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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Publications & Acknowledgements

  • BBC Four.A Poet's Guide to Britain: Sylvia Plath. London: BBC Four, 2009. (Acknowledged in)
  • Biography: Sylvia Plath. New York: A & E Television Networks, 2005. (Photographs used)
  • Connell, Elaine. Sylvia Plath: Killing the angel in the house. 2d ed. Hebden Bridge: Pennine Pens, 1998. (Acknowledged in)
  • Crowther, Gail and Peter K. Steinberg. "These Ghostly Archives." Plath Profiles 2. Summer 2009: 183-208.
  • Crowther, Gail and Peter K. Steinberg. "These Ghostly Archives, Redux." Plath Profiles 3. Summer 2010: 232-246.
  • Crowther, Gail and Peter K. Steinberg. "These Ghostly Archives 3." Plath Profiles 4. Summer 2011: 119-138.
  • Crowther, Gail and Peter K. Steinberg. "These Ghostly Archives 4: Looking for New England." Plath Profiles 5. Summer 2012: 11-56.
  • Crowther, Gail and Peter K. Steinberg. "These Ghostly Archives 5: Reanimating the Past." Plath Profiles 6. Summer 2013: 27-62.
  • Crowther, Gail and Peter K. Steinberg. These Ghostly Archives: The Unearthing of Sylvia Plath. Oxford: Fonthill, 2017.
  • Death Be Not Proud: The Graves of Poets. New York: Poets.org. (Photographs used)
  • Doel, Irralie, Lena Friesen and Peter K. Steinberg. "An Unacknowledged Publication by Sylvia Plath." Notes & Queries 56:3. September 2009: 428-430.
  • Elements of Literature, Third Course. Austin, Tex. : Holt, Rinehart and Winston, 2009. (Photograph used)
  • Gill, Jo. "Sylvia Plath in the South West." University of Exeter Centre for South West Writing, 2008. (Photograph used)
  • Helle, Anita Plath. The Unraveling Archive: Essays on Sylvia Plath. Ann Arbor: University of Michigan Press, 2007. (Photographs used, acknowledged in)
  • Helle, Anita. "Lessons from the Archive: Sylvia Plath and the Politics of Memory". Feminist Studies 31:3. Fall 2005: 631-652.. (Acknowledged in)
  • Holden, Constance. "Sad Poets' Society." Science Magazine. 27 July 2008. (Photograph used)
  • Making Trouble: Three Generations of Funny Jewish Women, Motion Picture. Directed by Rachel Talbot. Brookline (Mass.): Jewish Women's Archive, 2007. (Photograph used)
  • Plath, Sylvia, and Karen V. Kukil. The Unabridged Journals of Sylvia Plath, 1950-1962. New York: Anchor Books, 2000. (Acknowledged in)
  • Plath, Sylvia, and Peter K. Steinberg and Karen V. Kukil (eds.). The Letters of Sylvia Plath, Volume 1, 1940-1956. London: Faber, 2017. Forthcoming.
  • Plath, Sylvia. Glassklokken. Oslo: De norske Bokklubbene, 2004. (Photograph used on cover)
  • Reiff, Raychel Haugrud. Sylvia Plath: The Bell Jar and Poems (Writers and Their Works). Marshall Cavendish Children's Books, 2008.. (Images provided)
  • Steinberg, Peter K. "'A Fetish: Somehow': A Sylvia Plath Bookmark." Court Green 13. 2017.
  • Steinberg, Peter K. "'I Should Be Loving This': Sylvia Plath's 'The Perfect Place' and The Bell Jar." Plath Profiles 1. Summer 2008: 253-262.
  • Steinberg, Peter K. "'They Had to Call and Call': The Search for Sylvia Plath." Plath Profiles 3. Summer 2010: 106-132.
  • Steinberg, Peter K. "A Perfectly Beautiful Time: Sylvia Plath at Camp Helen Storrow." Plath Profiles 4. Summer 2011: 149-166.
  • Steinberg, Peter K. "Proof of Plath." Fine Books & Collections 9:2. Spring 2011: 11-12.
  • Steinberg, Peter K. "Sylvia Plath." The Spoken Word: Sylvia Plath. London: British Library, 2010.
  • Steinberg, Peter K. "Textual Variations in The Bell Jar Publications." Plath Profiles 5. Summer 2012.
  • Steinberg, Peter K. "The Persistence of Plath." Fine Books & Collections. Autumn 2017: 24-29
  • Steinberg, Peter K. "This is a Celebration: A Festschrift for The Unabridged Journals of Sylvia Plath." Plath Profiles 3 Supplement. Fall 2010: 3-14.
  • Steinberg, Peter K. "Writing Life" [Introduction]. Sylvia Plath in Devon: A Year's Turning. Stroud, Eng.: Fonthill Media, 2014.
  • Steinberg, Peter K. Sylvia Plath (Great Writers). Philadelphia: Chelsea House Publishers, 2004.