29 July 2007

Book review: Your own, Sylvia: A verse portrait of Sylvia Plath

This review appeared online at the web site of the Toledo Blade (http://www.toledoblade.com/).

"YOUR OWN, SYLVIA: A VERSE PORTRAIT OF SYLVIA PLATH. By Stephanie Hemphill. Knopf. $15.99. Ages 16 and up.Sylvia Plath is remembered for a dark, passionate life and for poetry that opens the human heart. Poet Hemphill recounts that life in original poems that illuminate Plath’s journey through the stages of childhood, young woman, wife, and young mother. Each poem is written as a letter from someone close to Sylvia or in the style of a Plath poem. Included are biographical footnotes in a non-intrusive style. An absorbing life story to savor. "

I have not heard much about this book, published by Knopf in March 2007. Has anyone out there read it?


Melanie Smith - Australia said...

It is an interesting book, I liked that she chose to speak from perspectives other than Plath's - and to sometimes attempt to write in Plath's style but not to appropriate her voice. So many works - Hurdle, Moses etc (though I enjoyed both of these and find Wintering very moving) seek to recreate and inhabit Plath - it was nice to have a tiny degree of distance.

It is also a solid text as it aims to cover her life before birth through Aurelia, Otto, her grandparents etc and beyond. I found the range of voices crafted interesting. Again they can only be taken with a grain of salt as they are personae rather than truly speaking from the said point of view.

Many reviews suggest it a good place for Plath beginners to start, I think the reverse, it is more effective having a working knowledge of Plath's life and works in order to fully appreciate what Hemphill has tried to do.

I enjoyed it for what it is a serious piece of fun. Let me know if you want me to comment further.

Peter K Steinberg said...


This was what I was looking for, thank you for posting. I'm glad to know the blog is reaching you!

With respect,

Genoveve said...

Until I read "Your Own, Sylvia ..." by S. Hemphill, I'd known very little about Syliva Plath other than few facts, such as that she was a talented writer who suffered a great deal of depression and ended her life by breathing the carbon monoxide from a gas oven. This book entranced me from the first poem and introduced me to her poetry and to Bell Jar, which I'd never read. As a Plath neophyte, this book helped me discover a passion within myself for Sylvia. I highly recommend this book to both Plath neophytes and those that are well-acquainted with her work.

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