Sylvia Plath Forum

Poetry Analysis/ Discussion

Lady Lazarus

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 featureless, fine
Jew linen.

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

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.
Gentleman , ladies

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

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 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 on 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.

Expression should not be limited by political correctness. Anyhow, this song has not much to do with the holocaust; this was used to describe a feeling of insufferable torture and helplessness. She has the right to use what ever mean that allows her to express her feelings and thoughts. I could see how some people might find this offensive, but if this is what she had felt, there is no reason to belt it up.

A. Amsterdamer
Netanya, Israel
Tuesday, 6 Jun 2006

Some very insightful and thoughtful comments here! Just a couple I wanted to add for some to perhaps mull over.... there were rumours during WW2 that the Nazis made lampshades out of human skin. In particular the it was at Buchenwald and apparently at the request of its commander Karl Koch's wife. Lines 4-5 could be a direct reference to this (also bear in mind in this interpretation it could be an indirect reference to the light/strength/soul within?) and lines 6-9 further development.

Lisa Jensen
Ballarat, Australia
Wednesday, March 22, 2006

"Lady Lazarus" is Plath expressing, in her own words, 'the agony of being reborn'.

For me, Plath's resentment of those who care for her has always been evident in this piece, her frustration at their inability to understand her despair and unwillingness to carry on with her life, or indeed begin another one...each time she 'rises' from a kind of death (her suicide attempts) she is overwhelmed by people pressuring her as she returns wearily to the 'same place, the same place'and tries to start again.

This poem has a wonderful rhythm to it, like an incantation for a spell, confessional, unforgiving and unusual.

Plath did have an obsession with death, though not to the extent of, say, Anne Sexton, who seemed obsessed with suicide, namely hers- but Sexton, a friend of Plath's, did once recall the endless conversations the two had about their experience with suicide, saying they were drawn 'like moths to an electric light bulb'.

Sam MacIntosh
London, UK
Thursday, November 24, 2005

This poem has intrigued me since I first read The Bell Jar as a teenager in high school in the snowy mountains of Western Massachusetts. I do feel that a great deal of it is autobiographical but it also has inspiration from disparate sources. None of us is that simple that one experience or one feeling defines us completely, and the same is true of Sylvia Plath. There was so much more to her than her suicide attempts; there was so much more to her than being married to Ted Hughes; there was so much more to her than being a mother; there was so much more to her than being a poet - and I think that that is what those last two lines indicate - that in her world, in her lifetime, it was okay, even normal, expected for a man to have multiple facets of his character, but a woman was, to the public, one dimensional, and she was not - and in fact she has risen, to overcome that dominate male perpetuation of what a woman is in her lifetime, because she goes on after her lifetime. A brilliant piece of poetry that I intend to use with my students out here in male dominated Saudi Arabia!

Farah Osman Nurse
Jeddah , KSA
Wednesday, October 26, 2005

Just an interesting observation. It is true that this poem is about death, and her love-hate relationship with it. In a class discussion I had, it was observed that the speaker here seemed to become stronger at the end of the poem. The fact that Lazarus is now crowned "Lady" says something, that she associates with female power. Lazarus was someone in the Bible raised by God, but at the end, it seemed like she has gained power, as now she has risen on her own "out of the ash", from the dead, without help from God or the doctor, like a pheonix with her "red hair". Critics likening Plath to a feminist writer would definitely cite her "eat[ing] men like air" to their advantage, and also the abovementioned point of her naming the poem "Lady Lazarus".

Saturday, September 3, 2005

Sylvia Plath doesn't only relate her poem to the Holocaust. She relates her poem to many different things. She changes throughout the poem so various types of audiences can relate the her and how she feels tortured. She relates her poem to the Bible, to the Holocaust, to medical view points, she also relates her poem to things that were most likely lying on the desk while she wrote the poem. The readers just need to analyze her poem deeper to understand that.

Texas , USA
Tuesday, May 3 , 2005

This poem is really about Sylvia's suicides attempts and near death experiences. Her references to Nazis and Jews is actually a metaphor also used in "Daddy", and is really painting a picture for the reader. Like the Jews in the Holocaust, she is a victim, while the doctors and others figures are her oppressors like the Nazis.

The poem begins after she has been saved from death for the third time. Although she is a terrifying corpse she will soon become the woman she was again, she will return to normality. Concerned people have become spectators watching a show, not caring for her, only wanting excitement.

