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Your Own, Sylvia: A Verse Portrait of Sylvia Plath [Kindle Edition]

Stephanie Hemphill
3.9 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (14 customer reviews)

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Book Description

On a bleak February day in 1963 a young American poet died by her own hand, and passed into a myth that has since imprinted itself on the hearts and minds of millions. She was and is Sylvia Plath and Your Own, Sylvia is a portrait of her life, told in poems.

With photos and an extensive list of facts and sources to round out the reading experience, Your Own, Sylvia is a great curriculum companion to Plath's The Bell Jar and Ariel, a welcoming introduction for newcomers, and an unflinching valentine for the devoted.

From the Hardcover edition.

Editorial Reviews

From School Library Journal

Grade 8 Up—Through a series of skillfully crafted poems, Hemphill has pieced together a collage of the life and work of the American writer. Arranged chronologically from Plath's birth to the month of her suicide, the poems are written from the points of view of people involved in her life. The voices of Plath's mother; her poet husband, Ted Hughes; and other intimates are interspersed with those of more fleeting acquaintances, each chosen to underscore a unique aspect of the subject's fiery life and tumultuous literary career. Hemphill rises to the challenge of capturing the life of a poet through poetry itself; the end result is a collection of verse worthy of the artist whom it portrays. Form is of paramount importance, just as it was to Plath herself. Many of the selections were created "in the style of" specific Plath poems, while others are scattered with Plath's imagery and language. While the book will prove an apt curriculum companion to Plath's literary works as touted on the jacket, it will also pull the next generation of readers into the myth of Sylvia Plath.—Jill Heritage Maza, Greenwich High School, CT
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.

From Booklist

*Starred Review* As in Margarita Engle's The Poet Slave of Cuba (2006), this ambitious portrait uses poetry to illuminate the facts of a famous life, in this case, Sylvia Plath's. Although classified as fiction, the book draws from numerous nonfiction sources, including biographies and Plath's journals and letters, and each poem is accompanied by footnotes grounding Hemphill's imagined scenes within the facts. Rather than write in Plath's voice, Hemphill channels the voices of those who knew the poet in chronologically arranged poems, written from the perspective of family members, friends, colleagus, even Plath's doctor. Plath's own voice is evident in the poetic forms, though, with many of the poems written "in the style of" specific works. The result is an intimate, comprehensive, imaginative view of a life that also probes the relationships between poetry and creativity, mental fragility, love, marriage, and betrayal. Some readers may be slowed by the many poems that chronicle the bitter dissolution of Plath's marriage, and readers who know the Plath poems Hemphill references will have an advantage. But Plath's dramatic genius and personal struggles, particularly the difficulties of reconciling the writing life with the roles of wife and mother, have long attracted teen interest, and this accomplished, creative story may ignite new interest in Plath's original works. A bibliography of sources is appended. Gillian Engberg
Copyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved

Product Details

  • File Size: 1340 KB
  • Print Length: 274 pages
  • Page Numbers Source ISBN: 037583799X
  • Publisher: Knopf Books for Young Readers (December 10, 2008)
  • Sold by: Random House LLC
  • Language: English
  • Text-to-Speech: Not enabled
  • X-Ray:
  • Word Wise: Not Enabled
  • Lending: Not Enabled
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #993,583 Paid in Kindle Store (See Top 100 Paid in Kindle Store)
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Customer Reviews

3.9 out of 5 stars
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews
6 of 6 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Richie's Picks: YOUR OWN, SYLVIA May 2, 2007
All I'd previously known of Sylvia Plath was that she'd been a poet who'd written THE BELL JAR and had committed suicide. All I knew of Ted Hughes is that he wrote poems for adults that I'd never read and THE IRON GIANT which I'd really enjoyed reading. I was not aware of Plath and Hughes having been married.

I know much, much more about them now.


Dr. Ruth Barnhouse Beuscher, Sylvia's therapist

Fall 1953

"Repression cuts off

circulation like a tourniquet,

and Sylvia throbs with desire.

"I advise Sylvia to experiment,

to stop fretting over a white

wedding dress. Does this shock

the patient? Not really.

Sylvia has been slicing at her arm,

waiting for someone

to grant her permission. "A junior in college,

she may be ready for this.

'But what would Mother think?'

Sylvia snickers. She wraps a mink stole

of secrets around her shoulders,

luxuriates in playing foul

behind her mother's back.

"Perhaps when she holds back

her desires, her mind

splinters into madness, into deadwood

that we must burn away by electric shock.

I encourage her to release her idea

of the bad girl, punishable for physical contact.

"I ask her to think about herself, not her mother,

about how Sylvia represses Sylvia.

I want to tell her to do what she wants.

I need to help her to let go of her fears."

"Dr. Ruth met with Sylvia for daily psychotherapy sessions, during which Ruth explained to Sylvia her methods and techniques and why she was using them.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars An interesting view of the poet and her poetry August 28, 2007
I read Your own, Sylvia: A Verse Portrait of Sylvia Plath by Stephanie Hemphill over the last week. It was well researched and very creative; I enjoyed reading the poems as it re-enforces the work that Plath's biographers have done. I did find its reliance on Rough Magic troublesome. Rough Magic has its moments of decent reporting and I have often referred to it in my Plath studies. Hemphill's book is a unique approach to examining and reading Plath's life and work. Additionally, it provides a creative interpretation of how Plath's friends, family, and other acquaintances view her.

