Miss Plastique by Lynn Levin

Book Source:  Poet provided me with a copy
Paperback: 58 pages
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Miss Plastique by Lynn Levin reminded me of the comic book character Plastique in that many of the female narrators in this collection are very explosive. And the cover of this collection is very ironic, with the sweet looking Barbie doll decked out in a corset-like shirt and chain necklaces, giving a hint of her edginess.  In one of the first poems, “Miss Plastique,” Levin references the explosive nature of C-4 and how it must be handled with care, much like the narrator. Levin examines the notion of judging a book by its cover, and how something that doesn’t look dangerous can be exactly that.

Some poems have a bit of tongue-in-cheek humor, like in “The Foundations of Poetry,” the narrator recounts some advice from an English teacher long ago, “‘You should expose/your thoughts and feelings/when you write poems,’ taught Mrs. Hay./’In verse, a little thigh is fine/and you may dream your truth into your lines./Only do not lie to yourself.’//”  (page 16)  These poems contain material that can be explosive if not handled with care, but in Levin’s hands the tension in the poem is sometimes just enough to sustain it without a bomb going off, but in other poems, there is just no other way to express the emotion that has been building.

A selection from: Please Understand (page 39)

I love to say your name, it's like candy
in my mouth.  I love to say your name,
it's like saltwater taffy.
When I steal a look at your eyes
it's like I'm shoplifting in a jewelry store,
and my heart's arrested
when you catch me.

Levin has a gift in that she knows precisely when to change the mood in the poem, turning the tables on the reader, who thinks there is a love sonnet but realizes soon enough that the object of the poem is no longer a love interest but someone who has spurned the narrator. In the latter section of the book, Lilith appears — a long used symbol of rebellion for feminists — and she alongside Eve stands tall and ready to act, rather than simper and wait for things to change.

Miss Plastique by Lynn Levin is about taking charge, being a force to be reckoned with, and standing tall in the face of adversity — whether its a mundane as a dilemma as choosing the best outfit or as dire as escaping a violent relationship.  But there are moments of vulnerability in these poems as well as explosions.  These poems will make sure readers are kept on their toes.

This is my 22nd book for the Dive Into Poetry Challenge 2013.


  1. Sounds like an interesting collection!

  2. This poet seems to have a delicate touch. Thank you for bringing her work to our attention.

  3. I like the poem you posted from Miss Plastique especially since I love salt water taffies at the beach.:)

  4. I loved that poem!!