She refers to a near-death accident from when she was ten, then refers to a suicide attempt in her twenties. Her attempts have now become a show, an act she performs very well. Yet she is still amazed by people's awe each time she is "saved". Still amazed that they could be so entertained and excited when they eye her scars and realise what she did. She is their "valuable", their "opus", which they display.

She knows how worried they are but she burns like a phoenix, and although she is ash, leaving little to remember her by, she warns both God and the Devil, which could merely represent faith, she refers to them as "Herr", oppressors, her enemy, she warns them that she will rise again and will "eat men like air" she will go on living, wreaking havoc just as before, because although she may try to die, although she may get close "like a cat" she has "nine times to die."

Normal , USA
Tuesday, March 8, 2004

What a great site. "Lady Lazarus" is also one of my favorite SP poems. I don't think the Holocaust interpretation should be overly emphasized. But it is a powerful theme of this poem. As has been observed however, there are several themes present. Obviously her mental illness and subsequent suicide attempts is one of the more important themes of this poem: "And like the cat I have nine times to die. This is Number Three." There are three verified times that we know for sure she tried to commit suicide. Sylvia was greatly traumatized by the electro-shock treatments she received after her suicide attempt and that is one of the emotional forces of "Lady Lazarus". Also because she was German the helplessness and powerless of the Holocaust victims are referenced her in her attempt to surface from the horror of human trauma. Her abilities as a writer, to synthesized so many elements: the intellectual experiences of learning, personal emotional experiences and general human experiences. It is a testament to her abilities as a poet that she spins such disparate elements into such artistic gold.

Kerry Ann
Tuesday, February 22, 2005

This powerful poem , which was written by controversial and somewhat disturbed author Sylvia Plath has proved to be one of the most acclaimed and appreciated works of poetry of all time. This is very strange, being as the poem, as well as most of Plath's work, became famous after the poet's death. The poem, which displays a barrage of themes, can be taken many different ways. The speaker could be a creature, a person, or even some sort of spirit. In terms of a creature, it is definitely well-emphasized that the speaker could be a mythical phoenix. As a person, it is believed that the speaker could be a survivor of some horrible experience.

One theory that definitely has many indications in the text is the speculation that the speaker was a survivor of the Holocaust. The speaker could be someone who saw such horrible things that they felt like dying, like forgetting the camps, yet they held on. However, the text points to the fact that maybe those scars never healed. The first and probably the most obvious reference to this is "for the eyeing of my scars, there is a charge" (line 60). Although there is an obvious connection to a money charge, it may actually be a physical charge, a spasm of memory. The speaker could be seeing the scars, adamant or not, and could suddenly relive the horrible memories. "I rise with my red hair" (line 85) is another clue, yet it is much more subtle than the first. The hair could be that of a human. The "with" is key. This could be pointing towards the fact that before she rose, she did not have the hair that she is describing. Could the Nazi guards have shaved it off? Yet now, she has risen from the ash of the Holocaust, and out of bravery, her hair has grown back. The last piece of evidence is the continuous indications of "decade[s]" or "ten years" (lines 2, 26). Could this have something to do with the Holocaust, or post Holocaust events? Is it possible that she is talking about some kind of memorial that takes place every ten years? It could be possible. All these things point to the fact that the Holocaust was something Plath had on her mind as she wrote "Lady Lazarus".

One of the first things that should be pointed out in the poem is the subtle and very mysterious clues to the fact that the speaker is a phoenix. The phoenix was the name given to mythical bird with red feathers (line 83) by the Ancient Greeks. The bird had the power to resurrect itself after it died in its nest and then it was reborn from the ash (line 84). The resurrection, which Plath sometimes refers to as "it", especially from stanza 1, is a direct or actually subtle poke at the phoenix. Lastly, it is common knowledge that practice makes perfect. In stanza 15, Plath says, "I do it exceptionally well", meaning that that after resurrection herself so many times, she is almost a pro.

It is evident that Sylvia Plath had more than one theme on her mind when she wrote "Lady Lazarus". The certain things described in this essay are what seem to be the most interesting components of this poem. They are all backed up with evidence from Plath's writing. Nobody could describe the themes better than Plath herself, yet even if she wanted to, she wouldn't.

