this way; Smith has a knack for capturing a character’s mindset and personality through their language alone. This can most clearly be seen in one of my favorite poems in the collection, “A Putative Country Star Rebukes His Exit Escort.” It begins:

“You has-been jock, Ill tell you this for free:
my voice is golden, platinum, honey.
I put this state on the map. I’ll be as noisy
as I like.”

and ends:

“No thickwit bouncer can treat me like this.
Remember me next time you hear “Christmas
in Dixie.” Yeah, I wrote that. Kiss my ass.”

This poem does not claim to make any statement about the Lounge, no social commentary, no groundbreaking revelations. However, it is incredibly successful at creating a character and a situation, as well as making me laugh. That’s enjoyable, and that’s certainly commendable.

The collection changes drastically with the last poem “The End: Sam Buckhannon’s Lament as Told to Pattie Holcey.” It laments the apparent destruction of the Hollow Long Lounge as it became a disco.

“Can’t bring back what’s dead or stop the will
of progress, but I miss Hank on the jukebox
as glasses clinked and cigarette smoke curled
like blue magic, the lazy fan, the lazier clock.”

The collection becomes a reflection of an earlier time instead of an ongoing present one. Looking back on the book, it feels as though one has just read the obituary of a good friend. Despite the feeling of loss at the end, the entire collection was incredibly enjoyable. It comes highly recommended.

There’s a Trick with a Knife I’m Learning to Do by Michael Ondaatje

Michael Ondaatje’s book There’s a Trick with a Knife I’m Learning to Do is most strongly characterized by its impressive imagery and word choice. The structure of the poetry varies, as Ondaatje plays with line, stanza, italics, and punctuation—all are used to bring a certain art to the poems, and to reinforce meaning. At times the style is somewhat rambling, and extremely poetic and obscure, but in other poems Ondaatje’s voice is rather straightforward, and takes on the form of a narrative. The punctuation of the poems switches consistently between little or none, to lots of dashes, commas, and parentheses. The overriding theme of the work is family, particularly the author’s wife and son. The book opens with a narrative poem about photographs that explains several family relations and their individual stories. It is a good introductory poem because it reflects the thematic elements that will follow in the rest of the work. Overall, There’s a Trick with a Knife I’m Learning to Do is emotionally appealing, well-crafted, and sensibly artistic.

One of my favorite poems is called “Late Movies with Skyler”; it’s written in a narrative style. It is, essentially, a picture of the narrator and his son watching a movie together late one night and ends with the aging father’s thoughts on his son’s life, comparing him to the hero from the movie. What strikes me the most about the poem is the camaraderie between father and son, and the realistic images of the movie-watching. Ondaatje uses words as “adventure”(Ondaatje 68) to describe their night together at uses the pronoun “we” consistently: “We talk during the film/ and break into privacy during commercials/ or get more coffee or push/ the screen door open and urinate under the trees” (68). He also ties the father and son together my making them experience the same emotions. The two are described as “laughing”(69) together, and “…we are moved/ as Stewart Granger girl-less and countryless/ rides into the sunset with his morals and his horse”(69). I particularly like this last image because it implies that both father and son have the same impression with the ending of the movie, which really reveals the bond the two have between them. In reference to some more powerful imagery in the poem, the second stanza is my favorite:

21 years old and restless

back from logging on Vancouver Island

with men who get rid of crabs with Raid

2 minutes bending over in agony

and then into the showers! p. 68

The simplicity of this image is characteristic of the style of the poem—it isn’t flowery or overly poetic, but rather abrupt and realistic. The last stanza of the poem is also illustrative of this point, and it reveals Ondaatje’s characteristic grammatical choices (or lack thereof):

In the movies of my childhood the heroes

after skilled swordplay and moral victories

leave with absolutely nothing

to do for the rest of their lives. p. 69

This final image is cool in that there are several possibilities, and the reader is forced to re-read the stanza to find what he or she may think is the correct interpretation. Once again, the image of the speaker’s son embarking on an adventure without any set plans is powerful in its simplicity, and additionally, I love the way it reveals the father’s pride for Skyler.

