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This review is taken from PN Review 179, Volume 34 Number 3, January - February 2008.

PLAIN AS A WARDROBE DOROTHY MOLLOY, Gethsemane Day (Faber) £8.99

Dorothy Molloy's Hare Soup (2004) was published almost simultaneously with the poet's death. Gethsemane Day now appears as a collection of Molloy's unpublished verse, including poems she wrote throughout her final days. As an anatomiser of illness's ruthless desecration of the body and mind, Molloy makes Sylvia Plath look like a tourist. And I don't mean that facetiously: there is a flirtatious element to Plath - a sense of game playing - that gives her poems much of their glittering, rattlesnake allure. Molloy, in extremis, wholly denies herself any distance from the remorseless destruction of the physical, not the metaphoric, body. Molloy's verse is as brutally direct as the sound of nails going into a coffin or through the palms and feet. The first stanza of 'Gethsemane Day' observes the body's betrayal:

They've taken my liver down to the lab,
left the rest of me here on the bed;
the blood I am sweating rubs off on the sheet.
but I'm still holding on to my head.


But holding on for how long? She knows she cannot refuse the cup: 'What cocktail is Daddy preparing for me' and 'like it, or not, I must drink'.

That 'Daddy' is a nice touch, arguing against Plath's specification of an actual father for a wider vision of the cruel patriarchy - the church, doctors, men - in which women are enmeshed - sometimes through ...


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