Tag: Ariel

Ariel by Sylvia Plath

Posted December 5, 2014 by Michael @ Knowledge Lost in Poetry / 0 Comments

Ariel by Sylvia PlathTitle: Ariel (Goodreads)
Author: Sylvia Plath
Published: Faber & Faber, 1965
Pages: 81
Genres: Poetry
My Copy: Library Book

Buy: AmazonBook Depository (or visit your local Indie bookstore)

It feels like Sylvia Plath’s life overshadowed her literary value; her autobiographical novel The Bell Jar was like a confessional and people tend to read it for all the juicy bits. Ariel is a collection of poems published posthumously, just a few years after her suicide. It is true that we have Plath to think for advancing the confessional poetry form and exploring topics previously taboo like suicide, mental illness and domestic abuse.

I would like to thank Meg Wolitzer’s book Belzhar for pushing me into reading more of Sylvia Plath. The book explores a struggling student that was sent to a private school that put her in a special English class. This class spent the semester journaling and reading Plath, most importantly The Bell Jar but also Ariel. That book made me want to re-read The Bell Jar which I loved but instead decided it was time to give her poetry a go.

However I am very aware that I don’t know how to review poetry let alone a whole collection, so this is more about my experience with this book. I feel like I am becoming a better reader but if you ask me to read out loud I am going to struggle. So I decided this is an issue I needed to work on and I read Ariel to my wife (she read some of it to me as well). This may seem like a romantic and intimate thing to do with your partner but Plath has a way of killing any sexy moods.

I loved the experience but I am struck with a sense that Sylvia Plath might have been a poor choice to begin with. She has a very strong sense of imagery and plays a lot with metaphors; some of which I picked up on but there was some stuff that went over my head. Poetry is meant to be read out aloud and I thought this would help with my understanding as well as develop my skills. However I found it extremely difficult to work out punctuation in these poems. Some sentences span over a few stanzas but my natural impulse was to pause after ever line.

Having said that, this was a wonderful experience and while the poems are often dark and depressing I am glad I shared this moment with my wife. Ariel kind of reminds me of those people on the internet that overshare about their lives and you can’t help but be glued to what they write even if it annoys you. Sometimes I think, that is too much information but Sylvia Plath seems to get to the heart of that raw emotion.

Sylvia Plath was an incredibly intelligent and complex woman; I can’t help being fascinated by her. I want to learn more about her life, and understand the emotion behind her writing. Take for example her poem “Daddy”; there is this anger toward her father as well as some holocaust imagery that I just want to understand. I am going to have to find a biography on Plath’s life because I think this places a big part in her writing. Can anyone recommend me a good biography?


Belzhar by Meg Wolitzer

Posted November 21, 2014 by Michael @ Knowledge Lost in Young Adult / 0 Comments

Belzhar by Meg WolitzerTitle: Belzhar (Goodreads)
Author: Meg Wolitzer
Published: Simon & Schuster, 2014
Pages: 266
Genres: Magical Realism, Young Adult
My Copy: ARC from Publisher

Buy: AmazonBook DepositoryKindle (or visit your local Indie bookstore)

Life isn’t fair; if it was, Jam Gallahue wouldn’t be shipped off to boarding school and her British boyfriend would still be alive. Belzhar tells the story of Jam, a damaged girl who was sent off to a therapeutic boarding school in Velmont called The Wooden Barn. There she was enrolled into a mysterious class called Special Topics in English where she was assigned books by Sylvia Path. Part of her homework included writing in a journal which magical sends her back into her memories to help her reclaim her past.

Jam whose real name is Jamaica is a damaged teenager; no one seems to understand how she feels and what she is going through. The same way Esther Greenwood felt within The Bell Jar. Belzhar is a psychological novel that explores the themes from Sylvia Plath’s writing in a modern day YA novel. While this book focuses on the damage that losing a boyfriend can have (especially if he dies) there was something far more scarring that just wasn’t dealt with. The protagonist got her name, Jamaica from the place her parents conceived her; I don’t know about you but I find that is far more disturbing than losing a loved one (not really).

The book takes this idea found in The Bell Jar that Jam and the other people in this class are vacuum sealed in a world no one else understands. The ideas from The Bell Jar such as depression, loneliness and suffering all play out within Meg Wolitzer’s novel in a really interesting way. This is a unique form of literary criticism; it allows the reader to get a fundamental understanding into The Bell Jar on a very basic level.

I have read a few YA novels recently and they all had a psychological element in it that I want to talk about but I do not want to spoil the plot (See review for We Are Liars soon). This makes it really difficult, because there is so much to talk about but I am very conscious about spoilers. One thing I will talk about is the magical realism thread within the book; Belzhar is the magical place they go to in their memories and relive life before things got messed up. It is an interesting way to dive into the past and deal with issues. I found it a unique way to explore the complexities of the mind via this very simple plot device.

I am not too often on-board with a magical realism thread but as I have found with Haruki Murakami it becomes a useful tool in exploring the mind. When we think about our brain, it does not conform to the laws that govern reality and the magical realism allows the author to work with that. The travels into Belzhar were just a different way to experience a flashback and I quickly accepted with the way Meg Wolitzer did that. I was a little worried when I started but I am glad I persisted.

Belzhar makes me want to revisit The Bell Jar which is a fantastic book if you have never read it. I think the biggest praise I can give Meg Wolitzer is for the loving tenderness she had towards Sylvia Plath and her writing. I have borrowed Ariel from the library to experience some of Plath’s poetry and Belzhar has left me with a renewed appreciation for this author.