In conclusion, I absolutely loved reading There’s a Trick with a Knife I’m Learning to Do. The themes and images were refreshing in a way that caught me off guard, and the stylistic elements were diverse enough to be consistently entertaining. I recommend this book to all!

House of Light by Mary Oliver

House of Light by Mary Oliver, simply put, is a contemplation of beauty. The most common theme in the book is that of nature—in fact, this is the common theme in all of Oliver’s poetry. Some other concentrations in House of Light are religion, which Oliver addresses through her frequent references to Jesus and Buddha, and the contrasts between life and death, and light and darkness. Some recurring images include owls and lilies, as well as location poems that involve travel. Oliver plays with form in House of Light; she uses indented quatrains and centered stanzas in addition to other, more basic forms. I also noticed that Oliver seemed to be considering the definition of poetry, and what qualifies a work as a poem. Altogether I found the book to be extremely moving—Oliver is a master at describing simplistic natural beauty and her insight is compelling.

One of my favorite poems, called “Singapore,” addresses several of the themes I mention above. The poem is a narration of the author’s experience in an airport bathroom. It has an uneven stanza structure, ranging from two to eight lines per verse. Oliver effectively uses line to add to her varied sentence structure, which gives the poem a conversational tone. The main theme of this work is the concept that a poem doesn’t need to be about something that is typically aesthetically pleasing or “nice” to be beautiful. At the beginning of the poem, Oliver writes: “A poem should always have birds in it./ …A waterfall, or if that’s not possible, a fountain/ rising and falling./ A person wants to stand in a happy place, in a poem” (Oliver 72). The poet testifies to the fact that readers see poems as vehicles of beauty, but that doesn’t necessarily mean that they can’t find beauty in unpleasantness. As Oliver continues to describe the actions of a working Singaporean woman, she reveals to the reader that an ordinary life is beautiful; that these simple, fleeting moments in gas stations or grocery stores have places in poems, too. Oliver ends her poem by reinforcing this main theme, claiming that “Singapore” is “filled with trees, and birds” (73).

Another poem in House of Light that stands out to me is “Moccasin Flowers”—it is a very typical Oliver poem in that it deals with a specific aspect of nature. The poem is split into nine stanzas of four lines, each indented in a staggered pattern. Oliver effectively uses enjambment in this poem to, creating movement and mimicked growth of the moccasin flowers. What strikes me most about this poem is the imagery, including lines such as the following: “mossy hooves/ of dreams,” “the lamb-lips/ of oblivion,” and “the pink lungs of their bodies/ enter the fire of the world” (66-7). Wow! It is images like these that make me want to write! The theme of “Moccasin Flowers” is somewhat obscure, but it seemed to be a commentary on love, and admiration. Oliver states at the beginning of the poem that all her life she has “loved/ more than one thing,” (66), but loves best the new, budding flowers as they push their blossoms into an unfriendly world. This message is characteristic of Oliver—she possesses a true respect for nature and a certain admiration (which goes hand in hand with a lack of complete understanding). The poet’s use of imagery in this work helps to portray its overriding tone of hopefulness.

In conclusion, I could basically go on and on about how amazing House of Light is! I think anyone could enjoy this book; it’s the perfect companion to a summer day on a hammock. As corny as that sounds, you’ll see what I mean if you read it. Oliver’s perfect imagery and powerful conceits combine to make this book a truly awesome experience.

Breath by Philip Levine

Breath by Philip Levine seems to function mostly as a narrative—it is, essentially, a snapshot of the author’s life. His poems have a straightforward form that generally doesn’t break into stanzas; this structure gives the entire book a very “prosey” feel. Because of this simplistic form, line is very important in the book and Levine uses it to bring meaning to the poems. Some of the themes that come up in the book include Levine’s hometown and state—Detroit, Michigan. The location is important to the continuous references the poet makes to the industry and factories, particularly those relating to automobiles. Levine plays a lot with the past, and contrasts it with the present in a few of his poems. His frequent mention of different Uncles and the names of people in his past, bring the reader to an awareness of the importance of history in the book. This is reinforced by the references to WWII, which transport the reader to the time period about which Levine is speaking. One other recurring image in the book is that of winter, and snow. The book seems to stay in the same season throughout its entirety—these descriptions of cold and winter set the overall tone of the book. I really enjoyed Breath, mostly I think because the poet appeared to know himself so well; his introspective maturity was extremely apparent throughout the poems. With its basic form and striking images, Levine’s book was a compelling read.

