Colleen Mondor over at Chasing Ray had a great idea. On Mondays in May, she's posting about Wicked Cool Overlooked Books. Books that you've read that are fabulous and that you can't get out of your head, but that don't seem to be garnering the sort of attention they truly deserve.
Not that I have the sales figures to back this up or anything, but Your Own, Sylvia: A Verse Portrait of Sylvia Plath by Stephanie Hemphill seems to be in this category based on its conspicuous absence from most blogs I read. Those of you who read my blog regularly may recall that I was somewhat disappointed to find that a verse biography of a famous female author was already on the market, what with me working on just such a beastie (albeit a different author). If so, you will also remember that this book knocked my socks off.
Part of what makes this book memorable is, of course, the astonishing life of Sylvia Plath. But it's more than that -- it's the impact that Hemphill's poems have. Good poems have a way of conveying emotion through imagery, and Hemphill's poems do just that. The mental image I have of college-aged Sylvia, presumed missing, found wedged behind the woodpile where she'd attempted suicide, stays with me because of Hemphill's poem, which describes not only the scene, but also how Sylvia's body betrayed her -- she'd taken the pills, but vomited.
My 14-year old daughter, S, caved in to my pressure to look at it. She read the first poem and was okay with it. She read the second and third, then considered putting the book down, because it's all in poetry, and she's not usually that into reading a lot of poetry (I know, I know -- the irony of it all). But she couldn't let the book go. Those three poems had been enough to hook her into reading a little more. And then she couldn't put the book down. And when she was done with it, S, like her mother, was blown away by the writing as well as the story.
So, on this sunny, breezy Monday morning in May, my pick for Wicked Cool Overlooked Book is Your Own, Sylvia: A Verse Portrait of Sylvia Plath by Stephanie Hemphill.