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Ariel by Sylvia Plath

Ariel (original 1965; edition 1966)

by Sylvia Plath (Author), Robert Lowell (Introduction)

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2,553222,362 (4.1)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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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 |
Another piece of literature ruined by high school AP English class and a requirement to write a paper. At 17 I was overwhelmed by Plath, by 19 I was cynical and dismissive, by 22 full of contempt. Maybe I can give it a second chance one day, but it seems like a lot of effort. ( )
  Murphy-Jacobs | Mar 30, 2013 |
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Sylvia Plathprimary authorall editionsconfirmed
Lowell, RobertForewordsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
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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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