Thoughts: Ariel (1965) by Sylvia Plath

220px-ArielPlathAs someone who tends to avoid poetry (with a few exceptions, such as the British Romantics, Edgar Allan Poe, and Walt Whitman, all of whom I love), this new year has found me reading quite a bit of it! I’ve spent time with Robert Lowell, T.S. Eliot, and Sylvia Plath. I’ll also be spending the next 15 weeks reading poetry in Old English (think Beowulf) as well as seventeenth-century poetry (John Donne, Anne Bradstreet, Margaret Cavendish, Andrew Marvell, George Herbert, Ben Johnson, John Milton, etc.). So, I guess you could say… I’m not shying away from poetry anymore?

Anyhow, my first “review” of the year is for Sylvia Plath’s 1965 collection of poems, Ariel. This book is on my 2015 TBR Pile Challenge list, and boy am I glad to have finally read it. It is coincidental that I read it within days of reading Lowell’s Life Studies, which I knew little about. As it turns out, Plath was a great admirer of Lowell and both of them were “Confessional Poets.” This seems to be a style I respond to, because I adored both collections.

Plath herself, as many know, suffered from clinical depression. She married the infamous Ted Hughes and would eventually separate from him, after having two children. She committed suicide two weeks after publishing her now-classic novel, The Bell Jar.

Ariel was published posthumously in 1965, two years after her death. It was originally edited and compiled by Hughes, who apparently dropped twelve poems that were intended for the collection and inserted twelve others. He also altered the arrangement — fortunately, a restored version  was published in 2004. I look forward to reading that edition, eventually.

Ariel is intensely personal, which is to be expected from confessional poetry. The darkly lyric poems address issues of sexuality, motherhood, marriage, depression, suicidal thoughts, family and depression. These deeply personal poems, delivered with such raw directness, were perhaps too much for publishers of the time. Despite the positive critical reception of her first book, Colossus, the poems in Ariel were roundly rejected by many publications. Even The New Yorker refused to publish more than a few lines (it’s worth noting that The New Yorker also shied away from some of J.D. Salinger’s darker pieces).

Nevertheless, this later collection includes what would become some of the best-known poems in the English language, including “Daddy,” “Lady Lazarus,” “Ariel,” and “Morning Song.” I was moved by many of the poems, deeply touched by their personal and emotional expressiveness.

In addition to the famous poems mentioned above, some of my favorites of the collection include, “Nick and the Candlestick,” “The Moon and the Yew Tree,” “The Rival,” and “Edge.” The intensity of these poems is at times difficult to bear. Take, for example, the first stanza of “The Moon and the Yew Tree:”

This is the light of the mind, cold and planetary. / The trees of the mind are black. The light is blue. / The grasses unload their griefs on my feet as if I were God, / Prickling my ankles and murmuring their humility. / Fumey, spiritous mists inhabit this place / Separated from my house by a row of headstones. / I simply cannot see where there is to get to.

This is a stunning example of awareness of self-in-the-world. Plath is applying direct symbolism to her surroundings and illustrating how the environment she’s in directly affects her mood and state of mind. She’s also expressing, in this poem, the realities of her masculine and feminine natures (the yew tree and the moon) in a way that is somehow divine but also dangerous. There’s a nod to Mother/Female and Father/Male figures, but where one would expect the Mother/Female symbols (the light, the moon) to be soft, warm, and nurturing, here it is cold, dark, distant. Similarly, the Father/Male symbol (the tree) is akin to Eden’s “Tree of Knowledge” – there is wisdom in it, but the tree is black, its fruit poisonous.

I could go on and on about this poem, and others in the collection, but suffice to say I found myself wholly absorbed with Ariel as a whole, though some poems spoke more to me than others. Plath had an uncanny ability to make her poems equally about the self and about the universal. Anyone who has experienced self-doubt, loneliness, and depression, or a terrifying love (like the love of a parent for a child they fear they might lose, fail, or corrupt) will find Plath’s poems deeply affecting.

My George Eliot Problem

I was scrolling through my reading logs and bookshelves, today, and noticed something strange and embarrassing. As much as I love George Eliot (and I do!) – I realize that I’ve read hardly any of her novels!  The Mill on the Floss is one of my favorite books, but I have so many others to read.

I can’t decide where to start, so how about a little help?  You all choose the book for me, and I’ll read it next. Feel free to leave your thoughts on a particular book in the comments, if you like. :)

I’ll close the post in… oh… a week or so.  Thanks!

On a Personal Note…

10177490_839963146017677_3887051882999773290_nHello Readers,

I very rarely write personal blog posts here, but I find myself in a difficult situation and have learned that sometimes in life it is best to be humble and, with humility, ask for help when we need it.

In the summer of 2006, I met my partner Jesse while I was living in California pursuing my Master’s degree. We have been together for more than 8 years, now. In 2008, after finishing graduate school, I was unable to find work in California but was offered something in Illinois.  Jesse made the very difficult decision to leave his home, family, and friends to move with me.  In the last 7 years, because of our financial difficulties (like many others, he was out of work during the economic downturn, and I’ve been pursuing my doctorate full-time) we have only been able to see his family once.

