Thursday, March 09, 2006

Lady Lazarus

Sylvia Plath

Listen (Plath reads)

I have done it again.
One year in every ten
I manage it-----

A sort of walking miracle, my skin
Bright as a Nazi lampshade,
My right foot

A paperweight,
My face a featureless, fine
Jew linen.

Peel off the napkin
O my enemy.
Do I terrify?-----

Yes, yes Herr Professor
It is I.
Can you deny

The nose, the eye pits, the full set of teeth?
The sour breath
Will vanish in a day.

Soon, soon the flesh
The grave cave ate will be
At home on me

And I a smiling woman.
I am only thirty.
And like the cat I have nine times to die.

This is Number Three.
What a trash
To annihilate each decade.

What a million filaments.
The peanut-crunching crowd
Shoves in to see

Them unwrap me hand and foot-----
The big strip tease.
Gentlemen, ladies

These are my hands
My knees.
I may be skin and bone, I may be Japanese,

Nevertheless, I am the same, identical woman.
The first time it happened I was ten.
It was an accident.

The second time I meant
To last it out and not come back at all.
I rocked shut

As a seashell.
They had to call and call
And pick the worms off me like sticky pearls.

Is an art, like everything else.
I do it exceptionally well.

I do it so it feels like hell.
I do it so it feels real.
I guess you could say I've a call.

It's easy enough to do it in a cell.
It's easy enough to do it and stay put.
It's the theatrical

Comeback in broad day
To the same place, the same face, the same brute
Amused shout:

'A miracle!'
That knocks me out.
There is a charge.

For the eyeing of my scars, there is a charge
For the hearing of my heart-----
It really goes.

And there is a charge, a very large charge
For a word or a touch
Or a bit of blood

Or a piece of my hair or my clothes.
So, so, Herr Doktor.
So, Herr Enemy.

I am your opus,
I am your valuable,
The pure gold baby

That melts to a shriek.
I turn and burn.
Do not think I underestimate your great concern.

Ash, ash--
You poke and stir.
Flesh, bone, there is nothing there-----

A cake of soap,
A wedding ring,
A gold filling.

Herr God, Herr Lucifer

Out of the ash
I rise with my red hair
And I eat men like air.

This recording was made for the British Council only days after the poem was written and is slightly longer than the version published posthumously in the collection 'Ariel'.

Sylvia Plath's "Lady Lazarus" is not what it first appears to be, a straightforward poem about suicide. The poem is a reaction to the oppressive patriarchy of the early sixties, a culture that did not welcome or support her. Plath absorbed the social cues and customs that alienated her, and explored and reacted to them in her writing. Plath's later poems, which include "Lady Lazarus," reveal her feelings of resentment that grew from being trapped in this cyclical and oppressive atmosphere, and the feeling of being blocked and prevented from truly achieving. In "Lady Lazarus," Plath's autobiographical account of her suicide, she expresses her anger at these restrictions while exploring themes of confinement, repression, and how it feels to live as a woman artist in a male-dominated society. She uses simile and cryptic historical allusions as a way of distancing herself from her inner being, and the disjointed structure of the poem shows seething emotions that are desperately fighting their way to the surface. - and more from the one guide the galaxy swears by, the h2g2.

A brief biography.


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