Ariel

by Sylvia Plath

Other authorsRobert Lowell (Introduction)
Paper Book, 1966

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Available

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Publication

New York : Harper & Row, 1966.

Description

The poems in Sylvia Plath'sAriel, including many of her best-known such as 'Lady Lazarus', 'Daddy', 'Edge' and 'Paralytic', were all written between the publication in 1960 of Plath's first book,The Colossus, and her death in 1963.'If the poems are despairing, vengeful and destructive, they are at the same time tender, open to things, and also unusually clever, sardonic, hardminded . . . They are works of great artistic purity and, despite all the nihilism, great generosity . . . the book is a major literary event.' A. Alvarez in theObserver

User reviews

LibraryThing member DameMuriel
I read this book in the summer of 1997 when everything in my life was up in the air and I wasn't sleeping more than an hour or two a night and I wasn't eating and all I was doing was reading. And I had my wisdom teeth removed that summer. Creepy creepy.
LibraryThing member kant1066
"Ariel," a volume of poems composed mostly before Plath decided to end her own ecstatically troubled life, is an offering that teems with the playfulness of language, bitter cynicism, and ultimately refigures mundane experience into a near-religious profundity.

Perhaps this is the aim is all poetry - to reorient the way that we see things, the way that we absorb and incorporate experience. But even the cliché can do this. But none of Plath's poems in this book, not even the worst among them, are that. In "Getting There," the motion of the train is seen as an infinite edacity: "What do wheels eat, these wheels / Fixed to their arcs like gods, / The silver leash of the will - / Inexorable." Later in the poem, we learn that the train is carrying the body of a dead woman and her funeral procession. But this death - "I shall bury the wounded like pupas" - is really nothing but a transmogrifying rebirth. "And I, stepping from this skin / Of old bandages, boredoms, old faces / Step to you from the black car of Lethe, / Pure as a baby."

"Daddy," the poem with which most readers will be familiar even if they have not read the rest of the poems, begins as a threnody in memory of her father, but grows into a caustic, brooding indictment utilizing the extended poetic conceit of the Holocaust. In this poem, Plato deals with the betrayal of her father by constructing her poem around the oppressor/oppressed dichotomy. It also references "The vampire who said he was you / And drank my blood for a year, / Seven years, if you want to know" in a none-too-ambiguous reference to her relationship with her husband, fellow poet Ted Hughes.

As with many other poems in "Ariel," the effect of poetry that is so troubled and biographical - so confessional - is nothing less than revelatory, hieratic in its insistence that we should rethink ideas of violence and love.
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LibraryThing member darwin.8u
Come on, if you are a teenager suffering from any form of angst, this belongs on your bookshelf right next to Catcher. If you are a college student it probably already is there if you want to write. She is probably given a little more literary recognition than she is actually due, due to her young, unfortunate and untimely death, but she still can write circles around you bub.… (more)
LibraryThing member gbill
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.

Quotes:
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.”
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LibraryThing member andyray
This woman's mad mind enthralls me. If asked to do a reading of her work, I wold always incdlude "Daddy," "Balloons," and "Cut.".There are few mad geniuses (geni?) and i have been in love with her prose since the 1960s.
LibraryThing member whitewavedarling
There are poems here which have such heart, and such depth, that they could be read and reread countless times without ever becoming fully known or tiresome. There are others, at the same time, that pale in comparison, and leave you wanting to return to the poem of a few pages before rather than wonder why the current poem has been included. Thus, the reading experience is unpredictable, at times exhilerating and at other times simply frustrating. Through all of the poems, however, Plath's clear voice and fascinating way with language hold the collection together, and make the read well worth the time. There's no doubt that moving through this collection takes concentration and time, but in the end, the images and emotion behind Plath's work both deserve and reward the attention given. Recommended for any poetry lovers.… (more)
LibraryThing member Summersoldier
Ariel is a great collection of Plath's poetry. Her genuis and talent definitely shows through here. I recommend Tulips, Cut, Daddy, and pretty much every other poem in here. This is a book to be treasured and loved, my copy certainly is.
LibraryThing member Murphy-Jacobs
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.
LibraryThing member Crowyhead
For a long time I wrote off Plath as an angsty suicide, but that's doing her a great disservice. These are remarkable poems. Forget, for a moment, that she killed herself soon after. Read the poems, absorb them -- and THEN remember.
LibraryThing member thatotter
Favorites: Morning Song, The Applicant, Lady Lazarus, Tulips, The Arrival of the Bee Box, Edge.
LibraryThing member SeriousGrace
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).… (more)
LibraryThing member AmiloFinn
I love Sylvia Plath's long, thin poems. Although often dark, death-obsessed and sometimes nasty, I love the way she makes the ordinary feel quite extraordinary with her great artistic way with words. Although many of the poems seem very strange, if you know anything of Sylvia Plath's life, they can also be seen as quite autobiographical. Her preoccupation with her lost father can be seen in Daddy and in her bee-keeping poems. Her suicide attempts are explored in poems like Edge and Lady Lazurus. Marriage is examined in The Applicant and motherhood is in poems like You're and Morning Song. I studied Sylvia Plath as a teenager and still find enjoyment and further discoveries when reading Ariel.… (more)
LibraryThing member LizaHa
Is there any book more irritating? It just gets right down under your skin like someone sharpened a bitterness stick and just wants to poke you with it over and over. (I think someone did.) Sometimes I wake up in the morning and the first thing I think is, "You do not do, you do not do any more black shoe." and then the second thing I think is, "Fuck you, Sylvia Plath."… (more)
LibraryThing member iSatyajeet
The short length of the book and seeming simplicity - a woman rides her horse through the countryside - is belied by the incredible amount of attention given to it. For it explores far more than a simple daybreak ride. The use of dazzling imagery, vivid emotional resonance, historical and biblical allusions, and a breathtaking sense of movement, explores several different subjects, including - poetic creativity; sexuality; animism; suicide and death; self-realization and self-transformation; and mysticism.
If one is so inclined, one can even connect this interpretation to the feminist and creative interpretations to suggest that Plath's ultimate goal was to relate ecstatic frenzy - how we identify and understand the frenzy ultimately reveals our own personality and interest.

