Study Guide

Lady Lazarus Form and Meter

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Form and Meter

Free Verse Tercets

Take a look at "Lady Lazarus." What's the first thing you notice?

Those three-line stanzas, right? Those are called tercets, and "Lady Lazarus" is made up of twenty-eight of them. The tercets themselves are made up of short, chopped lines with a fair mix of enjambment and end-stopped lines. When you read them out loud, they move quickly and forcefully. It almost sounds like our speaker is biting or spitting her words out onto us. Gross, but true.

Rhymes and Repetitions

But the formal elements don't stop there. We've also got our fair share of perfect rhyme (like that of "beware," "hair," and "air" in the poem's final lines), and a ton of slant rhyme, too. Plus, there's the anaphora of lines like "I do it so it feels like hell," and "I do it so it feels real."

While these various kinds of repetitions of sounds occur all over the place in "Lady Lazarus," they do not occur in a set pattern (the way rhymes occur in a poem like a sonnet, for example). The rhymes thus have an off-kilter feel to them. The poem is fast and freewheeling and you never know when a rhyme or some other kind of repetition is going to pop off and smack you in the face.

And really, these are some harsh rhymes that will smack you in the face. Sylvia does not play around. She's wielding all her poetry powers to express Lady Lazarus's anger and despair, and to show that death is the one arena of her life over which she seems to have control.

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