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Your Own, Sylvia: A Verse Portrait of Sylvia Plath Paperback – December 23, 2008
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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. --This text refers to the Library Binding edition.
*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 --This text refers to the Library Binding edition.
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But the poetry isn't that amazing. It's interesting for the story. But not astounding poetry.
And Plath fans (like me) are always eager to get their hands on anything about Sylvia.
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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Your Own, Sylvia: A Verse Portrait of Sylvia Plath by Stephanie Hemphill received a Printz Honor...Read more
I find her fascinating.Read more