Setting: Kitchen table. Eating lunch with my family
Me to 15 year old son: "If you ever go to jail I will request the electric chair for myself."
Husband: "Geeze, that's harsh."
Me: "I would feel as if I totally failed as a parent."
Son: "I don't think the electric chair would do anything to you."
Me: "Then lethal injection."
I don't know how we even got to this dialogue today or what my son even meant when he said the electric chair wouldn't do anything to me (hey! was that a fat joke or a knock at my own sanity--I realize now I should follow up). But, not to get on a roll bragging about the greatness of my son (let's assume his comment was an innocent one), his chance of ever going to prison is quite low as you can probably tell by his preference to eat lunch with his parents on a Saturday afternoon rather than galavanting around town on a weekend with (said in the voice of my own mother) "God knows who." He is a good kid.
But, it was this dialogue that triggered this verse:
"There is a charge
For the eyeing of my scars, there is a charge
For the hearing of my heart--"
to get stuck in my head during my afternoon walk with the dog.
I heard an NPR story once about this ninety something year old man unable to get songs from playing in his own mind. He was plagued by this. I remember thinking, I have that too! However, mine is all verse. When the broadcast declared it was more of a mental health issue, I squashed my scream and kept it to myself. It may sound nutty, but I am pretty convinced the whole world would not be surprised to hear I were truly a nut; therefore, I don't need to go advertising it. We can agree just to keep in this blog, can't we?
So, let's just talk about Plath's "crazy " instead
On that walk, I realized I do not have to go out looking for a poem to bring to the party during day two of our POETRY celebration. She has already arrived.
This rainy April day on the East Coast, seems perfectly suited for our guest of honor. I introduce to you my review of Lady Lazarus by Sylvia Plath:
For over thirteen years, I have been teaching this poem in my introductory college course on poetry. Plath's biography often fascinates my students more than her poetry. When they get to her poems, yes they see how she is a confessional poet. Yes, they see how she is haunted by yes, by not only, the death of her father when she was eight, but by her, no good cheating husband, Ted Hughes, a poet himself. Yes, yes--she is the one who is truly nuts professor, not you (Ok..not one student has ever said that about me, but I don't give up hope). But oh how I try to get them beyond her life story and into the poem. Lady Lazarus is a fictional character Plath created for this poem. "But you say she is a confessional poet," they scream (more accurately mumble to their crotches as they snap chat under their desks). I believe she is hiding behind her screen just as you all are, I respond to tops of heads.
Written about all her failed attempts at suicides, this penned masterpiece before her success at "it" at the young age of 30, leaving two children motherless is thick with irony. She is blaming all others, all things, on her failures. The bullet points in her bio. are all here: the death of her father, her failed suicides, her time spent in and out of treatments being treated with electric shock therapy, her bad marriage, her deep mental health issues. But it is all said behind this mask of this made up character, Lady Lazarus. We quickly get the biblical reference. If not, here it is: In the New Testament, the real Lazarus died and was brought back to life by Jesus. Lady Lazarus is brought back to life again and again by "Herr Doktor, Herr Enemy." An idea is painted for us that we are just watching this circus act of her life. Her true desires keep being sabotaged and like many of (said in the Brooklyn-raised speech of my father for effect) You'T of any day and age, she refuses to take accountability. We've all been young once, heck maybe some of you still are (lucky). The truth is, we have all at one point in our lives thought it was everyone else's problem--not ours. The wisdom comes when you realize that if you are thinking everyone else is an A-hole--then possibly it may just be you who is the A-hole. That's when adulthood usually takes shape, for most--not all, though, (Trump) sadly (Trump).
We have this whine here of a child in the sing song verse,
"It’s easy enough to do it in a cell.
It’s easy enough to do it and stay put."
This is the irony.
I believe Plath, the poet, wanted to rid her true self of this internal pain. I think we see it in her writing from Lady Lazarus to her novel, The Bell Jar. There is an exorcism she is trying to force through her writing. She is trying to free herself of these demons. Lady Lazarus reads as her final attempt to purge herself of all that haunts her. But that brings us right back to the story of her real life that overshadows much of her work--Lady Lazarus was the failed attempt because it was soon after that Plath, the poet, succeeded in taking her own life. So, I understand it is a challenge not to be so engaged in her life. Heck, I can't help to mourn her death ever time I read her work. I miss her as if I knew her. I miss her as if I could help her. I wish she spent more time in this world.
You can read Plath's poem in its entirety at the following link:
And YOU SHOULD READ this hauntingly great poem if you are a person who likes to get the chills.