Plath, in Order of Writing

Dan Chiasson on Sylvia Plath’s Joy, The New Yorker, February 12, 2013, with commentary on ‘Ariel’, ‘Melt’, ‘Lady Lazarus’, ‘Nick and the Candlestick’ and ‘Words’.

There is nothing else like this in English; it is, I think, a perfect poem, perfect in its excesses and stray blasphemies (that “nigger-eye”), which make Plath Plath—that is to say, dangerous, heedless, a menace, and irresistible. The greatest thing in it, though, is a detail whose uncanniness will strike any new parent: “The child’s cry / Melts in the wall.”


James Parker on Why Sylvia Plath Still Haunts American Culture, The Atlantic, June 2013.

Her name, at this point, is almost onomatopoeic: the elegantly coiled, haute-American Sylvia, poised and serpentine, and then the Germanic exhalation of Plath, its fatal flatness like some ruptured surface resealing itself. Her whole history is in there somehow: the shining prizewinner with a death obsession, the supercharged, comical/terrible talent whose memory is the lid of a sarcophagus.


Meghan O’Rourke writes in Ariel Redux on the publication of The Restored Edition: Ariel and Hughes’ ordering of poems in ArielSlate, December 4, 2004.

Plath was still, as Hughes himself later said, a little afraid of her own poems, still learning how to wean herself from exposition in favor of dramatic immersion. (For evidence, read the drafts of the “Ariel” poem itself, included in the restored edition.) Hughes then moved up “Poppies in October” and “Berck-Plage” and used them as a springboard into “Ariel,” the book’s title poem, a luminous vision of self-transformation. The resulting sequence is more psychologically charged (and dramatic) than Plath’s ordering had been. Hughes also added a few older poems, including “Hanging Man,” inspired by Plath’s electroshock therapy, to help clarify what he took to be her story line—the story of a woman triumphing over great peril only to later succumb to a version of her own “self-conquering self.”


Ashley Fetters interviews Peter K. Steinberg, author of the biography Sylvia Plath in There are Almost No Obituaries for Sylvia PlathThe Atlantic, February 11, 2013.

I think it very well could have been, but there’s a reason for that. The Ariel that Ted Hughes published wasn’t the Ariel that Plath envisioned: It was very different in tone, especially the last dozen poems. Those are very dark and bleak, whereas the collection she had intended ended with her Bee Poems, which are all about new life and spring. It would have ended on a more vibrant note.

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