Bayonne, New Jersey , USA
Wednesday, November 10, 2004

I'm not sure how much I can help with this because although I know I've read about this episode, I can't remember which book I read it in or exactly what it said. I've just ransacked my bookshelves trying to find the reference but can't! It is probably in Rough Magic by Paul Alexander as that is the one I have read most recently (although this book is not published in the UK it is easy to get on Amazon UK - highly recommended) - if not that, then possibly The Death and Life of Sylvia Plath by Ronald Hayman as I re-read that before Rough Magic. Anyway, all that I can remember is that the author interviewed someone who remembered Sylvia showing them a scar on her throat and telling them that when she was around ten she had cut her throat 'by mistake' - she, I think, made a kind of joke out of it and abruptly changed the subject so nobody knows whether it really happened, or if it did whether it was really an accident or a suicide attempt or some kind of deliberate self-harm. I do remember that the friend of hers who she told this to said she did definitely have a scar on her throat.

Hope this helps - sorry I can't be more exact!

Morney Wilson
London, UK
Saturday, June 19, 2004

Reading "Lady Lazarus" after purchasing Ariel, I am intrigued by the following line:

"The first time it happened I was ten.

It was an accident."

Can anyone please explain the meaning of this line? I have read countless biographies of Plath online, and none of them have referenced this incident.

Any help is greatly appreciated.

Vass Karadakova
North Yorkshire, UK
Monday, February 23, 2004

I was shocked reading the different interpretations of Plath's poem. In regards to Richard in Vancouver, I agree that Plath had every right to use the holocoust as a metaphor. It is absurd however, to say that she was not sucessful! Of course she was. She wrote a controversial poem that continues to evoke emotion in people, and I believe that is the intended idea here, as well as in art in general. Obviously, Richard and many others were not able to connect with where the poet was coming from. Some people have never been near those depths, and clearly cannot begin to touch the intensity and horror felt by the poet.

As far as what Heather in Middleburgh, NY wrote about it not being a beautiful poem: She is entitled to her opinion, but should she it for what it is--one person's limited point of view. Many people have found beauty in Plath's powerful symbolism and "taboo" subject matter. People, who understand her piece from a different vantage point.

To me, Lady Lazarus has a voice of courage, sarcasm, and wit. A voice coming from a place of strength, not emotional defeat.

Jessie Hozid
Wausau, WI, USA
Sunday, January 25, 2004

The Nazi-Jew imagery has a twist...instead of the doctor/Nazi torturing her/Jew(s)and taking her life away, he tortures her and brings her back to life.The whole idea of experimenting and achieving eureka!esque success("It's a miracle")is reminiscent of the Nazi doctors experimenting on the Jews. Also note the sea imagery-the oyster and the pearl...startling and vivid.

Xarya Tahirih
Vadodara, India
Saturday, January 17, 2004

The suggestions so far have been extremely insightful, however, like every one else I have my own opinion as to the sub plot of the poem. Sylvia Plath was terribly anxious and paranoid about other people's perception of her, not only as a writer, but as a student, teacher, wife and as a daughter. The reference to a "peanut-cruncing crowd" suggests Sylvia's belief that she was constantly being gossiped about, or that she had to prove herself to her peers and colleagues.These feelings haunted Sylvia, which is very sad as they were completely unnecessary- almost all of her peers and colleagues thought she was an amazingly talented student and teacher, and as I'm sure you will all agree, an absolutely astonishing writer!

Hannah Lovelock
Pontypridd, Wales
Monday, December 1, 2003

I find Lady Lazarus one of my favourite poems. I do think that one needs almost a similar experience in life to fully understand this poem. I myself have been in a mental hospital, it does feel as though you are rather more an interesting object, rather than a real person at times in the doctors eyes...(them being too busy to fully understand their patients)because you are seen as "mentally ill" in some ways you are feel you are not a fully rounded person in such an environmet...and of course in Plath's day they had much more strange ideas of therapy, (i.e. electro-shock treatment) Sometimes in such a sedative state you feel as though the doctor's and nurses are really there as an audience, the illness taking up all pre-occupations.

In this poem she is also describing the number of times she has tried to kill herself. The "Herr God, Herr Lucifer" may be her opinion of the doctors who take on a sudden foreboding importance, i.e they almost control the opinions and future of patient, they are there to make the judgements...they have positive and negative effects. There is of course the concentration camp ideas. I think the last line shows a very feminist side, she will rise and make her own opinions, eventually.

