literary biographer has ever made use of intimate medicalninformation in this way, but it seems doubtful that Sextonnwould have wished it suppressed, or at least that is the viewnof her daughter Linda Gray Sexton, who is also her literarynexecutor. Since Sexton originally saw her poetry as annextension of her therapy sessions and never, to my mind, wasnable to distance and mythologize herself as Plath did, there isnnot that much difference between the content of the tapesnand that of her poetry. As far as the incest question goes,nMiddlebrook relies, either naively or disingenuously, onnSexton’s own vague and contradictory stories of childhoodncuddling at bedtime with Nana, a great aunt, and on somenhazily remembered (“Only later did Linda realize . . .”)nepisodes related by Sexton’s elder daughter. The latterncharges, according to Linda Gray Sexton’s own account,nsurfaced only when Middlebrook was writing about MercynStreet, a Sexton play about incest: “If I didn’t tell her aboutnthis, I would be doing her a disservice.” The claim thatnSexton herself had been a childhood incest victim, however,nraised the ire of two cousins, who defended Nana in annangry letter to the New York Times Book Review. Sexton,nthey claimed, was notoriously untruthful in almost everynaspect of her life and had such a flair for self-dramatizahonnthat one could not rely on her version of almost any event.nThis view, I must add, jibes closely with that of several of hernacquaintances, who have told me that she simply could notnbe trusted to know the difference between truth and fantasy.nMiddlebrook, much too eager to portray Sexton as a victim,nseems to take too many of her statements without thennecessary block of salt.nHow influential have the lives of these poets been? Very.nA generation of very young women poets has now grown upnwith Plath and Sexton looming large in the post-modernistncanon; it should surprise no one that these poets havenassimilated their elders as thoroughly as their mothers andngrandmothers might have absorbed Teasdale and Millay. Inam looking at the contributors’ notes in the most recentnBlackberriesnby Gloria WbelannAfraid the barbs and thorns will flay my skinnthere is a moment when I hesitate,nthese armored berries hug the ground withinna cage of briars to ripen slow and late.nThey fill their winey goblets full of dew,na purple jewel against a breast of moss,nthe final gift before the summer’s throughnand night comes fast and air is sharp with loss.nMy hands are stained with berry juice and bloodnbut rich the taste; the scrapes and stabs will mendnand memories of August’s honeyed foodnwill make of winter’s chill a warmer friend.nWhen have we not been glad we risked the painnfor joy is sweet upon its prickly cane.n24/CHRONICLESnnnissue of Fuke, Lamar University’s literary magazine, and Innote that Stacy Lynette Dickey, a freshman, lists SylvianPlath as her favorite writer. Here, quoted with her permission,nis her poem “I Carved Your Crutches”:nI carved your crutches todaynWith the sharpness of my hands;nSplit and cut the wood perfectlynTo your heightnSo you won’t have to adjust themnThe splinters inserted themselvesninside my tender fleshnas redness trickled down my hands,nacross my wrists,nand changed the whiteness of my shirtnI think my tweezers did the trick,nThe soreness escaped my skinnI only hope the wood is dry,nso you don’t stain your clothes.nThe apostrophe to the unfeeling other, the notion of thenpoem as failed gift or tribute (compare “The Colossus”),nthe references to deformity, the focus on self-inflictednphysical pain — these are the touchstones of Plath’s poetry.nIf this is a love poem (and I think it is) it is love among thenruins of the Western lyrical tradition. Without the longnshadow of Sylvia Plath, Ms. Dickey’s poem might have wellnbeen yet another variation on the theme of “Love is not all;nit is not meat and drink.”nIn 1972, responding to a-question in an interview aboutnthe differences between poetry by male and female students,nRichard Wilbur observed that in his own student daysn”poetry was associated by some with effeminacy” and thatnsome male poets overstressed their masculinity to reassurenboth their public and themselves. “There’s none of that anynmore. I’m very sure it’s possible to distinguish between malenand female sensibilities — but I should think that there’s nownno subject matter that you would expect to find in a man’snbook but not in a woman’s.” What Wilbur, or no one fornthat matter, could have foreseen is the degree to whichnwomen have rejected their own brand of “effeminacy,” thatnis, the high-toned lyricism of the poetesses of their grandparents’nera. One can scarce imagine a male poet writing anpoem about how he and his three-year-old son compare thensize and shape of their sexual organs, but that is exactly whatnPulitzer Prize-winning poet Rita Dove does in a poem fromnher recent collection Grace Notes. Would a male poet darento write about the joys of [censored]? Read “Love in BloodnTime” in Sharon Olds’s The Gold Cell. Would an otherwisenstraight male poet risk ridicule by writing an extendednnarrative graphically describing a sexual encounter with anpartner of the same sex? Carolyn Forche does, in a book thatnwon the Yale Younger Poets award. With tifles like “Menstruationnat Forty,” “In Praise of My Uterus,” or “Ballad ofnthe Lonely Masturbator,” Anne Sexton showed the way to anwhole generation of women poets. “If Anne had stucknaround another ten years,” said an admiring Erica Jong,n”the wodd might have caught up with her.” WhethernRobert Ely will lead a new revolution in poetry by men is yetnto be seen, but thus far male poets have largely feared tontread where Sylvia Plath, Anne Sexton, and their followersnhave been walking for years. <§>n