This is a post I have been meaning to write up for a very long time, but I've been hesitant to attempt to put all of my thoughts down on this collection. So, to take some of the pressure off I decided instead of the traditional review format, I would share some of my thoughts and favorite poems from this collection as part of my new series.
Thoughts on the Collection as a Whole:
My love for Plath started when I read The Bell Jar in 2013; before I was even half-way through the novel I knew that it was one I would reread continuously for the rest of my life. After reading that, I was eager to pick up some of Plath's poetry and decided to start with Ariel as it was her best known collection.
This is not a collection that I would sit down and read straight through in one of two sittings. I would read a couple poems at a time, put the book down for a few days and let them stew in my head, and then pick it up again and reread them really closely. Sometimes I would pick out one poem I really wanted to concentrate on and read it many times, annotate it, and work with it really closely. I think this is the best way to read Plath's work as there is so much going on; it really deserves to have a chunk of time dedicated to each poem.
As a whole, this collection is amazing. Plath creates images that stick in your head like the disturbing image of last night's nightmare. The imagery and the themes work together so beautifully, and each poem in this collection shares a common theme or tone to the others, making the collection interconnected and very powerful. I enjoy the fact that Plath works with the same themes in multiple pieces of her work, and that the same ideas are presented multiple times, but in different ways in her poetry and prose. Some motifs from this collection include: bees, motherhood, childbirth, the idea of the housewife, relationships with men and WWII imagery. This particular Restored Edition also has an interview with Plath's daughter and an amazing poem she wrote about people's obsession with her mother's tragic end, and some commentary Plath has made on some of the poems in this collection.
Poems I Wish to Spotlight:
One of my favorite things about reading this collection was that I had the opportunity to hear Plath read many of the poems herself via Youtube. I highly recommend listening to poems out loud after you have read them once or twice, especially if you can hear the author read their own poetry.
The Rabbit Catcher- Read it here
This became one of my favorite poems in the collection when I set aside about twenty minutes to read and work with it. As I reread and annotated it, I began to see the complexity and layers of meaning in this poem. This poem has many of the motifs I mentioned above (references to childbirth, relationships with men, and clear, powerful images) and creates a beautiful extended metaphor.
Daddy- Listen to Plath read it here
This is possibly Plath's best known poem, and for good reasons. This poem is so powerful, I literally think my jaw dropped after I finished reading it for the first time. The imagery is so jarring and the tone is so brutal and honest. The Nazi and Jew imagery mixes in with the perfect sound pattern to make this poem comforting to listen to but uncomfortable to think about the themes and tone. In order to truly appreciate this poem, it should be heard, Plath's reading of this poem leaves me speechless, and I really recommend the video I have linked above.
Lady Lazarus- Listen to Plath read it here
This is another poem that Palth's reading of is really great. This poem has great imagery and speaks on suicide attempts and what it's like to die and and come back to life. Plus this poem has the best closing line of a poem I have ever read.
Lesbos- Read it here
This poem really interests me because I'm still baffled by it, and quite frankly, it scares me. I have read it many times and each time I reread it, I find something new or think of a new possible meaning. This poem provides some very powerful images of domesticity. I would love to hear your thoughts on this one, and specifically who you think the speaker of the poem is addressing.
Tulips- Read it here
This is another well known and often studied poem from Plath. This one too is brutally honest and examines the struggle to stay alive when one wishes to die.