Broken & Reborn — Expressing Defiance Through Poetry

For National Poetry Month, three teens from Get Lit – Words Ignite will be guest editors of They’ll be sharing some of their favorite poems and writing their own responses to each of them below. 

[Read more poems from this series]


Lady Lazarus by Sylvia Plath

I have done it again.

One year in every ten

I manage it——


A sort of walking miracle, my skin

Bright as a Nazi lampshade,

My right foot


A paperweight,

My face a featureless, fine

Jew linen.


Peel off the napkin

O my enemy.

Do I terrify?——


The nose, the eye pits, the full set of teeth?

The sour breath

Will vanish in a day.

[107 Years of Words and Wisdom: The Poetry of Peggy Freydberg]

Soon, soon the flesh

The grave cave ate will be

At home on me


And I a smiling woman.

I am only thirty.

And like the cat I have nine times to die.


This is Number Three.

What a trash

To annihilate each decade.


What a million filaments.

The peanut-crunching crowd

Shoves in to see


Them unwrap me hand and foot——

The big strip tease.

Gentlemen, ladies


These are my hands

My knees.

I may be skin and bone,


Nevertheless, I am the same, identical woman.

The first time it happened I was ten.

It was an accident.

[‘Even in the Struggle’ — A Poem About Seeing Things Differently]

The second time I meant

To last it out and not come back at all.

I rocked shut


As a seashell.

They had to call and call

And pick the worms off me like sticky pearls.



Is an art, like everything else.

I do it exceptionally well.


I do it so it feels like hell.

I do it so it feels real.

I guess you could say I’ve a call.

[How to Write Out All of Your Anger in a Poem]

It’s easy enough to do it in a cell.

It’s easy enough to do it and stay put.

It’s the theatrical


Comeback in broad day

To the same place, the same face, the same brute

Amused shout:


‘A miracle!’

That knocks me out.

There is a charge


For the eyeing of my scars, there is a charge

For the hearing of my heart——

It really goes.


And there is a charge, a very large charge

For a word or a touch

Or a bit of blood


Or a piece of my hair or my clothes.

So, so, Herr Doktor.

So, Herr Enemy.

[Read more poetry from Monique Mitchell here]

I am your opus,

I am your valuable,

The pure gold baby


That melts to a shriek.

I turn and burn.

Do not think I underestimate your great concern.


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.


[Read Maria Shriver’s latest ‘I’ve Been Thinking’ essay]


Response: Born by Monique Mitchell

Each time

I have been broken open

I emerged a truer self.


I am in constant chrysalis-

eager to be born

and be born



Get Lit – Words Ignite is a nationally recognized organization founded to stem dropout rates and spark dramatically increased literacy among youth in Los Angeles. Through an innovative curriculum that fuses classic, iconic poetry with students’ original spoken word responses, Get Lit places the greatest poets of our time in dialogue with over 20,000 teens each year who transform their lives and communities through art and social consciousness. “Claim your poem, claim your life.” Join the #LiteraryRiot at!

{Image credit: Jake Melara, Unsplash}

About the Author

author image

Monique Mitchell is a South Los Angeles native who uses writing as a tool to beautify her community (her community is the world). She has a Bachelor’s Degree in communications, and she has also extensively studied cinema and creative writing. She currently works as a content creator in for Contend in Downtown Los Angeles, and she is a Literati Fellow with Get Lit – Words Ignite.

Read more from Monique Mitchell

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