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January 07, 1988|ROSELLE M. LEWIS

When Did I Stop Being 20 and Other Injustices: Selected Poems From Single To Mid-Life by Judith Viorst (Simon & Schuster: $10.95).

Judith Viorst is probably best known for her recent best-selling "Necessary Losses," a sociological analysis of the steps in aging. But--where have I been?--for many years, she has published both children's books and anthologies of vers de societe , whose long titles pretty much summarize their contents.

Because Viorst makes no effort at poetic devices--metrics, metaphor or symbol--her poems read, to put it more accurately, like prose entries in a journal. In these life studies, we follow a young woman, leaving her bourgeois New Jersey family in "The Break," sympathize with her plight in "The Apartment" and "The Job," and empathize as the reality principle sets in when she asks: "Will I Ever Get Married? (Song of the Single Girl)." The answer is a decided "yes," and the perfect husband appears in "Henry," a guy without a beard, bad habits or a previous marriage, a fellow--gosh-darn it--her parents thoroughly approve of.

The passing decades bring reflections on "No More Babies," a decision that causes brief weeping. There are college reunions, wedding anniversaries, the divorces of friends and pensees on living solo in "Alone." Ah, the freedom to turn the thermostat up, to hog the double bed, to toss out expensive but loathsome boots and to give up trying to understand the stock market and "his cousin Rose." But, reflects Viorst--and many readers will find themselves in passionate agreement--"I would hate it."

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