Grays, UK
Monday, October 13, 2003


A lot of references to being feasted upon, even being brought back to life and for what great purpose? Is it a miracle or a curse? The irony is in her tongue-in-cheek optimism towards achieving death, which relative to the hell on earth she lives in, seems at least a well-considered alternative. Maybe even her "call". I think she writes like she knows what she has: a unique voice, passion, she is not intimidated by her own vulnerabilities.

Salt Lake City, USA
Wednesday, October 8, 2003

I have read each and every posting here in this forum and I find that everyone has their own personal grasp of what they feel "Lady Lazarus" is about. I don't think that there is any one way to describe Sylvia Plath's poetry.

There was one comment made here that I don't quite agree with. The comment was, "You only understand Sylvia Plath poems if you understand her life and what she went through all her life." I don't believe that. I believe that someone can read a poem by Sylvia Plath and immediately connect with it and understand the contents. There is only one person who truly knows the meaning behind every word and that is Sylvia Plath herself.

I find "Lady Lazarus" to be intoxicating and beautiful yet at the same time sad. I find many different meanings in her work. If you're able to, sometimes you have to read between the lines.

Amy Westbrook
Barrie, Ontario, Canada
Wednesday, October 1, 2003

Was anyone who listened to the BBC recording of Lady Lazarus (my personal favourite) really shocked by her voice? I realise that it was just a recording but it sounded different to what I expected, it was deeper I think. I know it isn't a major point but I just wondered if anyone else felt the same.

Monaghan, Ireland
Wednesday, October 1, 2003

As a point of information, when Sylvia Plath recorded this poem in London in October 1962 for the BBC, her version was slightly longer than the one that was published. After line 12 of the published poem, "Do I terrify?" The recital goes on "Yes, yes, Herr Professor, it is I. Can you deny" and then continues as published with "The nose, the eye pits.." Also after line 33 "I may be skin and bone" she adds "I may be Japanese." I hope this may be of interest to those of you not familiar with the recording.

A lot of comments have picked up on the Nazi concentration camp imagery in the poem, but there are also references in there to the victims of the atom bombs dropped on Hiroshima and Nagasaki. The most obvious reference is the line "I may be Japanese" which is included in the version of the poem Sylvia recited for the BBC, but which she later edited out. However there are references in the poem to ash and burning that I think relate to Hiroshima.

Wakefield, England
Saturday, June 7, 2003

I have been a fan of Ms. Plath for many years now and from my first reading of her poem "Lady Lazarus" I felt robbed and thrilled. Robbed because I had already lived the poem and thrilled that someone else had been able to pen my experience properley. Her referances to suicidal attemps at an early age rang true for me for I was ten when I "attempted" the first. 'One in every ten'. Doing it so it feels like hell is something I stumbled onto when I was thirteen and my love affair with razor blades begain. Ms. Plath's comment on charging to see her scars made me laugh out loud since when you have scars of that nature, that are so self explanitory, you find your mental wellbeing on constent display and up for anylization. Her interest in the Nazis is also a common one since I have very personal ties to the atrocities that were perpitrated against humanity at that time in human history, so I for one do not take offense at her making application of it in her poetry.

Suicide or the attempt thereof, is a very personal and vunerable thing. Yet throughtout the poem Ms. Plath retained a sort of in-your-face kind of strenghth, especially in the last line. She eats men like air. The violence of this statement is jolting in its intensity, and it reflects the sanguine soul within a person that is contemplating or has attempted suicide. Sylvia bares some of her soul and all of her teeth in this poem and I love it.

C. Hutchinson
Richmond Hill, USA
Monday, December 23, 2002

I don't know if this is just me or what but first of all I think that she is talking about her invincibility in the face of the suicide attempts that she had made. She talks about herself like she's the cat that had nine lives. She was commenting on the fact that twice she tried to kill herself and twice it did not work. The third time however she managed to get it right. I think though that when she went into the situation she did not think she was going to succeeded. This poem kind of shows that. She keept talking about how she came back from the dead but the third time she didn't. I have the feeling she is out there somewhere still waiting to be woken up. Also if you think about she well never die. Her poetry will be here practically forever. Her poems are a part of her and as long as they have readers she will still be alive. My last comment is about what I've heard people say about Plaths poetry. They talk about how beautiful it is. It is NOT beautiful. It's tragic, controversial, intelligent, intriguing, tormented, mysterious, frightening, sad, and skilfully written as well as many other things but it is NOT beautiful. It just is. You can't really compare apples to oranges when it comes to Plath. She deserves much better than that and I think that she would want people to see her poetry as what it really is. Sometimes you have to seperate the poet from the poetry. I think when people read her poetry they think about her and confuse her beautiful soul with the poetry. Thanks for listening everyone hope I didn't offend anyone.

