Ariel in Black Hard Copy

The 2015 debut poetry collection by Michelle R. Smith

"The original text [Ariel by Sylvia Plath] captured, for me, what it must have been like for Plath as an intelligent, ambitious, complicated, creative, and passionate woman in the mid-twentieth century that also happened to be white, middle class, and educated—and so privileged. I thought it’d be interesting to take the pieces of these poems and use them to reimagine Plath’s project. To write a series of pieces that speak in the voice of an intelligent, ambitious, complicated, creative, and passionate woman in the early decades of the twenty-first century. That also happens to be black, middle class, and educated—uniquely balanced on the margin between privilege and privation." ~ Michelle R. Smith

"Ariel in Black consists of cento, persona, and confessional poems, exposing the nature of true grief. Smith explodes Plath’s work in order to embody and transcend what is considered to be the final word on grief. She does so in a way that rebukes Plath’s narrative as one to replace her own and leaves us grasping for solid ground. Each piece travels straight down the page, causing in us a drowning... In Smith’s masterful hands, we find our lifeboats through repetition, tempo, and the ring of a struck question. Ariel in Black is an accomplishment in both aesthetics and new tradition. It is the kind of work that asks us to examine the ways in which we participate in the erasure of our own narrative and calls for reclamation." ~ Krystal Sierra 


Cento No. 2



You are the one

Storming the hilltop—

God’s lioness

Whose red heart blooms through her coat so astoundingly.



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