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YOUR OWN, SYLVIA by Stephanie Hemphill Kirkus Star


A Verse Portrait of Sylvia Plath

by Stephanie Hemphill

Age Range: 12 & up

Pub Date: March 13th, 2007
ISBN: 0-375-83799-X
Publisher: Knopf

Perhaps at this literary juncture, where novelists supply bibliographies for their fiction and memoirists fictionalize to liberate certain “truths” and dramatize their memories, a “verse portrait” seems entirely in order. Here, though, this book-length series of poems telling the biography of the revered Sylvia Plath forms a novel where pages pair poetry with nonfiction sources that work to make the borders of genre entirely transparent. Each poem speaks through a different point of view in the voices of those who knew Sylvia; a subtitle makes clear who the speaker is. Notes from the author explain the poem’s inspiration or style along the base of the page. All of this works to an astonishing effect: readers come away with a sense of really knowing Plath—her life, her art, her process and her being. Hemphill’s own poetry is often remarkable, whether she is aiming to write in the style of Plath (she indicates when she is doing precisely that) or in her own free verse. The backmatter includes an extensive bibliography and source notes. A must for any young-adult reader of poetry or Plath. (Fiction/poetry. 12+)