Middleburgh, NY, USA
Wednesday, December 4, 2002

Maybe I have just completely missed the meaning of this poem but to me some of the things people said just didn't match up with the things I was reading. This is about her various suicide attempts. When she says "The peanut-crunching crowd, shove in to see, them unwrap me, hand in foot, the big striptease" I think she is referring to the fact that all she is to the public is entertainment. A piece of scandal that they pass freely around as they shove their way through crowds to get a glimpse of her dead body. She just goes on to describe the first 2 times. The first an accident. The second time she didn't mean to come back at all. She didn't want to, they tired and tried to revive her and much to her dismay they won out. The last line is her laughing in the face of men, her power over them stronger than they can fathom: "I eat men like air."

Paignton, England
Thursday, November 14, 2002

How did Sylvia want us to read this poem? Then perhaps we can try and interpret it. It's an over powering emotion of being trapped in a Partrarcial world and having no escape. Even death escapes her. A lot of her poetry is very black and dark colours make there way into her world. This poem uses imagery of historical people and events that took place to explain intense and painful emotions.This poem is very theatrical.

Melbourne, Australia
Thursday, November 7, 2002

I would like to submit the idea that the narrator in this poem is both a Nazi and a Jew... figuratively of course. The struggle for control is the main trope here. There is some strange power in victimhood, Foucault would agree. I do not mean to insult Jews or make light of the Holocaust, but confessional poetry is a realm unto itself, and Plath's poetry deserves to be read as such, so that it can be appreciated. The struggle between Life and Death is a dichotomy, with neither very appeasing for the narrator. The power on either side is unwanted, it is as if the narrator wants to break free of this relationship and lose that power struggle altoghter.

Eugene, OR, USA
Thursday, October 17, 2002

Plath's "Lady Lazarus" is about her various suicide attempts and the general approach she has towards life, one does not find it an easy poem to read.Sylvia plath uses subjective , symbolic and creative language techniques which present to the reader her thoughts and emotions. The poem is one which is rich with language devices describing plaths memories and feelings about suicide. Plath believes she has an empathy with those awaiting death, she brags about being the opus - a work of art yet she is a manic depressive. The great A.Alvarez best described Lady Lazarus as "bare, but vivid and precise in language".

"Do I terrify". Yes Sylvia Plath - you do !

Matt Hannagan
Dunedin, New Zealand
Sunday, October 13, 2002

I think those who are offended by Plath's reference to Nazi's have got the wrong end of the stick. She uses these images of the dark and grotesque parts of death. As an intellegent woman, Plath realised that the holocaust was the most horrorfying thing to happen in the 20th century and she uses this to show us the horror that is in her head. She shows us her disgust at the things the nazis did. There is no disrespect in her; it shows her great compassion and understanding at what the jews went through.

Seymour, Australia
Sunday, October 13, 2002

I've read a few disections of this poem, but this is the meaning I found to be the most accurate. Sylvia suffers greatly, nearly as much as the Jews did in the holocaust. Which is expressed though the various representations of Nazi torment techqunices and devices. The lamp shade, starvation causing the eye pits to show, gauntlike for example. She is comparing herself to a Jew. The other, is her sucicidal ways and attempts. She is a walking nightmare, yet is still alive, she has made various attempts at dying, but is still here. This is absurd in her eyes. Then next day, she'll be okay, after such suffering. Common symptoms of a Bipolar. This is expressed in this line: "The sweet sour breath will vanish in a day." and "Soon, soon the flesh, the grave cave ate will be at home." Is showing the constant struggle and back and forth battle of the bipolar. "Ash Ash, you poke and stir, Flesh bone their's nothing there." is a line to her mother I believe. She is telling her she is dead inside with emotions too abused to stir up by a concerned mother. The wedding ring symbolizes her marrige which didn't do much good also to make her happy. Death is superior to living for loved ones. Most bipolars have many suicide attempts before the final one, they struggle between normalness depression, and hopelessness. All the while really feeling hopeless, and doomed. I really do think that is what this poem is mostly about. Sylvia has managed to turn her misery into art, poetry, and her various ways of suicide and artist expression also. I feel the same way. I am no educated critic, or anaylist, so I could be wrong, but from someone who has been in the same situation, this is what I have gathered.

