Jason's Reviews > Ariel

Ariel by Sylvia Plath
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's review
Oct 04, 2009

really liked it
Read in October, 2009

People ask me how to gauge good poetry. Not that i'm a king or anything, but it's a legitimate question. Really a good poem can be a badly written poem, it depends (for instance, there are poetic elements to propaganda that i like.) It all depends on how lyrical and fetching the image is, whether it can convey feeling. That's my idea, anyway. And as far as unnerving, moving but quiet intensity goes, Sylvia Plath takes the cake. She's incredible!

She entices different interpretations. She's ideal for tattoos. These are words that can be delivered with subtlety or on long streaming banners, for what would be dissent or consciousness. They are embodied with vague fervor, attributable to anything, to anyone with thought; perpetuation of the sting and comfort well.

The easiest way to understand this is the title poem, "Ariel". One reviewer thought it was about intimate sex until he found out it was about her horse, perhaps. I once heard it was about the state of Israel being formed:

God's lioness,
How one we grow,
Pivot of heels and knees!--The furrow


And now I
Foam to wheat, a glitter of seas.
The child's cry

Melts in the wall.
And I
Am the arrow

It's interesting, because the twist of subjectivity makes it personal. But truly, the poem is ethereal. It is about anything surrendered to the feeling this poem exhibits. That's it's power: to be a blanket. To be a snug reminder of the thing being reminded of. And she is the best froster of these life-cakes:

I could not run without having to run forever.
The white hive is snug as a virgin,
Sealing off her brood cells, her honey, and quietly humming.


I remember a blue eye,
A briefcase of tangerines.
This was a man, then!
Death opened, like a black tree, blackly.

I survive the while,
Arranging my morning.
These are my fingers, this my baby.
The clouds are a marriage dress, of that pallor.

There is a likeness to her life, the navigator. Her angst in dealing with her father and her self-consciousness with her womanhood. These are anchors and the ship is a cloud. It's really relying on the new thoughts, the birth (said with much intent)--BIRTH of thought. It is a woman who gives birth, all the energy and humiliating exposure and sensation and compassion delivered into the verb and phrase:

They can only carry their dead.
The bees are all women,
Maids and the long royal lady.
They have got rid of the men,

The blunt, clumsy stumblers, the boors.
Winter is for women--
The woman, still at her knitting,
At the cradle of Spanish walnut,
Her body a bulb in the cold and too dumb to think.

Will the hive survive, will the gladiolas
Succeed in banking their fires
To enter another year?
What will they taste of, the Christmas roses?

What you get from Sylvia Plath is an intense weight, a precautious reverence for whichever deity holds her down. And then, a ticklish thumb to prod and poke the existence of her burden--to explore the mortality of its intent, its amorphous structure, not explicitly aimed at her but affecting her anyway. She is wholly affected by the surrounding world, you feel this in puncture in tempo:

And seen my strangeness evaporate,
Blue dew from dangerous skin.
Will they hate me,
These women who only scurry,
Whose news is the open cherry, the open clover?

Her genius is that she is not plagued, but incited to grow. To play with the pain and urgency of the image. It is a folding of life, gentle but conscientious; and observant of the noble causes which bring the absolute into the home. She is a caregiver and as soft as a heart. I don't like that she killed herself, but it's beautiful too. She was such a strained flower:

The moon is no door. It is a face in its own right,
White as a knuckle and terribly upset.
It drags the sea after it like a dark crime; it is quiet
With the O-gape of complete despair. I live here.
Twice on Sunday, the bells startle the sky--
Eight great tongues affirming the Resurrection.
At the end, they soberly bong out their names.

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