Ariel by Sylvia Plath

GENRE: Poetry | PAGES: 105

My rating: ★★★★

Bleak yet powerful and intense, Ariel by Sylvia Plath is, by far, my favourite collection of poetry. Undoubtedly, Sylvia Plath has a unique way with words. She transforms them into bewitching lyrics that resonate in endless and uniquely personal ways.

I read these poems over and over, caught up in the imagery she creates, the emotion she evokes. Each time, I take away a little more than I did the time before. Her work speaks to me (and countless others). Her open, uncensored outpouring of raw feeling is perfectly translated to the page.

Whilst each of her poems have meaning, I have some particular favourites in Ariel. The poem Elm spoke to me and so did Tulips, and since no amount of analysis can do her poetry justice, so instead, here’s my favourite piece from this collection:


I know the bottom, she says. I know it with my great tap root:
It is what you fear.
I do not fear it: I have been there.

Is it the sea you hear in me,
Its dissatisfactions?
Or the voice of nothing, that was your madness?

Love is a shadow.
How you lie and cry after it
Listen: these are its hooves: it has gone off, like a horse.

All night I shall gallop thus, impetuously,
Till your head is a stone, your pillow a little turf,
Echoing, echoing.

Or shall I bring you the sound of poisons?
This is rain now, this big hush.
And this is the fruit of it: tin-white, like arsenic.

I have suffered the atrocity of sunsets.
Scorched to the root
My red filaments burn and stand, a hand of wires.

Now I break up in pieces that fly about like clubs.
A wind of such violence
Will tolerate no bystanding: I must shriek.

The moon, also, is merciless: she would drag me
Cruelly, being barren.
Her radiance scathes me. Or perhaps I have caught her.

I let her go. I let her go
Diminished and flat, as after radical surgery.
How your bad dreams possess and endow me.

I am inhabited by a cry.
Nightly it flaps out
Looking, with its hooks, for something to love.

I am terrified by this dark thing
That sleeps in me;
All day I feel its soft, feathery turnings, its malignity.

Clouds pass and disperse.
Are those the faces of love, those pale irretrievables?
Is it for such I agitate my heart?

I am incapable of more knowledge.
What is this, this face
So murderous in its strangle of branches?——

Its snaky acids hiss.
It petrifies the will. These are the isolate, slow faults
That kill, that kill, that kill.

— Sylvia Plath




Ariel by Sylvia Plath


“In these poems…Sylvia Plath becomes herself, becomes something imaginary, newly, wildly and subtly created. — From the Introduction by Robert Lowell

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