Epizeuxis in Sylvia Plath’s Poetry

Epizeuxis (ep-ih-zook-sis) is the immediate repetition of a word one or more times, as indicated by the underlined words in the following excerpts from the poetry of Sylvia Plath (1932-1963):

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,
Beware
Beware.

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

(from Lady Lazarus)

This is a nice little device that’s not too difficult to get a handle on. Moreover, it can pack a punch when used effectively. Note that the repeated word’s article and modifier are included in this next example:

I do not stir.
The frost makes a flower,
The dew makes a star,
The dead bell,
The dead bell.

Somebody’s done for.

(from Death & Co.)

Aside from the pleasant sound its repetition creates, the device is a stylistic favorite of Plath’s. It imbues the speaker’s voice in her poems with an impassioned tone, and sometimes a manic one. It’s as if she’s so animated she cannot help but repeat herself:

Such pure leaps and spirals—
Surely they travel

The world forever, I shall not entirely
Sit emptied of beauties, the gift

Of your small breaths, the drenched grass
Smell of your sleeps, lilies, lilies.

(from The Night Dances)

Be sure to add epizeuxis to your tool box!

3 thoughts on “Epizeuxis in Sylvia Plath’s Poetry

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s