National Poetry Month: ‘Ariel’ by Sylvia Plath

“The collection contains some of her most celebrated poems: Lady Lazurus, Daddy; The Moon and the Yew Tree and the titular piece Ariel.  Many of these are poems written in a burst of creativity shortly before she took her life. They are poems I’ve read many times over, but only ever as individual pieces of work. When you read them as a collection, the intensity and darkness that’s visible in an individual poem is heightened and magnified many times over.”

Source: Ariel by Sylvia Plath: #1965club read ‹ BookerTalk ‹ Reader — WordPress.com

I first read Plath’s novel The Bell Jar and her collection of poems entitled Ariel when they first came out in the United States. Their combined impact on me was enormous. and, to this day, “Ariel” remains my favorite poem, second only to “Fern Hill” by Dylan Thomas.

The original edition of Ariel was published after Plath’s death wasn’t what she intended. Her husband, poet Ted Hughes, changed the selection. I see that as a travesty and an arrogant intrusion into her work. I still have the original version of Ariel on my bookshelf. But if you want what the poet intended, take a look at the restore edition from 2004 shown here.

Malcolm

National Poetry Month: Harjo Wins Jackson Poetry Prize

“New York, NY – April 25, 2019 – Joy Harjo has won the 2019 Jackson Poetry Prize. The prize, endowed by John and Susan Jackson, is awarded annually by Poets & Writers to an American poet of exceptional talent who deserves wider recognition. It carries a significant monetary award, increased this year to $65,000, and aims to provide what poets need: time and encouragement to write.”

Source: JOY HARJO WINS JACKSON POETRY PRIZE | Poets & Writers

Best of news. Of course, I’m biased. She’s one of my favorite current poets, mentioned here earlier this month

–Malcolm

National Poetry Month: ‘Sharks in the Rivers’

If Ada Limón stopped writing poetry today–hard to imagine as that is–she would probably be remembered for Bright Dead Things and her most recent collection The Carrying. However, I want to mention her 2010 collection sharks in the rivers because–as with many singers, for example–a writer’s earlier words are often created and executed through raw, wild power that, in time, often becomes more polished as the years go by. I think this searching, magical volume will always stand out as a primal voice that time will always be trying to tame.

Review

In his review in The Brooklyn Rail, Jeffrey Cyphers Wright wrote,

“Rivers and sharks are grand metaphors in these ruminative soliloquies—as much about going with the flow as facing down your demons. Bravery and fear, like opposing eyes peering through the murk, inform Ada Limón’s vision. Not one to be obsessively reductive, minnows, angelfish, and barracudas round out “the City of Sharks” she navigates.

“Limón allegorizes other creatures as well: owls, sparrows, cormorants, and butterflies. ‘Every one of us with a bear inside.’ This penchant for mixed metaphors could be disastrous in a more rigid, less expansive treatment, but here it is compelling. Candor and artifice intertwine with (human) nature and Surrealism—think Sharon Olds (her teacher) dancing with Pablo Neruda.”

Publisher’s Description

“The speaker in this extraordinary collection finds herself multiply dislocated: from her childhood in California, from her family’s roots in Mexico, from a dying parent, from her prior self. The world is always in motion — both toward and away from us—and it is also full of risk: from sharks unexpectedly lurking beneath estuarial rivers to the dangers of New York City, where, as Limón reminds us, even rats find themselves trapped by the garbage cans they’ve crawled into. In such a world, how should one proceed? Throughout Sharks in the Rivers, Limón suggests that we must cleave to the world as it ‘keep[s] opening before us,’ for, if we pay attention, we can be one with its complex, ephemeral, and beautiful strangeness. Loss is perpetual, and each person’s mouth ‘is the same / mouth as everyone’s, all trying to say the same thing.’ For Limón, it’s the saying—individual and collective — that transforms each of us into ‘a wound overcome by wonder,’ that allows ‘the wind itself’ to be our ‘own wild whisper.'”

As you read these poems, you might not always be sure whether the lines are magical realism or metaphor. Or both. Or, just how the speaker has seemingly merged with that about which she speaks.

“I saw myself by the Rio Grande watching
a crane swoops down over the collection pond.

I was the fish in the drainage ditch,
you, the crane’s scissoring shadow.”

“Every one of us has a sparrow
underneath her tongue,
bouncing and burrowing.”

“(Sharks are listening right now, I’m sending out signals.)

I’m dreaming of them. I’m wrapping my arms
around their cold, gray, magnificent bodies.

We’re both sleeping
with our shark-eyes open”

The object (or critter) and the observer become one and the same.

Malcolm

National Poetry Month

“National Poetry Month was inaugurated by the Academy of American Poets in 1996. Over the years, it has become the largest literary celebration in the world with schools, publishers, libraries, booksellers, and poets celebrating poetry’s vital place in our culture.

“Thank you for joining in the celebration by listing your events and attending other events in your community, displaying this year’s poster, participating in Poem in Your Pocket Day, recommending the Dear Poet project to a young person, signing up to read a Poem-a-Day, and checking out 30 more ways to celebrate.

Source: National Poetry Month | Academy of American Poets

A time to celebrate for those who write poetry, read poetry, or simply find the existence of poetry makes for a better world.

–Malcolm