Sunday, May 4, 2008

Your Own, Sylvia: a verse portrait of Sylvia Plath by Stephanie Hemphill

I recommend this book for: high school and adults (particularly poetic types)

Novels in verse are becoming more common, and this one marries the form to the subject beautifully. Hemphill applies extensive research and a clear love for Sylvia Plath's poetry to a fictionalized account of the poet's stormy life. The collection begins with a poem by "A Reader" in Spring 2007, then moves back to Sylvia's mother on the day of the poet's birth. Using the voices of Plath's family, friends, and others who came into contact with her, an idea of her life comes into focus. There are also poems with the heading "Imagining Sylvia Plath" - each of these takes the form of one of Plath's famous works and expresses what may have been her thoughts and emotions as she moves through school and boyfriends, marriage, motherhood, and her various episodes with depression and suicide attempts.

Beautifully written, this is really an engrossing read. At the bottom of each poem is a short blurb with information about Plath's real life, and most of them are related to the topic of the poem. I found myself torn between reading the poem first or reading the information - both were informative and interesting. A definite winner.


*Plath lived a rocky life, struggling with depression. This book doesn't flinch away from the ugly feelings and events, including sexual abuse, her husband's infidelity, and Sylvia's suicide attempts - the last of which succeeded.

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