Sylvia PsychoPlath—Interesting poetess whose tragic suicide was misinterpreted as romantic by the college girl mentality.
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LibraryThing member angiestahl
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.
LibraryThing member harrietbrown
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.… (more)
LibraryThing member hbwiesbaden
It is difficult to read Sylvia Plath, one of the finest poets of the 20th century, without the knowledge and half-knowledge of her life and death intruding and cementing meaning on to her work. This, her second collection, published posthumously in 1965, contains some of her most fabulously versatile and energetic verse despite her preoccupation with death which is often as theatrical as it is agonising. The volume begins as she wanted with "Morning Song", a colourful, rich poem to her baby: "Love set you going like a fat gold watch". In it, she sees herself as "cow-heavy and floral in my Victorian nightgown", contrasting beautifully with the child's mouth which "opens clean as a cat's". She need not mention milk. The "clear vowels" of the baby's cries "rise like balloons", re-emphasising the lightness and playful joy she could experience through motherhood. "Night Dances", about the "pure leaps and spirals" her son performed in bed before laying down, comfort her. "Surely they travel / The world forever, I shall not entirely / Sit emptied of beauties, the gift / Of your small breath, the drenched grass / Smell of your sleep, lilies, lilies." The risky, running images and associations are breathtaking, still. There is something redemptive in her love for her child which eases her anguish. "The blood blooms clean / In you, ruby. / The pain / you wake to is not yours ... You are the one / Solid the spaces lean on, envious." Her infamous poems "Lady Lazarus" and "Daddy" are also here. In both, the first person narrator is a persona, a fiction that overlaps with autobiography. Plath once explained that "Lady Lazarus" is "a woman who has the great and terrible gift of being reborn. The only trouble is, she has to die first." Deeply sardonic in tone, she has the levity of Dorothy Parker in moments. "Dying is an art, like everything else. / I do it exceptionally well." But there is resurgence after melt-down: "Out of the ash / I rise with my red hair / And I eat men like air." Anger with her father, characterised as a Nazi, Herr Enemy extends in "Daddy". "Daddy, I have had to kill you. / You died before I had time-- / Marble-heavy, a bag full of God." It remains a staggering and disturbing poem in which she imagines herself the daughter of a Nazi and a Jew. Plath would have preferred to end the collection with "Wintering", a less contorted poem about storing honey from her beehive. It ends hopefully: "The bees are flying. They taste the spring." Often puzzling or plainly obtuse, Plath's all the better for that. --Cherry Smyth --
Quelle: Amazon.com
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LibraryThing member Michael_Rose
Suicidally depressing; daddy issues; obsession with bees and honey. I bought this book as a poetry impulse and on a recommendation of an interesting author. The poetry is alright; it’s the author who is truly interesting.
LibraryThing member over.the.edge
Ariel
By Sylvia Plath
1965/66

This spirited and intelligent woman has one of the most amazing minds and a clever wit in confessional poetry ever. Ariel, a collection of her poems, centers of her dark and desperate attempts to overcome her mental state. The love/hate relationship with her father is told in one of the centerpieces of this collection. Title "Daddy", it sets the pace and mindset for her anxiety and darkness, eventually leading to her suicide.
This is a very personal and dramatic collection, that illustrates her intensity as a women, a woman writer, and her conflicted mental state. Essential reading.
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LibraryThing member iSatyajeet
The short length of the book and seeming simplicity - a woman rides her horse through the countryside - is belied by the incredible amount of attention given to it. For it explores far more than a simple daybreak ride. The use of dazzling imagery, vivid emotional resonance, historical and biblical allusions, and a breathtaking sense of movement, explores several different subjects, including - poetic creativity; sexuality; animism; suicide and death; self-realization and self-transformation; and mysticism.
If one is so inclined, one can even connect this interpretation to the feminist and creative interpretations to suggest that Plath's ultimate goal was to relate ecstatic frenzy - how we identify and understand the frenzy ultimately reveals our own personality and interest.

Sylvia PsychoPlath—Interesting poetess whose tragic suicide was misinterpreted as romantic by the college girl mentality.
… (more)
LibraryThing member Algybama
More lyrical and surreal than her earlier work. The poems aren't defined by topic or tone and tend to bleed into each other - particularly the longer poems - and I would say this detracts from the collection as a whole.
LibraryThing member pennylane78
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.
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