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Paperback Ariel: Poems Book

ISBN: 0060931728

ISBN13: 9780060931728

Ariel: Poems

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Book Overview

"Sylvia Plath's last poems have impressed themselves on many readers with the force of myth. They are among the handful of writings by which future generations will seek to know us and give us a name." -- The Critical Quarterly

Sylvia Plath's celebrated collection.

When Sylvia Plath died, she not only left behind a prolific oeuvre but also her unpublished literary masterpiece, Ariel...

Customer Reviews

4 ratings

The original Ariel

When Sylvia Plath stuck her head in an oven in 1963, she left behind a series of uniquely vicious, angry, cathartic poetry. One bundle was written between her separation from her husband Ted Hughes and her death in February 1963. The poems were entitled "Ariel" and she stopped working on them around November 1963. She wrote some more poems, the last ones days before her death, but they were not included in the original "Ariel" manuscript. After her death, Ted Hughes rearranged Ariel, taking out some of the original poems and inserting some of her last poems. Now, for the first time, we have the original Ariel manuscript, with all the excised poems reinserted and all the inserted poems excised. The differences between the two "Ariels" are a study in psychology. Hughes' editted "Ariel" is tragic: the last poem, "Edge", was also the last poem Plath ever wrote, and is obviously a poem about death: The woman is perfected. Her dead Body wears the smile of accomplishment, The illusion of a Greek necessity Flows in the scrolls of her toga, Her bare Feet seem to be saying: We have come so far, it is over. For Hughes, "Ariel" was a tragedy, with an angry and perhaps unbalanced woman fighting her internal demons until they ate her up "like air," as Plath would say in one of her most famous poems, "Lady Lazarus." Hughes' Ariel ends with Plath's figurative suicide. The guilt Hughes felt about his wife's death (he had an affair, and that set her off on her final manic depressive tailspin) was something he apparently never got over according to his family and friends. Before his death, he published a series of poems devoted to Plath called "Birthday Letters," and they are very touching -- a man facing death, still longing for a woman who died over 30 years ago. In "The Offers," (not in Birthday Letters), Hughes, Aeneas-like, meets Plath in the otherworld, and she sternly tells him, "This time, don't fail me." Plath's "Ariel," however, is quite different. Yes, "Daddy" is there, as is "Lady Lazarus," and now also a scathing poem called "The Rabbit Catcher" in which Plath describes her bond with Hughes thus: And we, too, had a relationship -- Tight wires between us, Pegs too deep to unroot, and a mind like a ring Sliding shut on some quick thing The constriction killing me also. Not exactly "feel good" poetry. However, Plath's "Ariel" is far from a poetic suicide note -- it is angry, it is vicious, but it is cathartic. The first word in the series of poems is "Love" and the final word is "spring." Reading Plath's "Ariel," one senses a woman excising her personal demons with words, stamping out her enemies (her husband, father, mother, romantic rivals) with poetic vitriol. The final poem included in Plath's manuscript is called "Wintering," but ends with the upbeat, life-affirming line: "The bees are flying. They taste the spring." This edition of "Ariel" has a foreward by Plaths daughter, Frieda Hughes, in which she tries both to defend her father against h

"The Voice of God": Sylvia Plath's Masterpiece

"I am writing the best poems of my life... They will make my name." --Sylvia Plath, on the Ariel poemsIt is a pity that Sylvia Plath is so underestimated--most people I know have never heard of her, and those who have dismiss her as an angry feminist who committed suicide. It is a sacrilege to sum up her person so: Plath is one of the most important poets of our century, and Ariel her most important work. In it one can find the famous poems "Daddy", in which Plath shakes loose her restraints on her resentment for her father, who died when she was young: "At twenty I tried to die/ And get back, back, back to you... But they pulled me out of the sack / And they stuck me together with glue." ; "Lady Lazarus", a commentary of death and disappointment, which reflects her situation with terrible lyricism; and "Fever 103°", which, to me, is almost mocking; and "Ariel", after which the collection is named. Ariel is fascinating--her skill with words, her wit, her self-control (for she obviously reigns herself in from being too emotional, too confessional, and yet one feels the pain and torment all the same, perhaps even more sharply), her ability to find Just the Right Words, is vivid and brilliant. When I finished Ariel, I was left with a feeling of vulnerability, pain, and enlightenment, as though I had seen what I had been missing all along and felt the absence of self-delusion deeply.I have always been disturbed by the idea that Plath's creative energy seemed to stream from the destructive void that she felt inside of her soul and shared with the world, with skill and admirable lyricism... and yet I think that this is what made her such a *different*, unique poet. "Dying / Is an art, like everything else." She did it exceptionally well. -- K. Rivera

Pure acetylene

To say that ARIEL is a stunning book of poetry does not seem adequate. Reading ARIEL is like opening a Pandora's box of strange beauties, nightmares, furies, sorrows, and surreal sweetnesses, as in "Morning Song", in which the poet whispers to her sleeping child: "All night your moth-breath/Flickers among the flat pink roses. I wake to listen:/A far sea moves in my ear." Unlike Pandora's box, there is no hope at the end of Ariel, only "fixed stars" and the moon "staring from her hood of bone".In ARIEL, Plath seemed to almost shamanistically reach into realities just beneath the surface of everyday life, hauling them to consciousness with a skill almost unequaled in contemporary poetry. ARIEL stands as an unrivaled poetic achievement, written in a mesmerising and indelibly haunting voice.


These poems are scathing and beautiful. It is not a long work, but it requires multiple readings to break into its core. A greatly UNDERrated work that should have won the Pulitzer, I think "Ariel" stands alone much stronger than her Collected Poems, which actually DID win the Pulitzer. The emotions are huge and fiery, and the language is second to none. Plath has an ear for music in language, and shows it wonderfully in "Lady Lazarus," "Daddy," "Fever 103," and "Ariel," where she rides her horse into "the red eye, the cauldren of morning." Brilliant work by a sometimes misinterpreted and mis-categorized writer. Don't read it to wallow in depression-- read it to hear a unique and truly gifted voice. Brava, Sylvia Plath! Your time came too soon.

Ariel Mentions in Our Blog

Ariel in The Tortured Poets Department
The Tortured Poets Department
Published by Ashly Moore Sheldon • February 27, 2024

Taylor Swift's new album The Tortured Poets Department comes out April 19. Swift has a long history of including literary nods in her music and this title suggests her most bookish album yet! In preparation, we're reviewing a few of her poetical references of the past and making predictions about where the new album will take us.

Ariel in Sylvia and Ted: Their Troubled Romance
Sylvia and Ted: Their Troubled Romance
Published by Ashly Moore Sheldon • February 26, 2021

Sixty-five years ago today, Sylvia Plath and Ted Hughes met at a party in Cambridge. Their connection was immediate, powerful, and violent—a portent of their future together. Almost exactly seven years later Plath would die by suicide.

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