Ariel by Sylvia Plath
Back in high school, I hadn’t discovered the word “feminist” yet, but I had discovered the word “suffragette.” For my American history research paper in 11th grade/Junior year, I wrote about suffragettes and I wore a pantsuit for my presentation (I had no idea that Pantsuit Nation would be a part of my life sixteen years later, nor that I would still not live to see a female president of the United States). That Spring, for my English III research project, I decided to write about Sylvia Plath. I remembered reading about her for my 8th grade research paper on poetry and her shocking suicide. So I spent that semester poring over Plath’s poetry in various volumes, as well as her life, her marriage, and the many family influences that guided her poetry (I didn’t read The Bell Jar until college, but oh, what an influential book it ended up being). I collected Ariel, one of her poetry books, many years ago and finally read it cover-to-cover this year.
Ariel doesn’t necessarily have a cohesive theme running through it, unless you consider the story of Ariel the sprite from Shakespeare’s The Tempest to be a sort of spiritual guide through this collection. You do read a lot about flying, about being weighed down by various struggles, and about the unbreakable influences of family. Some of Plath’s most famous poems, including “Daddy,” are in here. Plath struggled with her father’s death and his German heritage—both of which are tackled here. The last line is just breathtaking in its ferocity and heartbreak: “Daddy, daddy, you bastard, I’m through.” And seriously, may Ivanka Trump be saying the same thing at ANY MOMENT NOW.
If you like poetry, you should absolutely read this collection. If you’re not sure about poetry, I don’t know if this is a good or bad place to start. Plath is an unconventional writer, and her style can be somewhat erratic if you don’t know what to look for. That said, I found this to be a worthy compilation, and I definitely need to read more of them. And do a Bell Jar re-read.