Upon the publication of her posthumous volume of poetry, Ariel, in the mid-1960s, Sylvia Plath became a household name. Readers may be surprised to learn that the draft of Ariel left behind by Sylvia Plath when she died in 1963 is different from the volume of poetry eventually published to worldwide acclaim.
This facsimile edition restores, for the first time, the selection and arrangement of the poems as Sylvia Plath left them at the point of her death. In addition to the facsimile pages of Sylvia Plath’s manuscript, this edition also includes in facsimile the complete working drafts of the title poem, "Ariel," in order to offer a sense of Plath's creative process, as well as notes the author made for the BBC about some of the manuscript's poems.
In her insightful foreword to this volume, Frieda Hughes, Sylvia Plath's daughter, explains the reasons for the differences between the previously published edition of Ariel as edited by her father, Ted Hughes, and her mother's original version published here. With this publication, Sylvia Plath's legacy and vision will be re-evaluated in the light of her original working draft.
As if these physical privations weren't enough, Plath was out in the cold in another sense--her husband, Ted Hughes, had left her for another woman earlier that year. Despite all this (or perhaps because of it), the Ariel poems dazzle with their lyricism, their surprising and vivid imagery, and their wit. Rather than confining herself to her bleak surroundings, Plath draws from a wide array of experience. In "Berck-Plage," for instance, clouds are "electrifyingly-coloured sherbets, scooped from the freeze." In "The Night Dances," the poet stands crib-side, reveling in her son's own brand of do-si-do: "Such pure leaps and spirals--Surely they travel / The world forever, I shall not entirely / Sit emptied of beauties, the gift / Of your small breath..."
Though at times they present the reader with hopelessness laid bare, these poems also teem with the brightest shards of a life, confounding those who merely look for the words of a gloomy, dispassionate suicide. Plath rose each morning in the final months of her life to "that still blue, almost eternal hour before the baby's cry" and left us these words like "axes/After whose stroke the wood rings..."