One of my favorite poems in the book is “A View of Home,” mostly because of its striking imagery. The poem deals with the industrial yards of Detroit in a thoroughly depressing way—a few images that stood out to me include “ore boats beached and fuming,” “satanic stove factory,” and “our river/ is salted with blown truck tires,/ nonunion organizers, dead carp/ floating silver side up…” (Levine 27). Levine’s use of alliteration highlights the dirtiness and general gloominess of the city, but perhaps the most foreboding image in the poem is that of the speaker’s great-uncle who is leaving Detroit to “die for good/ Czar Nicholas” (27). Although Levine makes no further mention of this simple, fatalistic comment in the poem, the continuing dismal imagery sets an appropriate tone. By mentioning the native homeland of the family, Levine also forces the reader to remember the history of the characters in the book. I feel like the point of the poem was really to highlight the irony of the great-uncle’s bliss and excitement about his return to Russia by surrounding it with truly depressing images of the city he was escaping. Levine seems to be commenting that the true tragedy of the poem is not the miserable conditions existing in industrial Detroit, but the seemingly pointless death of his oblivious great-uncle.

One other work that I thought represented Levine’s general attitude in the book is “The Great Truth,” a poem about a semi-permanent “uncle” of the author. Once again, the work is characterized by its imagery, although it reads more like prose than “A View of Home.” The main focus of the poem is Levine’s memories of his Uncle Nate—it has a very reflective tone. The concept of the past is a huge part of this work, of course, and a distinction between an earlier memory and current sentiment is separated in the work by an indented stanza break. The poem is another that mentions Detroit industry and the brutality of the city. One of my favorite images is the description of Uncle Nate’s return from prison: “[he] took a murderous night job in the forge room/ at Cadillac…”(8). The use of the word “murderous” is ironic and very effective. Levine’s word choice in “The Great Truth” stands out as one of the most successful parts of the poem, along with Levine’s compelling depiction of character. As the reflection in the first half of the work moves into a more somber realization of present-day, the implications of Uncle Nate’s role in the author’s life and consequent impressions on his person become devastatingly apparent. The final lines of the poem seem to sum up its general message: “Up ahead of what little I could see of sky/ lightened as though urging me toward something/ waiting for me more than half a century, some/ great truth to live by now that it was too late/ to live in the world other than I do.” (9).

Despite its somber themes and overall gray imagery, Breath is inspiring in that it captures the remarkable past of the author in a strikingly beautiful way. The stark images of Detroit in the 1940’s bring the reader to an inescapable place where he or she cannot resist being overtaken by Levine’s art. Breath is a truly successful and mature book.

“Thirst” by Mary Oliver: A Review

Thirst, by Pulitzer Prize winner Mary Oliver, is a collection of 43 poems mainly centered around the death of Oliver’s longtime partner, and the poet’s various reactions to that sad event. While a number of the poems are typical mourning poems, with memories of good times and reflections on life without that person, the majority are very spiritual in nature. I’m not sure if Oliver became religious before or after the death of her partner, but she seems very devout in her faith as she calls on God to help her through her grief, to keep her grounded in reality. At the same time, she accepts her grief as a sort of expression of love and continuance of her relationship with her partner.

My favorite poems in the book, and the most relatable, were the simple mourning poems, when religion was kept out of the picture, such as “A Note Left on the Door” (20), and “Those Days” (21): “…I would come / home, through the long shadows, and into the house/ where she would be// my glorious welcoming, tan and hungry and ready to tell/ the hurtless gossips of the day.” The poems are so powerful because of their focus on the tiny details of the day and of that person, the things you never pay attention to, but you’ll miss more than anything when that person is gone. These poems were very moving.