Monday, September 30, 2002

The most intereting aspect of this string of thoughts is that everyone seems to interpret Plath from their own perspectives: people who feel strongly about the the Holocaust being a event unique to Jewry protest anyone else referencing it in their work; feminists argue that the Holocaust references have something to do with rape (??? if you can show me where, in her memoirs, she mentions being abused please let me know); and so on. The important aspect of her work is she was from the school of "confession" poets. This stuff is about her life. It should be interpreted from Plath's perspective, not from the perspective of a reader with ulterior motives: clearly Lady Lazarus is about suicide, written by a lady suffering mentally, and about to commit the ultimate tragic act. The Nazi refernces are about her mental torture, and the insignificance of the human body after death.

Baltimore, USA
Monday, April 15, 2002

What are you guys on about? This has nothing to do with the holocaust (though I had to skim read a lot of crap). Yes it's a metaphorphorical representation of present and past event in a psychotically disturbed (with good reason) mind to nazi-run country.

Plainly it's obvious it's her method of coping with brutalities suffered such as rape and 'feeling used' probably a state she was in when she wrote it after her suicide attempts.

She uses a wide audience appealing style of writing including black humour and twisted cold irony to make her subtle points (for those that want to know).

London, UK
Saturday, March 30, 2002

Plath is a poet like any other. I agree with Karma that she certainly has the right to use whatever imagery or words she likes: this is what poetry about. I think Lady Lazarus, aside from the concept of ressurection, argues female power. The use of the harsh 'powerful' light from the Nazi lampshade which her outwardly appearance contrasts with the innocent weaker 'featureless, fine Jew linen' which describes her deteriation. That's all it is; a metaphor, don't get so wound up to think she was mirroring herself to a Jew, playing with words is good poetry.

Pontypridd, UK
Friday, March 8, 2002

As a now-and-again depressive and a supremely bad poet... Here are my opinions for what they count.

Any poet has the right to use whatever imagery he or she feels fit to try and describe what they feel. With some people, that image will succeed and with others it won't. There's no "isuue" involved. I don't think she meant any disrespect to any people involved in the Holocaust - she just feels as discriminated against as them, feels as much pain as them; and may I point out, one can discriminate against onself.

Also, she might not even be comparing herself to them. She might be using the Holocaust as a frame of reference - a brief image - one not even important to what she is really trying to do, which is - to encapsulate her suffering.

I'm probably not being very clear and lucid here so I guess I'll stop.

Karachi, Pakistan
Monday, February 25, 2002

In studying "Lady Lazarus" I have tried to get the main point. I find it difficult normally to work out the images used in poetry, but here I found it easier to do this because it is similar to "Daddy". Tell me if I am right or not. She compares herself to being delicate and has brought herself back to life, like Lazarus from the Bible, who was brought hack to life by Jesus. The poem was written just after PLath has attempted suicide. She wants to die so much, but she can't do this physically. She uses black humor and cruel irony to emphasise the point that she has tried to commit suicide twice before and she is only thirty years old.

So, can someone tell me if I am on the right road or not- I'd really appreciate it!! Thanks!

Glasgow, Scotland
Thursday, December 13, 2001

I believe that the beauty and magic of poetry is that the writer has the freedom to express themselves freely to the greatest extent. Criticising the fact that Plath has chosen to write her poem (Lady Lazarus) as though she experienced the Holocaust is unfair because I feel, as a poet, she has the write to express herself without being victim to comments such as "she has no right!" If people were to tell me that about the poems that I write, I would be totally turned off writing!!!

Vicki Kabalika
Dar-Es-Salaam, Tanzania
Wednesday, December 5, 2001

Writing poems is the very best way of expresing your feelings, thoughts, and opinions it's also a gift from God, and therefore no-one has the right to criticise ones work. I also think that imagery in poems is very appropriate because that is the only way the poet is able to connect deeply with the audience and that is why Slyvia Plath has chosen "as the nazi lampshade" to give a vivid picture of what she is expressing. You only understand Sylvia Plath poems if you understand her life and what she went through all her life. I personaly like reading her poems and analysing them to fully understand the beautiful work of her.

