by Anne Sexton
If at first you don't succeed, try, try again!
Repetition of words, phrases, or syntax allows Sexton to hammer home her points with all the delicacy of a sledgehammer. This poem is built around one central refrain: "I have been her kind." Heck, even the title makes use of it. Such a tight structure helps to craft the sense of a speaker with a very definite sense of herself. She doesn't waffle on the words or phrases that she uses to describe herself. She finds a good phrase, and then she sticks with it.
- Lines 1, 8, and 15: Starting the first line of each stanza with the repeated phrase "I have" makes the poem something of a declaration. Sexton is defining (and re-defining) her speaker's identity with every stanza – and she does so with no holds barred. She's confident about who she is and who she's been. Repetition reinforces that.
- Lines 5 and 13: Each stanza builds an image of our speaker's vision of herself…but the fifth line of stanzas one and two turns this image on its head. Line 5 offers a critical description of the character built up in lines 1-4: "out of mind" and "whining," this creature ain't exactly pretty. We're not even sure we'd want to meet her. And the repetition of this shift in perspective sets up a predictable rhythm in the poem's emotional trajectory.
- Lines 7, 14, and 21: Since we're speaking of repetition, we should mention that the last line of each stanza becomes the poem's refrain – they're identical lines.