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Ariel by Sylvia Plath

Ariel (original 1965; edition 1966)

by Sylvia Plath, Robert Lowell (Introduction)

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2,573232,331 (4.09)28
Authors:Sylvia Plath (Author)
Other authors:Robert Lowell (Introduction)
Info:Harper & Row / New York
Collections:Your library, Poems

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Ariel by Sylvia Plath (1965)



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Showing 1-5 of 21 (next | show all)
It feels like Sylvia Plath’s life overshadowed her literary value; her autobiographical novel The Bell Jar was like a confessional and people tend to read it for all the juicy bits. Ariel is a collection of poems published posthumously, just a few years after her suicide. It is true that we have Plath to think for advancing the confessional poetry form and exploring topics previously taboo like suicide, mental illness and domestic abuse.

I would like to thank Meg Wolitzer’s book Belzhar for pushing me into reading more of Sylvia Plath. The book explores a struggling student that was sent to a private school that put her in a special English class. This class spent the semester journaling and reading Plath, most importantly The Bell Jar but also Ariel. That book made me want to re-read The Bell Jar which I loved but instead decided it was time to give her poetry a go.

However I am very aware that I don’t know how to review poetry let alone a whole collection, so this is more about my experience with this book. I feel like I am becoming a better reader but if you ask me to read out loud I am going to struggle. So I decided this is an issue I needed to work on and I read Ariel to my wife (she read some of it to me as well). This may seem like a romantic and intimate thing to do with your partner but Plath has a way of killing any sexy moods.

I loved the experience but I am struck with a sense that Sylvia Plath might have been a poor choice to begin with. She has a very strong sense of imagery and plays a lot with metaphors; some of which I picked up on but there was some stuff that went over my head. Poetry is meant to be read out aloud and I thought this would help with my understanding as well as develop my skills. However I found it extremely difficult to work out punctuation in these poems. Some sentences span over a few stanzas but my natural impulse was to pause after ever line.

Having said that, this was a wonderful experience and while the poems are often dark and depressing I am glad I shared this moment with my wife. Ariel kind of reminds me of those people on the internet that overshare about their lives and you can’t help but be glued to what they write even if it annoys you. Sometimes I think, that is too much information but Sylvia Plath seems to get to the heart of that raw emotion.

Sylvia Plath was an incredibly intelligent and complex woman; I can’t help being fascinated by her. I want to learn more about her life, and understand the emotion behind her writing. Take for example her poem “Daddy”; there is this anger toward her father as well as some holocaust imagery that I just want to understand. I am going to have to find a biography on Plath’s life because I think this places a big part in her writing. Can anyone recommend me a good biography?

This review originally appeared on my blog; http://literary-exploration.com/2014/12/05/ariel-by-sylvia-plath/ ( )
  knowledge_lost | Dec 7, 2014 |
Favorites: Morning Song, The Applicant, Lady Lazarus, Tulips, The Arrival of the Bee Box, Edge. ( )
  thatotter | Feb 6, 2014 |
Ariel is the collection of poems written in the final months of Plath’s life, as selected and published posthumously by her estranged husband, Ted Hughes. They are of course somber, but have the honesty important for any type of writing, and are executed with skill.

There is a starkness and a pervasive sense of isolation here, and while Plath describes the world around her so well, it’s with detachment and there is a sense that she already has one foot out the door. Many have stared down into the same abyss at varying distances from the edge, and while reading these poems I couldn’t help but feel what a shame this is. Perhaps the depth of feeling and depression are inseparable from Plath and part of what made her great, but it doesn’t make it any less a tragedy.

There are hints of feminism, as in “The Applicant” where she describes the view of a wife, provided she is “our sort of person”: “A living doll, everywhere you look. / It can sew, it can cook, / It can talk, talk, talk.” And in “Lesbos”, to a girlfriend she has other thoughts about, while “doped and thick from my last sleeping pill”, filled with hatred of marital life with an “impotent husband”: “I should wear tiger pants, I should have an affair. / We should meet in another life, we should meet in air, / Me and you.” But then later, sadly: “I say I may be back. / You know what lies are for. / Even in your Zen heaven we shan’t meet.”