Lauryn Mopiwa
Dar es salaam, Tanzania
Wednesday, December 5, 2001

You say Plath has the right to compare herself to a Jew in the Holocaust. Well, fine. Nobody was about to stop her from expressing what she really felt. However the result was not sucessful because it obviously left a great deal of people thinking that she had no basis for such a comparison. She was not Jewish. She didn't live through the Holocaust. And her suffering was due in large part to herself. Jews were persecuted, not a bunch of suicidals. So, if you want to say she has the right then fine, she does. But the result is that it fails. She only alienates the reader.

Vancouver, Canada
Sunday, December 2, 2001

To all the small-minded and ignorant people who were 'disgusted" by the Holocaust aspect of her poetry? You all say 'she doesn't have the right...' well YES SHE DOES!! any poet has the right to express what they feel and this powerful imagery she uses is what makes us appreciate her poetry so greatly and build empathy for not only her pain but for what the jews had to endure also. I am a poet myself and the people making these comments about Plath must be completely oblivious to the joy of free expression. If rules applied when writing poetry i centainly wouldn't write anymore... That is the rare beauty of poetry.

Byron Bay, Australia
Wednesday, November 28, 2001

While Plath is an excellent poet and her meanings are portrayed vividly I don't believe that she has the right to compare her personal sufferings to that of the Jews. Nobody knows how the victims of the Holocaust feel, especially an American from a middle class family.

Chris Davis
Newcastle, Australia
Wednesday, October 24, 2001

Sylvia Plath wrote many poems that expressed her suicidal tendencies and longing to cease to exist. However, some people that I have talked to have veered towards the idea that this poem is more of an angry, venting poem that rather than focusing on her depression focuses on her irritation for those who viewed her depression as something that was abnormal, strange, and according to society, wrong. If this poem is viewed not as a suicide note, but rather a poem mocking those who oppose her way of thinking, a person can begin to see it in a whole different light--dripping with sarcasm and a superiority complex.

Jordanne Fletcher
Oregon, USA
Tuesday, June 19, 2001

I personally think that this poem is at least partially autobiographical. The second time she died, she "meant to last it out and not come back at all." This would have been when she was around 20 -- 'The Bell Jar' era, during which she was certainly suicidal. There are three deaths and rebirths in Lady Lazarus. Plath is often looked at as "crazy" or whatever other synonym you'd like to use in its place. Death is her power, over the peanut-crunching crowd, over the freak show. There is so much sarcasm, and even more spite. Do not think I underestimate your great concern. With death -- and the rebirth, like a phoenix -- comes her control. Let them watch me die, give them a show, survive for spite -- they are in awe and she is in control, smiling, the same exact woman. Lady Lazarus is largely reactionary, to having so many people always staring, expecting something. She would make fools out of them, and have her own knowing revenge. She makes it even... even if in the end she is the one to suffer.

Thursday, May 17, 2001

The thing that makes Plath's poetry beautiful is not at all her death. I think it has more to do with her struggle with life. Granted, she was unarguably mentally ill and the concept of death (which is constantly in and between the lines of nearly every poem) appealed to her, but there were things about life she loved. From what I gather, Plath was a very passionate person, and this is manifested in her work. Her ability to capture life, the struggle with it, is what touches me personally. Everyone has struggled in their own way with the world. Plath just struggled on a much more intense level and was able to express it in personal, sensuous and brillant terms. I think that her name is now associated with too many cliches and negative images. There are also dozens and dozens of sites on the internet alone that speak about Plath as if they were close personal friends of hers and had a brunch with her yesterday. I think all of this is absurd. Her life was fascinating and her death deeply tragic, but on a literary level these things should only be taken into account as insight into her work. It wasn't her death that was brilliant. It was what she did with her life, with her brain and her heart. It was the way she could write a poem that is both intelligent and heart-wrenching, and it is the way she echoes our fears that we are too afraid to discuss. So you can't take the poet's life out of the poem, but you can take all the bullshit connotations out of it and recognize her as a writer instead of a spectacle. Some people can really be the peanut crunching crowd! Anyway, that's just my opinion...

