Your Own, Sylvia

Your Own, Sylvia: A Verse Portrait of Sylvia Plath

By Stephanie Hemphill

Published by Random House, 2008

What it’s about?

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 OwnSylvia 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.

What I think:

This book is described as “an unflinching valentine for the devoted” and that is a really great description.

Hemphill tells the story of Sylivia’s life through the eyes of her family and freiends, her teachers, neighbours and psychiatrists.

She takes key events in her life that Sylvia herself wrote extensively about in her journals, letters, poetry and in The Bell Jar, and retells them in verse. Some of the poems are imagining Sylvia’s thoughts and feelings in the style of her own poetry.

I love verse novels as they get straight to the heart of situations and emotions. Hemphill’s poems do just that. The reader gets a real insight into the life of Sylvia Plath. The use of verse means that extra detail and speculation are kept to a minimum. Hemphill has included biographical information at the end of each new poem that directs the reader to the real life inspiration if they wish to find out more.

Hemphill has a wide knowledge of Plath and appreciation and understanding of her poetry and this comes through in her own verse.

I have read much by and about Plath and this is a fantastic and enjoyable addition to my Plath collection. If you’re a fan or just want to find out more then I recommend this gem of a book.

I found a copy of Your Own Sylvia online (see link below), but your local bookshop may also be able to order a copy for you: click here

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