06 July 2007

Sylvia Plath's rejected 'Ariel' titles

Sylvia Plath is known for her 'Ariel' poems, poems written mostly throughout the spring and fall of 1962. When she died, she left a more or less completed manuscript under the title of Ariel. I say more or less as Plath was a notorious reviser and re-arranger of her manuscripts.

The Mortimer Rare Book Room at Smith College holds the Ariel poems. Each poem and its drafts is housed in maroon clamshell boxes, custom-made for the archive. They are a must see for any research visitor to the special collection. Many of the poems are written on the verso of manuscript pages of The Bell Jar. In some instances, it is as though the poems are in conversation with the prose.

Occasionally rejected titles reappear later in Plath's work; for example, the poem "Words heard, by accident, over the phone", written on 11 July 1962, has the rejected title of "Words". In the winter of 1963, just days from her suicide, Plath titled another poem "Words". The same goes for "By Candlelight", written on 24 October, 1962, whose original rejected title became one of Plath's most tender, "Nick and the Candlestick" on 29 October 1962.

Lynda K. Bundtzen's The Other Ariel discusses Plath's original order of the poems in wonderful detail. Robin Peel, in Writing Back: Sylvia Plath and Cold War Politics, also gives some of these poems and their rejected titles some attention.

The actual poems appear below in alphabetical order. The rejected title, where a title was rejected, follows in parentheses.

Amnesiac (Amnesiac: The Man with Amnesia)
Among the Narcissi (Octogenarian & Narcissi in a high wind), (Percy Among the Narcissi), and (The Sea at the Door)
The Applicant
An Appearance (The Methodical Woman) and (Song)
Apprehensions (Walls)
Ariel (Lioness of God)
The Arrival of the Bee Box (The Beekeepers Daybook)
Barren Woman
The Bee Meeting (The Beekeeper) and (The Meeting)
A Birthday Present
Burning the Letters
By Candlelight (Nick and the Candlestick) and (Winter by Candlelight)
Child (Paralytic Trap)
Childless Woman
The Courage of Shutting-Up (The Courage of Quietness)
The Couriers
Crossing the Water (Night Country) and (Rock Lake at Night)
Death & Co.
The Detective (The Millstones)
Edge (Nuns in Snow)
Elm (Catching Nothing but an Old Stocking in Winthrop Bay), (A Sea at the Door), (A Wind in the Great Elm), and (The Elm Speaks (published under this title in The New Yorker))
Event (Quarrel)
The Fearful
Fever 103°
For A Fatherless Son (To an Abandoned One)
Getting There
Gulliver (Gulliver in Lilliput)
The Hanging Man
The Jailer
Lady Lazarus
Letter in November
Little Fugue (Fugue: Yew Tree and Clouds), (On Listening to Laura Riding), (Yew Alone), and (Yew Tree in March)
Mary's Song (Song of Mary) and (Sunday)
Medusa (Mum: Medusa)
The Moon and the Yew Tree
The Munich Mannequins (The Bald Mannequins)
Nick and the Candlestick
The Night Dances
The Other (The Other One) and (Mannequin)
Pheasant (The Pheasant)
Poppies in July
Poppies in October
The Rabbit Catcher (Snares)
A Secret
Sheep in Fog (Fog Sheep)
Stings (early version)
Stopped Dead
The Swarm (The Bees)
Thalidomide (Half-Moon)
The Tour
Winter Trees (Trees) and (Trees in Winter)
Words heard, by accident, over the phone (Words)

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