Thursday, April 10, 2014

Ariel by Sylvia Plath

In this collection of poems written before she finally succeeded in killing herself, Sylvia Plath shows you the world through her eyes. A couple of these poems were actually familiar--we studied them in high school. Read in context of other works she produced around the same time, though, they gave me less of a one-sided perspective on Plath than I had developed in the past.

"Lady Lazarus" and "Daddy" are the ones I remember. Looking back, I can't believe we were allowed to address such heavy topics without a serious discussion about mental health and self-care. The first is about Plath's experience in attempting suicide by crawling under her house and laying there until she was found. The second is about her confusing, damning attachment to her father, who killed himself when she was ten.

The collection overall is dark, but in a practical sort of way, and with an ethereal quality that lets you know that everything is going to be okay. Rather than aggression or deep melancholy, there's a feeling of detachment from the rest of the world that seeps out of every stanza. Plath has her perceptions and experiences and we are experiencing a similar world in a completely different way as an "other."

I found I really liked "Getting There" and "Poppies in July." "Getting There" (to me) evokes that moment when you're doing something, but you sort of zone out, and you muse and daydream in your own confined headspace. Often this involves internal dialogue and commentary about your perceptions. I get it. I may not have seen or felt what she did on the train, but I understand the practice. For a while you are able to be in your own reality--dark and stream-of-consciousness as it may be--but then something happens (the train arrives) and you have to snap out of it.

My warm feelings toward "Poppies in July" probably stems from my childhood memories of poppies. Very vivid memories. Plath's descriptions are just as vivid, but I wonder what hides behind them. Are the poppies an allegory? It almost seems that she is disappointed that they are not more alive, that they don't have more power than they do. I get the feeling that she expected them to harm her in a delicious way and they instead fluttered harmlessly like the soft, "bloody skirts" they are.

Anyway, I think this is a great collection of some of Plath's final poems. My only criticism is "What's up with the bees?"


No comments:

Post a Comment