Three years ago, after more than 5 years together, I proposed to Jesse. We’ve waited patiently for marriage equality to come to Illinois and have also done our best to save some money during that time, hoping. Now that marriage equality is here – we have set a date and booked our venue. It’s going to be a very small, modest affair – I’m still a graduate school grunt, after all-but we’re happy!

22Unfortunately, although we planned the date far in advance (October) and gave his family notice (they all accepted, excitedly, our invitation) we found out recently that they are not going to be able to make the trip.  Jesse’s sister, a single-mom of three kids who also supports their retired mother (the five of them live together & his sister takes care of them all) lost her job after the company she worked for closed her location. In addition, his brother, also a single-parent, has gotten ill and suddenly finds himself with massive medical debt and a son to care for on his own.

Needless to say, we’re devastated about this. Our families haven’t met, yet, and Jesse’s only hope these last few years has been that his family would be with us when we make our life-commitment to each other.

2I never ask for help, and those of you who have been following me a long time or who know me personally understand this to be true.  But Jesse has supported me through two graduate programs, now. He moved across the country with me so that we could stay together, something I know was terribly hard for him to do. Now, I desperately want to give him this gift – to bring his family here for our wedding in October.

He doesn’t know I’m asking, nor does his family.  But I am asking — I just can’t do it on my own.  If you can help – thank you so much. If you can’t, believe me, I understand.

I’ve set up a “Go Fund Me” account which you can get to by clicking this link or by clicking the button in my side menu.  Any little bit would help – $5, $50, or $500. It will get me closer. If you can’t help financially but could help by spreading the word to others who might be willing, I’d appreciate that, too.

3In any event – I thank you for thinking about it and I thank you for supporting me and this blog for so long, now.  This has been a great part of my own dream for the last  6 years.  I know this is a lot to ask, but I’m hoping we can make one more dream come true this year, for my partner and his family.

Two Notes:
1. I will be writing personal “Thank You” letters to all who contribute.
2. Any excess funds remaining will be donated to First Book, a nonprofit organization that provides books to children in need.

Thank you so much. <3

Checkpoint 1: #TBR2015RBR

2015TBRbuttonHello, Readers!

Yahoo! It’s Checkpoint Time! Can you believe the 2015 TBR Pile Challenge has 200+ participants this year? TOTALLY AMAZING!

I’m inspired by all of your interest and commitment – reading is awesome, isn’t it?

Question of the Month: Which book on your 2015 list has been on your shelf the longest? (Best guess is fine!). The one I’ve owned the longest is The Return of Sherlock Holmes by Arthur Conan Doyle (1905). I’ve loved the series, so far, so I’m really excited to get to this one.

My Progress: 4 of 12 Completed / 0 of 12 Reviewed

So far, I’ve read 4 of my 12 required books. I can’t believe it! That’s double what I managed in all of 2014. Unfortunately, I haven’t had time to write any of the reviews, yet, but I do plan to get to them very soon! Books I’ve read:

  • The Moviegoer by Walker Percy (1961) (Completed 1/3/15)
  • Ariel by Sylvia Plath (1965) (Completed 1/1/15)
  • Trifles by Susan Glaspell (1916) (Completed 1/2/15)
  • Long Day’s Journey Into Night by Eugene O’Neill (1956) (Completed 1/4/15)

How are you doing?

Below, you’re going to find the infamous Mr. Linky widget. If you read and review any challenge books this month, please link-up on the widget below. This Mr. Linky will be open until January 31, so any books that you complete this month (and post thoughts for), can be linked-up in this first checkpoint. 


Giveaway: There’s no giveaway this first month, but the 2014 winner will be announced in the February Checkpoint post! You should also keep up with my Year of Giveaways!

Keep up the great work and best of luck to you as we head into the final stretch!

LINK UP YOUR REVIEWS January 1st–January 31st. 

Other Important Links:

The Year of Giveaways: January!

Hello, Readers!

In 2014, I was fortunate to have received dozens and dozens of books, from publishers, friends, authors, and contests. Among all of these acquisitions, however, were a number of duplicates.

So, in 2015, I’ve decided to feature one of these duplicate books each month, and offer that book as a giveaway to one of you! Yes, it’s The Year of Giveaways!

13356675This month, the spotlight is on: Ursula K. Le Guin’s A Wizard of Earthesea

Description: Ged was the greatest sorcerer in all Earthsea. But he was once called Sparrowhawk, a reckless youth, hungry for power and knowledge, who tampered with long-held secrets and loosed a terrible shadow upon the world. This is the tale of his testing, how he mastered the mighty words of power, tamed an ancient dragon, and crossed death’s threshold to restore the balance.

Originally published in 1968, Ursula K. Le Guin’s A Wizard of Earthsea marks the first of the six now beloved Earthsea titles.

If you would like to win a copy of this excellent book, here’s what you need to do:


  • Must be an e-mail or WordPress subscriber.
  • –Must be 13+ with parental permission if under 18.
  • –Winners must respond to e-mail within 48-hours or new winner selected.
  • –Winners chosen randomly through Rafflecopter.
  • -Giveaway ends at 11pm Central Time (USA) on the last day of the month.

Enter by Completing This Rafflecopter Form