ARIEL by Sylvia Plath

Probably one of the greatest poetry collections in the English language, this is a true classic everyone should read AT LEAST once. Sylvia Plath’s suicide was, of course, a human tragedy. This book demonstrates that it was also a tragedy for literature. Actually, catastrophe would be a better term for it. Able to fuse ferocious, raw emotion, critical observation and inventive but accessible (and beautiful) verse like no one else, Plath’s possible future is enough to reduce one to tears. I am referring here to the restored edition of Ariel, not the version rearranged by her husband, the fine poet (say what you will about him as a man) Ted Hughes. Like Plath’s daughter, I don’t believe Hughes had any ill-intent when he edited Ariel.  That being said, I read his version years ago and was underwhelmed by it. All of the individual poems were magnificent but, as a whole, it didn’t seem to hold together somehow. The restored version just crackles all the way through. I think Plath knew what she was doing and Hughes was a well-meaning meddler in this instance. Everything in Ariel is worth anybody’s time but I have to mention favorites of mine like “Thalidomide,” “The Detective,” “The Moon and the Yew Tree,” “A Birthday Present,” and, of course, the shattering masterpiece “Daddy.” Has there ever been a poem quite like that? I think not. If only we could have had more and more!

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