Today dear readers I am reviewing Just to the Right of the Stove (Published February 12th 2021 by TwistIT Press) By Elisabeth Horan. A big thank you to Fly On The Wall Press who kindly sent a copy for me to review, always appreciated.
Just to the Right of the Stove
“Sylvia Plath – an iconic female figure in literary lore – endured a tragic existence, which sadly ended at the age of just thirty, in 1963. Clinically depressed for most of her adult life, she suffered from insomnia, domestic abuse, and several suicidal episodes. Plath was a mother in turmoil, a tortured soul battling her beast of burden. She ended her days by putting her head in the oven and turning up the gas. A bright star snuffed out when there was so much more left to shine. The fact that she achieved all she did in her short life is remarkable.
That said, her experiences, sadly, are not unique. Elisabeth Horan, somewhat kindred in spirit, is a survivor. Her new collection, Just to the Right of the Stove – a deep, sometimes dark, always sincere imaginary dialogue with her much lauded peer, is proof that one’s suffering can be anaesthetised with art. It is a collection that could only be written from a survivor’s perspective; deeply introspective and brutally honest, Horan leaves no layers left unpeeled. It is a tribute to her fallen hero, a means to rationalise her own guilt and failings as a mother and human being without the sanctimonious bullshit that often permeates such confessions, and an example of a very powerful and commanding voice in the poetry world today. It is Horan’s best work to date, and a piece that Plath would surely esteem.” – Paul Robert Mullen
About The Author
Elisabeth Horan is a poet, mother, and small press publisher living in the wilds of Vermont. She is the author of numerous poetry chapbooks and collections, and the Editor-In-Chief of Animal Heart Press. Elisabeth is passionate about discovering new voices and mentoring emerging poets. She is also a fierce advocate for those impacted by mental illness.
She earned her MA from SNHU, and her MFA from Lindenwood University. She is a 2018 Pushcart Nominee and a 2018 and 2019 Best of Net Nominee.
In this intense collection of poetry, Horan imagines conversations she would have had with Sylvia Plath if she was given the chance. Sadly as we all know Plath ended her days in 1963 by putting her head in the oven and turning up the gas while her children slept in the other room. A tragic end to a talented woman who was battling her inner demons alone for years. This is Horan’s heartbreaking, honest tribute to a mother and fellow poet who wanted to put an end to her pain.
These poems have strong themes of depression, suicide, identity and acceptance. They reflect both women’s fears and doubts of struggling to understand how to accept themselves as they are. Which in turn can become isolating as they feel no one understands them. It’s difficult at times to read as there is so much emotion and despair on the page. You can feel their pain and the darkness creeping up on you the more you venture in. It’s hard hitting stuff dear reader but you persevere as you see tiny flecks of light towards the end of the tunnel.
The first poem the reader encounters, Near The Fridge is of the two meeting for the first time. There are pleasantries and a shared pain between them. Plath questions what it is that Horan needs from her as she states she has a husband who is honest and well kept. Horan wishes Plath to teach her what it means to be an artist, to have a voice not just upon the page but all around. She questions Plath if she has to die in order to become famous, to be heard. It is an interesting aspect to read, one poet seeking advice and guidance from another. The two share certain similarities such as their constant battle with depression. Plath’s fate is unfortunately already sealed while Horan still has the chance to decide which path she will take.
Horan wonders in her poetry if Plath had been offered the help and had the services that are provided to the public struggling with mental illness today, would she still have taken her life? Would Horan have been able to save her? She wonders how difficult it must have gotten for Plath for her to leave her children behind. She reflects on this in Dabbing the Corners of Our Mouths Like Ladies, and how she knows what could have happened to her. In her own dark days Horan wonders if her children would be better off without her, but reasons that they would rather have a sad mother than no mother at all. One thing is for certain, Horan is a survivor and refuses to give in.
In Toasting Bread, Plath talks about how regret is something you must earn and asks Horan if she thinks she spends the seconds wondering what might have been if she hadn’t gone through with her suicide. Plath says she was too messy in the head and how that’s Horan’s issue as well. That the trick is to make them believe you didn’t die, to just obtain iconic status. The two are a kindred spirt, they learn and help each other to see past the black.
I give Just to the Right of the Stove By Elisabeth Horan a Four out of Five paw rating.
Overflowing with emotion and fire this collection will brew you a cup of the strong stuff. The back and forth between Plath and Horan flowed and helped me envision what these intense conversations must have felt like, should they have actually happened. Plath is a higher power, a famous tragedy that literature will always remember. Horan is a strength to be reckoned with within in her own right. Her poetry is brave and raw, standing naked for all to see. This is only a small peek into the darkness that consumes creative minds of the troubled, lost and saddened. There is still so much to uncover and learn.
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