Ariel. But it is not likely, given the publication of the Collected Poems,
which now becomes our definitive text. How ironic, in any case, that the
publication of Plath's poems has depended, and continues to depend, on
the very man who is, in one guise or another, their subject. In a poem not
included in Ariel called "Burning the Letters" ( CP, pp. 204-5), the poet
decides to do away with the hated love letters, with "the eyes and times of
here is an end to the writing,
The spry hooks that bend and cringe, and the smiles, the smiles.
And at least it will be a good place now, the attic.
But the attic was soon invaded, the dangerous notebooks were destroyed,
and the poems that were permitted to enter the literary world had to get
past the censor. The words of the dead woman, to paraphrase Auden, were
modified in the guts of the living. Only now, more than twenty years after
her death, can we begin to assess her oeuvre. But then, as Plath herself put
it in a poem written during the last week of her life:
The blood jet is poetry,
There is no stopping it.
Sylvia Plath, Ariel ( London: Faber and Faber, 1965); Ariel ( New York: Harper &
Row, 1966). The New York edition includes one poem, "The Swarm," not in the London
edition. All further references to Ariel will be to the Harper & Row edition, subsequently noted as A.
These early reviews are cited in Mary Kinzie, "An Informal Check List of Criticism," in The Art of Sylvia Plath, A Symposium, ed.
Charles Newman ( London: Faber and
Faber, 1970), pp. 293-303. This collection is subsequently cited as Newman. See also A. Alvarez, "Sylvia Plath," in
Newman, pp. 56-68, and his The Savage God: A Study in
Suicide ( New York: Random House, 1972), pp. 5-34.
George Steiner, "Dying is an Art," The Reporter 33 ( 7 October 1965); rpt. in Newman
, pp. 211-18. Plath, says Steiner, was "one of a number of young contemporary
poets, novelists, themselves in no way implicated in the actual holocaust, who have
done most to counter the general inclination to forget the death camps," and he calls "Daddy" "the 'Guernica' of modern poetry" (p. 218).
Stephen Spender, "Warnings from the Grave," rpt. in
Newman, pp. 199-203.