With the same attention to detail, many of the poems focus on things in nature, particularly animals, such as “Swimming with Otter” (11) and “In the Storm” (62), about a small flock of sanderlings taking shelter from a storm under the tails of ducks. These beautiful poems encourage an opening up to nature, to look closer than we usually do. This is something that I try to do, when I remember, and these poems promote that goal. In many of these poems, Oliver connects the tiniest details to an appreciation of God and his handiwork.

Some of the poems were much more blatant in their religious focus, many of them being prayers. I found these to be rather alienating, and monotonous as well, as they all started to sound the same. I’m not sure how I feel about this, because they are as well-written as the rest, and I shouldn’t have to agree with something to appreciate it, but I couldn’t help but be reminded of the hymns and psalms I was forced to mindlessly recite throughout my childhood, and I quickly zoned out.

Although I love Oliver’s writing style, particularly her attention to detail and her focus on the natural world, I started to get bored around the middle of the book, because there was such a distinct thematic pattern between all of the poems. They all started to seem alike, especially the religious poems. I would have appreciated a bit more range, with less of a focus on average prayers.

Amanda’s Third Review

Amanda Rutstein
Poetry review #3

Stephanie Hemphill’s poetry volume, Your Own, Sylvia; a verse portrait of Sylvia Plath attempts to create a timeline of Sylvia Plath’s life through the voices of her family and friends using Plath’s unique sound. This is an incredibly ambitious project and could truly have transformed Plath’s biographical landscape, but it seems as though in an effort to complete the book quickly, Hemphill falls short. Because of my obvious and often stated obsession with Sylvia Plath this semester, I was incredibly excited to find this volume of poetry, I was slightly worried by the lack of quotes on the back cover, but still hoped that it was just under-recognized. Apparently the quotes or lack-there-of is a telling feature. However, the copyright is 2007, so I suppose there is still time for this book to gain a modicum of attention.
As stated, the 151 poems chronologically chronicle both the small snapshots and huge milestones of Plath’s life, and are all written from the viewpoint of a large variety of people living around Plath, from her mother to the paramedics who found her body. To complicate matters further, some, not all of the poems are written to mimic Plath’s poetic voice and other poems are given the same title as actual Plath poems. The poems themselves are relatively short and matter-a-fact. I think Hemphill fails because although impressive, her overall goal is impossible. She essentially loses her own voice to the voice of Plath and the imagined voices of the people she assigns each poem to, all this while trying to simplify and summarize a life. For example, in the poem where she relates the suicide entitled “Monday Morning; Myra Norris, nurse hired to care for Frieda and Nick February 11, 1963” she has Myra Norris say, “Inside the flat, we rush to turn off the gas,/ Mrs. Hughes’s head inside the oven/ like another awful fairy tale, the one/ where the witch dies inside the stove” (235). In a sense, having an actual account of the situation by the nurse who found Plath would be interesting, but having only an imagined reaction comes across as awkwardly irreverent.
In another poem Hemphill tries to embody Plath’s supposed manic depression mimicking the form of Plath’s poem “Aerialist” found in The Collected poems. This poem is called “Manic Depression: Imagining Sylvia Plath In the style of “Aerialist” December 1952” and the first stanza reads: “She balances night./ She floats on days./ She cannot see the shift–/ Her smile of light,/ Her frown of haze,/ She’s constantly adrift” (54). She is clearly working so hard to maintain the meter and rhyme scheme of Plath’s poem, that she loses the conceit and the lines come out sounding incredibly contrived and once again, rather irreverent. I characterize these poems as irreverent, because I believe by creating or conceiving of this project, it was Hemphill’s mission to honor Plath’s life as a poet (which is a noble goal) but by failing to create actual great poetry herself, she often sounds like she’s mocking Plath.
Overall, I am glad that I own this book because it has some interesting biographical footnotes at the end of each poem, as well as a nice collection of photos in the center, but the poetry is severely lacking. I commend Hemphill’s goal and effort because 151 poems is a ton of poetry, but the poems fail to convey anything new about Sylvia Plath’s short life, if anything they simply highlight the fact that Plath’s poetry is wholly unique to Plath.