Your Own, Sylvia draws on Plath’s writing and extensive nonfiction sources, chronicling Hemphill’s interpretation of Plath’s life from infancy to her death by suicide at age 30. The poems are arranged chronologically and each conveys an experience in Plath’s life told via the voice and perspective of family members, friends, doctors, fellow writers, etc.—as interpreted by Hemphill. Each poem is accompanied by an addendum that further explains the factual circumstances of that poem’s subject. The book also includes an Author’s Note, some photos, a section describing the source material for each poem, and suggestions for further reading.
An Excerpt fromYour Own, Sylvia
If the moon smiled, she would resemble you.
You leave the same impression
Of something beautiful, but annihilating.
-from "The Rival" by Sylvia Plath
Who are you, Sylvia Plath?
A cold comet locked in place by gravity?
A glint in the cracked ceiling above my bed?
Something shimmers out of your chasm.
Your language feels like words
trapped under my tongue
that I can't quite spit out on my own.
Readers tremble over your pages,
believe you spell out
letter by letter
the words of their hearts.
What's your secret, Sylvia?
Are you the moon?
Or have you become bigger than that?
Are you the sun?
And I wonder,
who can possess the stuff of the sky?
Sylvia Plath signed many letters she wrote to her mother "Your own, Sivvy."
"The Rival" appears in Plath's famous poetry collection, Ariel.