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,

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

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