Stanley Plumly

Stanley Plumly: On "Ariel"

"Ariel" is, of course, Plath's singular and famous example of the form completely at one with its substance, the language exactly the speedy act of its text. The point for the poet is obvious: "How one we grow,/Pivot of heels and knees." The speaker thus becomes as much Ariel as the horse, and together they become the one thing, the poem itself, "the arrow,/ /The dew that flies/Suicidal, at one with the drive." The run from stasis in darkness into the red eye of morning is a miraculous inhabiting, in which the natural and referential world dissembles, blurs into absence, to the point that the transformation of the horse and rider can become absolute. "Something else / / Hauls me through air . . . " In seconds, she is a white Godiva, unpeeling dead hands and stringencies, then, almost simultaneously, she is foam to wheat, and at that freeing instant, in terror or in esctasy, the child's cry melts in the wall. "Ariel" is as close to a poetry of pure, self-generating, associative action as we could hope for, as if the spirit, at last, had found its correlative, had transcended, in the moment, memory.

From "What Ceremony of Words" in Ariel Ascending: Writings about Sylvia Plath. Ed. Paul Alexander. Copyright © 1985 by Paul Alexander.