I did find two things worth commenting on regarding Your Own, Sylvia. First, there was no poem for an event that took place the week of her birthday in 1960: Heinemann's publication of The Colossus and other poems. Secondly, and this really bothered me, throughout the poems relating to Plath's time in Devon, North Tawton is called Croton. I believe this is what Butscher called North Tawton in his Sylvia Plath: Method and Madness, presumably to protect the names of the innocent. But, I am disappointed that Hemphill and her editors overlooked this masking and thus, may perpuate the misnomer.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Our own Sylvia. June 10, 2008
Forty-five years after her death, Sylvia-Plath-mystique is alive and well. This story of Plath's life, from childhood to tragedy, is told in verse, purportedly in Plath's own style. Hemphill, an outstanding poet in her own right, admirably gives more than suitable voice to those who knew Sivvy--her mother, brother, friends, editors, therapist, husband and Sylvia herself, defining Sylvia's hopes and aspirations, fears, vulnerabilities and dichotomies. Each poem is titled and the point of view and speaker are made clear. Factual end notes enhance the biographical aspect. "Your Own, Sylvia" reads like a novel, a good one. Readers are rewarded with an intimate look at this remarkable young woman and brilliant poet, and may deduce that she was a modern female, ahead of her time. The nature of this book is that Sylvia's suicide becomes less frightening, less intimidating, less sensational, allowing readers to embrace Sylvia and accept her as their own.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
Sylvia Plath is an enigma that I've spent a (probably) unhealthy amount of time trying to understand. Like many women and teens who've read her work, I feel a strong sense of kinship to Plath that fuels my curiosity, and I found Stephanie Hemphill's Your Own, Sylvia to be a welcome and engaging read which offered both interesting information and the emotion of poetry.

It surprised me how much I learned while reading Your Own, Sylvia. Many of the poems mimic poems written by Plath in style or form and were informed by the reports or writings of those who knew her. It's clear that the poems are fictional accounts created by Hemphill, but, for me, each had a clear ring of truth and feasibility. It's clear Hemphill spent much time researching Plath and those in her life before composing the poems that make up the novel. Some of them are better than others, that is, some felt more aesthetically pleasing, but they all contributed in an important way to the overall narrative.

After each poem, Hemphill added factual information or a short explanation of the poem. Given the personal nature of the poetry, the information included often had a personal tone as well. I never felt that I was being force fed dry bits of factual information, rather, each fact gave additional depth and meaning to Hemphill's poems and created a more vivid portrait of Plath.

I highly recommend Your Own, Sylvia to readers with a particular interest in Plath, as well as those who generally enjoy poetry and verse novels. Hemphill's novel is unique in that it focuses on a real person and weaves facts into the verse novel format, offering readers something new and notable. I'm looking forward to Hemphill's upcoming verse portrait, Hideous Love: The Story of the Girl Who Wrote Frankenstein. This novel, which focuses on author Mary Shelley, is scheduled for an October 2013 release.
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Most Recent Customer Reviews
3.0 out of 5 stars The author's own Plath inspired poetry was deritive and painful to...
The biographical information, following each poem, in this little book was what made it worth the read. Read more
Published 16 months ago by Cuddle Bug
5.0 out of 5 stars An inspiring work
I recommend listening to the audio book version. As a dramatic presentation of Plath and her work YOUR OWN SYLVIA is compelling. Read more
Published on March 25, 2012 by Carl Rollyson
3.0 out of 5 stars Not a style of writing that really worked for me.
(This book is reviewed in connection with Carver: A Life in Poems )

Your Own, Sylvia: A Verse Portrait of Sylvia Plath by Stephanie Hemphill received a Printz Honor... Read more
Published on January 24, 2012 by Basically Amazing Ashley
5.0 out of 5 stars Think you know about Sylvia Plath?
Loved every page!!! This was a refreshing look into the life of Plath, told through poems from those who actually knew her.

I find her fascinating. Read more
Published on June 30, 2011 by Book 'Em Blog
3.0 out of 5 stars Not sure if this is Printz worthy
I don't feel like this book is deserving of Prinz Honor. To write about a poet's life in a form of a series of poems from POV's of people around Sylvia is an interesting exercise,... Read more
Published on October 25, 2010 by YA book lover
5.0 out of 5 stars More Plath/Hughes exploitation
"Your Own, Sylvia: A Verse Portrait of Sylvia Plath", is a book that should not have been written or published. Read more
Published on November 2, 2008 by M. szymanski
5.0 out of 5 stars A testimony to the ongoing power of the poem.
While this verse interpretation of poet Sylvia Plath was intended for teen audiences, it's reviewed here because it'd be a shame to limit its meaning to teens alone. Read more
Published on September 4, 2008 by Midwest Book Review
1.0 out of 5 stars Really bad ideas 101
It is a very, VERY bad idea for a poor poet to attempt to sketch the life of one of history's greatest poets. The poems are laughably awful. Read more
Published on February 26, 2008 by Ashley Nicole
2.0 out of 5 stars Read Sylvia's own
I found the notion behind this book, which I read for a book group, off-putting: The author writes a book about the life of Sylvia Plath by writing her own poems, in the voice of... Read more
Published on November 30, 2007 by W.S. Viitala
5.0 out of 5 stars AMAZING READ
A beautifully written book that allows the reader to understand the backstory to Plath's life and death. Read more
Published on October 27, 2007 by JillC
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