Plath speaks through her poems and yet one feels hopelessness and frustration, and the idea that she feels like this line from “The Munich Mannequins”: “Voicelessness. The snow has no voice.” She has not lived up to her own high expectations or society’s; from “Sheep in Fog”: “The hills step off into whiteness. / People or stars / Regard me sadly, I disappoint them.”

The denial of one’s attachment to the world is a recurring theme, starting with “Morning Song”, this about her own babies: “I’m no more your mother / Than the cloud that distils a mirror to reflect its own slow / Effacement at the wind’s hand.” It continues on when she’s part of a group in “The Bee Meeting”, and yet so removed, an isolated observer, starting with a question “Who are these people….”, and ending with another, “why am I cold?” Later in “Paralytic” she writes of her wants and desires gone from the perspective of a paralytic in an iron lung. Everywhere it’s stepping back, stepping back, floating upwards, drifting away.

This ain’t cheery stuff, folks. What was a bit shocking was her “seeing herself” as a concentration camp victim more than once, the ultimate dehumanization, including in the poem “Daddy”, which sears on the page and ends with this line: “Daddy, daddy, you bastard, I’m through.” Plath’s father died when she was eight and she never got over it, and apparently pours out her anger here not for having been abused in some way, but for the simple fact that he died and left her. I won’t excerpt that one in its entirety, but it’s the poem I would recommend starting with.

On action, from “Years”:
“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.

What I love is
The piston in motion –
My soul dies before it.
And the hooves of the horses,
Their merciless churn.”

On love, from “Elm”:
“Clouds pass and disperse.
Are those the faces of love, those pale irretrievables?
Is it for such I agitate my heart?”

On purity and fragility, from “Fever 103”:
“I am too pure for you or anyone.
Your body
Hurts me as the world hurts God. I am a lantern –

My head a moon,
Of Japanese paper, my gold beaten skin
Infinitely delicate and infinitely expensive.” ( )
1 vote gbill | Nov 3, 2013 |
Sylvia Plath wrote with such raw energy and emotion. Her essence is on every page, in every word. Nowhere is that more plain to see than in the collected poems in Ariel. As the last collection of poetry written before her death it is riddled with references to death. That is to be expected from one suffering from depression, on the wrong kind of medicine, and already an attempted suicide survivor. It's as if death is stalking her, wooing her (case in point: the last line of "Death & Co" is "somebody is done for" (p 36) and "Dying is an art...I do it exceptionally well" (p 15). ( )
  SeriousGrace | Apr 25, 2013 |
Ariel by Sylvia Plath is a collection that she crafted near the end of her life, before her suicide, according to the forward by Robert Lowell. These poems are what Plath has been best know for, other than The Bell Jar, and these poems are by turns blunt and dark as she refers to death at nearly every turn and the fleeting nature of life. Her poems are not only confessional in nature about her emotions and life, but they also examine the bittersweet nature of life and being a woman.

In “Elm,” the narrator speaks of having no fear, a fear of the unknown or a fear of loss, particularly in relation to love. There is that fast movement forward, a moving onward to the next experience and next moment in time. Many of her poems reflect this urgency to move forward and to stay in the moment — to enjoy it. Her poetry, like many have said of her own personality, burns brightly and intensely, making no excuses for rawness there — like the predawn light on the horizon not marred by expectation or perception.

Read the full review: http://savvyverseandwit.com/2013/04/ariel-by-sylvia-plath.html ( )
  sagustocox | Apr 18, 2013 |
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For Frieda and Nicholas
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Love set you going like a fat gold watch.
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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 Mon, 30 Sep 2013 14:03:49 -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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