1. Iron Pen

    Iron Pen New Member

    Aug 25, 2009
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    Discussion in 'Book Discussion' started by Iron Pen, Aug 26, 2009.

    Ariel, by Sylvia Plath is the poem which has recently gotten me interested in poetry and remains my favorite poem.
    Below is a short review of the poem which I wrote for school in about 15 minutes, I plan to write an exhaustive review someday, but right now I just don't have the energy.
    First though here is the poem.

    Stasis in darkness.
    Then the substanceless blue
    Pour of tor and distances.

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

    Splits and passes, sister to
    The brown arc
    Of the neck I cannot catch,

    Berries cast dark
    Hooks ----

    Black sweet blood mouthfuls,
    Something else

    Hauls me through air ----
    Thighs, hair;
    Flakes from my heels.

    Godiva, I unpeel ----
    Dead hands, dead stringencies.

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

    Melts in the wall.
    And I
    Am the arrow,

    The dew that flies,
    Suicidal, at one with the drive
    Into the red

    Eye, the cauldron of morning.

    Some quick background info on the poem. Near the end of her life before Sylvia Plath tragically took her own life, she began to produce an enormous output of poetry. In the final months of her life, every morning before dawn she got up and wrote poetry before her children awoke and she began her day. In the month of October alone she wrote 25 of her major poems. Her final collection of poems, all hand selected from these final poems that she wrote in those few intense months is named Ariel, after this poem, written three days before she died. Sylvia Plath is credited along with Anne Sexton as being the biggest promoter of the confessional genre of poetry, and remains a distinctive and prominent American poet.

    My Explanation for the Poem

    In "Ariel", Sylvia Plath expends all her creative energies in a daring attempt to form a new identity for herself. "Ariel" can refer to four potential things: her favorite horse, the "airy spirit" from Shakespeare's The Tempest, the little mermaid, and the Judeo lioness god. These four things represent different aspects of her identity she melds together. The "airy spirit", her creative spirit, the little mermaid and Jewish God, her subjugated female and Jewish selves, and her favorite horse, her longing for freedom.
    The poem begins completely still as "Stasis in Darkness" (notice the repetition, 11 in all, of the s syllable in the first stanza which evokes a slow, held back sensation), but gets progressively faster and brighter as the poetess begins a series of transformations into faster subjects, and as the early morning sun begins to rise. She sets off on her journey with a "Pivot of heels and knees!", then fuses with her horse, then into an arrow, and finally into dew. The "I" sound, representing her identity, resides in every action word in the final stanzas, "cry", "flies", "Suicidal", and "drive".
    Despite her heroic effort to create her own, distinct identity, the speaker ultimately fails. She flies in the cauldron of morning, suggesting the distinctive parts of her identity have all melted together into a formless, shapeless, blob, and also the word "morning" belies her true feelings of "mourning" at her failure to create a new identity. Her final transformation, into dew, will simply evaporate as it shoots for the morning sun, just as her creative energies will ultimately evaporate.
    As she writes this poem, she begins to undress her poetry as she "unpeels" her "Dead hands, dead stringencies", the removal of her "stringencies" shows her removing the distinctive, highly specific, Greek diction she uses previously in an attempt to create her own distinctive voice (she often used words like that in her previous poems to give them a more idiosyncratic quality). One can imagine Plath, waking up early in the morning before the sunrise, writing the unedited poems of Ariel, undressing her poems, a poetically erotic experience, until she achieves a poetic orgasm as she explains "Foam to wheat, a glitter of seas", but then interrupted during this experience as her child cries in the next room, yanking her from this poetic fantasizing back into the real world like the farmer's "Thwack" in "Sow"(Another one of her poems). After her child's cry melts into the wall, the sun rises, and she goes to face the day as she always does, her creative attempts dispelled. From a feminist lens she also fails to create a new identity. She begins as a stallion, a symbol for masculine sexuality, and then into an arrow, a phallic image and penetrating force. The arrow flies into the "eye", a feminine shape, as well as her symbolic "I". This masculine force merges itself into her identity as she becomes "one with the drive", just as she grew one with her horse. Her final transformation, though, into dew, a designated female symbol in Freudian psychology(which Plath studied) serves to show that piece of her identity she attempted to introduce to her self as also losing its definition. Her shift from a subjugated, Nigger-"I" to an angry "red Eye", shows her transformation as futile, and little more than a surge of anger, a desperate cry for freedom. There remains some hope, however. Ariel, the little mermaid(the original, not the Disney version), after sacrificing her voice, her freedom, life, and chance at an eternal soul, launches herself suicidal into the sea, expecting to dissolve into seafoam as all mermaids do. Ariel surprisingly though, becomes an airy spirit, a reward for her dedication and sacrifice, and given an opportunity to acquire a new soul after three-hundred years of performing good deeds as a spirit. The seaform all mermaids eventually dissolve into in The Little Mermaid, clearly makes an impression on the poem in the unusually curious lines "Foam to wheat, a glitter of seas". This allusion suggests she may, after her identity dissolves, acquire the chance to earn her own identity, solidify her creative spirit, through some sort of good act and determination and perseverance. This final allusion suggests a life after she expends her energies, just as the dew also represents purification, and the morning sun, rebirth.

    Sorry if that was really long, btw I added the (comments in parentheses) to help explain some parts of the review.
    Please post your thoughts on her poem as well as any questions reguarding my explanation.

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