Thursday, August 9, 2012

Module 9: Your Own, Sylvia: A Verse Portrait of Sylvia Plath

by Stephanie Hemphill

Stephanie Hemphill, the author, uses self-written poems to chronicle and display the life of Sylvia Plath. The poems begin at the birth and early childhood of Sylvia, written from the point of view of her parents, then grand-parents. The poems follow her through secondary school, then under-graduate work at Smith, her depression and individuality and a suicide attempt. Sylvia then travels to Cambridge on a Fullbright scholarship, marries the poet, Ted Hughes, moves back to America, then back to London. She eventually has two children, seperates from Ted after she discovers his affair with Assia, writes her most famous poems, and kills herself. Every poem in this story is followed by the real life inspiration for the poem, such as actual quotes by the person the poem is written in the viewpoint of, statistics, and other various, factual information.

Impact on me
The poems clearly reflected the real life events of Sylvia Plath's life and the real perspectives of those she encountered in life and was very close to. This verse novel interested me to immerse myself in the life of Sylvia Plath and learn everything about her! I read her poems, I read ever biography online I could and watched the movie Sylvia, where Gwenyth Paltrow portaryed Sylvia Plath. What an interesting and sad life this novel clearly and artfully showed me. I absolutely loved this novel. Since the audience is for young adults and young adults traditionally have a fascination with suicide, I worry that this verse novel and the life of Sylvia Plath in general glorifies suicide since Sylvia Plath became famous after she stuck her head in an oven. Everyone aroudn Sylvia was devestated by her suicide and it impacted many, many lives, so I hope that a suicidal teen never reads this!

"Who are, you, Sylvia Plath?" begins the first of more than 150 poems comprising this fictionalized biography, the genre-bending follow-up to Stephanie Hemphill's award-winning YA novel-in-verse, Things' Left Unsaid (2005). Told from the perspectives of Plath's friends, relatives and acquaintances, these poems deftly unfurl a narrative of her life from birth to just beyond her premature death, all the while directing readers to Plath's work with the aid of factual footnotes accompanying each piece.
Your Own, Sylvia: A Verse Portrait of Sylvia Plath. (2007). Kirkus Reviews, 75(23), 9.

Hemphill's searing, insightful poems paint a scintillating portrait of Plath, tracing the events of her turbulent life from her birth in 1932 to her suicide in 1963. Written in various voices, the verses convey perceptions of those who knew her well, impressions of less-intimate acquaintances, and-in offerings penned "in the style" of particular Plath poems-Plath's own perspective. A dynamic introduction to an American icon.
Your Own, Sylvia: A Verse Portrait of Sylvia Plath. (2007). School Library Journal, 53,75.

Hemphill ambitiously undertakes a fictionalized portrait of Sylvia Plath in poems, many of them inspired by Plath's own works...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.
Your Own Sylvia: A Verse Portrait of Sylvia Plath. (2007). Publishers Weekly, 254(12), 64.

In the Library
This verse novel provides an excellent introduction and lesson supplement for poetry! The librarian can chose to read 2-3 poems for Sylvia Plath and discuss the imagery, tone, style, rhyme, or whatever the students would like to discuss. Students could take this discussion a step farther and write their own poetry or just mimic the style of Sylvia Plath's poems that have been discussed. Another idea to get more students in the school involved is to have a contest. Volunteer students will create a picture (paint, draw, etc.) that directly relates to one of Sylvia Plath's poems. The best three pictures can then be displayed in the library. Students can guess what poem each pictures represents. The first student to guess correctly could win a prize!

Hemphill, S. (2007). Your Own, Sylvia: A Verse Portrait of Sylvia Plath. New York : Alfred A. Knopf.

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