cover image Your Own Sylvia: A Verse Portrait of Sylvia Plath

Your Own Sylvia: A Verse Portrait of Sylvia Plath

Stephanie Hemphill, . . Knopf, $15.99 (261pp) ISBN 978-0-375-83799-9

Hemphill ambitiously undertakes a fictionalized portrait of Sylvia Plath in poems, many of them inspired by Plath's own works. Hemphill stays true to the basic framework of the poet's life, highlighting her major milestones: her childhood, college years, her hospitalization and first suicide attempt, as well as her first meeting with poet Ted Hughes—whom Plath would marry (in a poem from his viewpoint, he describes her as "Blond and tall as a magazine/ swimsuit model. I nibble/ at the whippet's neck./ Her lips fury-red, she bites/ me—teeth tearing my cheek./ I retreat, imprinted, stunned")—and her suicide ("She could not help burning herself/ From the inside out,/ Consuming herself/ Like the sun./ But the memory of her light blazes/ Our dark ceiling," Hemphill writes, in the style of Plath's poem "Child"). Accompanying each entry, the author includes footnotes with background information about the people and events alluded to in the poems. Plath committed suicide during a prolific time in her life. Her autobiographical novel, The Bell Jar , had just been published, and she was working furiously on a collection of poems (Ariel ) which would be published posthumously. Hemphill's innovative portrait may not shed any new light on this tragic figure, but it could well act as a catalyst to introducing Plath to a new generation. Ages 12-up. (Mar.)