Detroit, USA
Wednesday, May 16, 2001

In Lady Lazarus she is talking about her fascination with killing herself, but immediately sets herself up as the victim, comparing herself with the oppressed Jews. The poem isn't really telling a story, but is one representative image after another. Plath seems out to destroy what she doesn't like about herself. A few words you might like to add into an essay: sadism, masochism, character renewal.

Charlie Brown
Sunday, May 6, 2001

I love this poem! I have been reading Sylvia Plath since 3 years ago, and this is the first poem I ever read. This illustrates a very real struggle between life and death that intrigues me. She discusses her suicide attempts and failures in a very well written form. This poem includes a lot of emotion and is a great tribute to a great poet.

Mayfield Hts, USA
Wednesday, April 18, 2001

Lady Lazarus repeats the struggle between Nazi and Jew which is used in Daddy, with the Nazi atrocities a background across which the amazing, self-renewing speaker strides. The speaker orchestrates every aspect of her show, attempting to undermine the power an audience would normally have over her. She controls her body, instead of being a passive object of other eyes.

The speaker orders her enemy to Peel off the napkin, telling the audience that there is a charge for her performance, but death to her is nothing but a big strip tease. Do I terrify? she asks rhetorically, she knows her effect on them. Lady Lazarus intentionally contributes to the spectacle that fetishises her; she compartmentalises herself, These are my hands, / My knees, harshly mocking the gentlemen and ladies as she reveals their morbid avidity. She is both pitying and scornful: Do not think I underestimate your great concern. Her disenfleshment at the hands of the enemy, viewed avidly by the peanut-crunching crowd, is something that she wills, just as she wills her own renewal. It is her comeback, both a reappearance in life and a snappy retort to her ghoulish audience. No longer needing approval, she provides the answers. Her performance is self-sufficient, she does not need their applause.

A propulsive quality in the poem is contributed by the assonances (all, call, well, hell, real, call, cell, theatrical) and the tercets, their succinctness adding to an inevitable motion towards the end. The repetitions also give her speech an incantatory quality. Lady Lazarus, as she remembers her first death, is given a choice between life and death, between the living, who had to call and call, and deaths vocation, I guess you could say Ive a call. The latter call to dying compels her in a way the other does not. The process of renewal is exhilirating, a childish, triumphant shriek accompanies it as she immolates herself. She rises out of the ashes, rejoicing in the power that she has over mere mortal men: I eat men like air.

A contributing factor to the affective quality of Plaths work is that it appears so inseparable from the drama (and dramatisation) of her life and death. As Barbara Hardy notes,

The personal presence in the poetry, though dynamic and shifting, makes itself felt in a full and large sense, in feeling, thinking, and language. (from Enlargement or Derangement? Ariel Ascending: Writings About Sylvia Plath, Paul Alexander, ed. (New York: Harper and Row Publishers, 1985))

Like Lady Lazarus who co-ordinates her own performance, Plath is also in control, fully aware of the different perceptions her poetry engenders. That readers might identify her with the I in her work is one of these possibilities. This is an understandable tendency, since the I is so emphatically foregrounded in the majority of her poetry. However, Plaths poetry contains so many different Is it would be impossible to say that they are all her. Gigolo, for example, has a male speaker can one say that this I is Plath? Elizabeth Hardwick adds that,

We cannot truly separate the work from the fascination and horror of the death... It is interesting to make the effort to read Sylvia Plaths poems as if she were still alive. They are just as brilliant, just as much creations of genius, but they are obscured and altered. Blood, reds, the threats do not impress themselves so painfully upon us. (from On Sylvia Plath, Ariel Ascending: Writings About Sylvia Plath)

Hardwick suggests the visceral power of Plaths poetry relies on the circumstances of her death. I do not believe this is true. The impact of a poem like Lady Lazarus does not rely on the sensational aspect of her death at all its energy runs independent of it. So, to subtract Plath from her poetry would be senseless. Al Alvarez adds that hindsight can alter the historical importance but not the quality of the verse (from Sylvia Plath: A Memoir Ariel Ascending: Writings About Sylvia Plath). The sense of threat impressed so painfully on Hardwick will not fade because the emotional power in Plaths work can never be diminished.

Ivy Imbuido
Hobart, Tasmania, Australia
Monday, April 9, 2001

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