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Ariel by Sylvia Plath

Ariel (original 1965; edition 1999)

by Sylvia Plath

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2,852302,036 (4.1)39
Authors:Sylvia Plath
Info:Faber (1999), Edition: New e., Paperback, 81 pages
Collections:Your library, Poetry

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Ariel by Sylvia Plath (1965)



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Showing 1-5 of 28 (next | show all)
This volume was probably my first introduction to adult poetry (that is, poetry not written for kids) when I was in college. I was swept under Plath's spell immediately. Her gift of language is riveting. The fact that her life was cut short by her own hand leaves with many feelings; one of them is that, had she chosen to live, she would have gone on to find freedom and support in what was then the nascent women's liberation movement. But that's not how it worked out, to the great loss of not only her family, but to the culture as well. ( )
  harrietbrown | Jun 24, 2017 |
Beautiful and dangerous poems from a very damaged, tormented woman. Each one can cut through you like a shard of shattered glass. Her words are chosen intentionally with multiple layers of meaning. I imagine that this is what reading someone's pain feels like. ( )
  angiestahl | Dec 28, 2016 |
Ariel, the collection of poems I read this week, was a book I found at Half-Priced Books, along with some other works by Plath. I have been interested in Sylvia Plath's novel and writings since I was in high school. I was a little afraid that I might have tended towards The Bell Jar in high school because it just SPOKE to me, and that I would be disappointed in this collection. I sincerely hope that is not the case, because I plan to re-read The Bell Jar this year as an adult, but I must admit, I wasn't impressed with Ariel. Some of the poems were wonderful, but most of them weren't my style. On the other hand, you can tell that Plath was severely depressed as she wrote them, and they certainly broke my heart that such a bright mind could succumb to such a dark place. It truly can effect anyone, and Plath was no exception.
( )
  pennylane78 | Jun 6, 2016 |
My copy of the originally published version of Ariel has been a dear companion to me for many years, but this was my first time reading the edition put together as Sylvia intended it. I read the facsimiles of her original manuscript and it was thrilling to see it *exactly* as she'd put it together. She's my very favourite writer and one of the biggest influences on my own poetry, so it was, as always, an intense and affecting experience to read her. I hadn't written anything in a week before reading this, but I immediately wrote two poems of my own afterwards. It was also a very rough day for me emotionally, and reading such dark poems made me feel a little less alone. ( )
  selfcallednowhere | Jan 16, 2016 |

O God, I am not like you
In your vacuous black,
Stars stuck all over, bright stupid confetti.
Eternity bores me,
I never wanted it.


Extraordinary, isn’t she? I was captivated by the poems in Ariel and am in agreement with others who view this collection as a masterpiece. For even when I came across a poem I didn’t fully understand, I could still sense the power within the words of Sylvia Plath which are precise, explosive, darkly beautiful.

In the afterword to Ariel author biographer Hal Hager notes the “paradoxical union of the self-destructiveness and creative energy that was the core of (Plath’s) personality”. This is especially evident in poems such as Lady Lazarus or Tulips that recall personal trials with attempted suicide or hospitalization. Plath’s metaphors in general are frequently stark; for example, her use of Nazi imagery in Daddy or the way she seeks out the hurt within an otherwise beautiful thing, as in this poem about poppies:

Little poppies, little hell flames,
Do you do no harm?

You flicker. I cannot touch you.
I put my hands among the flames. Nothing burns.

(Poppies in July)

And yet there are glimpses of love and joy in her poems too. Sylvia Plath drew inspiration from motherhood and wrote some heartwarming poems to and about her children; for example, You’re and Morning Song with its most endearing of opening lines (“Love set you going like a fat gold watch.”) In Balloons she captures the sweetness of the “guileless and clear /oval soul animals” floating about the house after the holidays. Even in Nick and the Candlestick, a poem for her son that is more typical Plath in its imagery, there is a touching tenderness. She writes to her son:

O love, how did you get here?
O embryo

Remembering, even in sleep,
Your crossed position.
The blood blooms clean

In you, ruby.

(Nick and the Candlestick)

Just prior to her death in 1962 Sylvia Plath took up beekeeping, a fact which I found fascinating. Her father Otto Plath (of Daddy fame) had been a well-known entomologist at Boston University and was considered a bee expert in his field, which likely accounted for some of her interest. This new pastime formed the foundation for a series of bee poems clustered at the center of Ariel. The poems are quirky, unconventional, and at times humorous, and show another facet to her personality. They may be my favorites of the entire book. Here she writes of the newly arrived bee box:

I lay my ear to furious Latin.
I am not a Caesar.
I have simply ordered a box of maniacs.
They can be sent back.
They can die, I need feed them nothing, I am the owner.

(The Arrival of the Bee Box)

In another passage she expresses so perfectly the curiosity of a woman trying to relate to her all female hive of bees (“Will they hate me/ These women who only scurry/ Whose news is the open cherry, the open clover?”). The entire collection left me in full appreciation of the genius that was Sylvia Plath. It is a pity to think we lost her at only 30 years of age to the suicidal depression that had haunted her for most of her life. Highly recommended for all lovers of poetry.

( )
1 vote averybird | Dec 28, 2015 |
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» Add other authors (17 possible)

Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Sylvia Plathprimary authorall editionscalculated
Lowell, RobertForewordsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Young, SarahCover artistsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
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For Frieda and Nicholas
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Love set you going like a fat gold watch.
O love, O celibate. Nobody but me walks the waist-high wet. The irreplaceable golds bleed and deepen, the mouths of Thermopylae.
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(Click to show. Warning: May contain spoilers.)
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Amazon.com Amazon.com Review (ISBN 0060931728, Paperback)

Sylvia Plath churned out her final poems at the remarkable rate of two or three a day, and Robert Lowell describes them as written by "hardly a person at all ... but one of those super-real, hypnotic, great classical heroines." Even more remarkable, she wrote them during one of the coldest, snowiest winters (1962-63) Londoners have ever known. Snowbound, without central heating, she and her two children spent much of their time sniffling, coughing, or running temperatures (In "Fever 103°" she writes, "I have been flickering, off, on, off on. / The sheets grow heavy as a lecher's kiss."). Pipes froze, lights failed, and candles were unobtainable.

As if these physical privations weren't enough, Plath was out in the cold in another sense--her husband, Ted Hughes, had left her for another woman earlier that year. Despite all this (or perhaps because of it), the Ariel poems dazzle with their lyricism, their surprising and vivid imagery, and their wit. Rather than confining herself to her bleak surroundings, Plath draws from a wide array of experience. In "Berck-Plage," for instance, clouds are "electrifyingly-coloured sherbets, scooped from the freeze." In "The Night Dances," the poet stands crib-side, reveling in her son's own brand of do-si-do: "Such pure leaps and spirals--Surely they travel / The world forever, I shall not entirely / Sit emptied of beauties, the gift / Of your small breath..."

Though at times they present the reader with hopelessness laid bare, these poems also teem with the brightest shards of a life, confounding those who merely look for the words of a gloomy, dispassionate suicide. Plath rose each morning in the final months of her life to "that still blue, almost eternal hour before the baby's cry" and left us these words like "axes/After whose stroke the wood rings..."

(retrieved from Amazon Thu, 12 Mar 2015 18:24:47 -0400)

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An acclaimed anthology of vivid and emotionally shattering poems, written during the last months of Plath's short life, is accompanied by a brief author profile and an incisive foreword by Robert Lowell.

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