Ariel Background

Ariel Background

Ariel is the second full-length collection of poetry written by Sylvia Plath, published in 1965. The poems in Ariel were largely written in the weeks preceding Plath's infamous death by suicide in 1963, and explore the themes of despair, rebirth, mania, and obsession with death that plagued her throughout her career. Plath's former husband, the British poet Ted Hughes, put together the 1965 selection, including the introduction by Robert Lowell, who had heavily influenced Plath's work.

Ariel was republished in 2004. This new edition returned the selection and arrangement of poems to the order in which Plath had left them. The 2004 edition of Ariel features a foreword by Plath and Hughes’ daughter, Frieda Hughes, who is the sole living member of the family.

Today, Ariel is considered by many to be Plath's finest work, as well as a volume containing some of the finest poems of modern time. It is a brutal look at the precarious mental state that Plath has become known for. The poems are primal, full of the painfully close explorations of anguish and depression that Plath undertook in her final days. With Ariel, Plath became larger-than-life and immortalized her name in the literary world.

The title poem of this collection is 'Ariel'. Alongside poems such as 'Daddy' and 'Lady Lazarus', 'Ariel' is widely regarded as one of Plath's greatest poetic achievements. This energetic poem details Plath's memory of riding her horse Ariel, using speed, rhythm and sound to physically and emotionally immerse the reader in the experience. Beneath the surface of this poem is violent imagery, underlying trauma, a loss of control and a pervasive desire for death, which makes it a dark and complex read.

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