Ariel is Sylvia Plath’s swansong, a final act of revenge for her husband’s infidelity and her reckoning with the world. This has been my first experience with Plath’s work and my goodness what a powerhouse! I didn’t know much about her before I picked up this book but I was blown away by her talent.
What I loved most about this collection was how complex it is, covering a wide range of topics from her husband’s infidelity, reckoning with her family, a hospital stay, her attempted suicide, living again, depression, happiness. Plath’s tone is cool, amused, accusatory, her writing is jarringly direct even when expertly woven with dreamy imagery and metaphor. She writes with such skill and authenticity that I was in awe. I still have a hard time gathering my thoughts about the collection and finding anything sufficient to write about it.
“I have given my name and my day-clothes up to the nurses
And my history to the anesthetist and my body to surgeons.
They have propped my head between the pillow and the sheet-cuff
Like an eye between two white lids that will not shut.
Stupid pupil, it has to take everything in.”
Even when she writes about dark topics and romanticizes death, there’s something hopeful and empowering about her work. It is a great tragedy that her life was cut short, Plath lived and died by her own rules. There are a few recordings of Plath reading her poems including two of my favorite poems from the collection, Tulips and Lady Lazarus that are absolutely worth listening to and truly gives the reader an idea of the intensity of her work.
Now as a note, there are different versions of Ariel in publication and it is important to know the distinction between each. For those unfamiliar with Sylvia Plath and the back story of this collection, she left behind the manuscript before taking her own life. Her husband, Ted Hughes, had arranged the manuscript and published the book – changing the order of the poems and omitting a few, but there are distinct differences between his arrangement and hers that drastically changes the tone and feel of the collection. I read The Restored Edition which is published in the order that Plath and arranged and it becomes clear how specific her arrangement was in telling a story. Her version is the one that I highly recommend reading over the Hughes version.
Author: Sylvia Plath
Publication Date: 1965
Sylvia Plath’s famous collection, as she intended it.
When Sylvia Plath died, she not only left behind a prolific life but also her unpublished literary masterpiece, Ariel. When her husband, Ted Hughes, first brought this collection to life, it garnered worldwide acclaim, though it wasn’t the draft Sylvia had wanted her readers to see. This facsimile edition restores, for the first time, Plath’s original manuscript—including handwritten notes—and her own selection and arrangement of poems. This edition also includes in facsimile the complete working drafts of her poem “Ariel,” which provide a rare glimpse into the creative process of a beloved writer. This publication introduces a truer version of Plath’s works, and will no doubt alter her legacy forever.