Friday, October 9, 2015

I Must Make a Confession

....I love confessional poetry (no pun intended).

Although we recently touched lightly on the topic of confessional poetry in a previous Saturday Prompt, today I wanted to delve a little more deeply into the confessional poets.

During my research of this writing style, three major poets keep reappearing:  Sylvia Plath, Anne Sexton, and Robert Lowell.  I'm quite familiar (as well as enamored) by the work of Sylvia Plath and Anne Sexton, haven taken Major Author courses on their work during my undergraduate studies.

Take this definition into consideration:


I suppose the key words here pertain to 'poets write about their own personal experience in an open, direct style.'  This is what sets confessional poetry apart from other types of poetry like, say, lyric poetry or haiku poems constructed upon mere observance (to name only a few sparse topics).

Or how about this one:



So confessional poetry deals with taboo subjects that people do not normally speak of publicly.  The definition includes death, trauma, depression, but if we were to branch those three areas out, we'd come up with too many to even list.  But the main idea of confessional poetry, I think, is always that it is written of personal, the face-to-face.  A type of writing that requires feeling with your heart and your body and soul.  An experience, that although it may have happened to a million people a million times before, has been individualized by the poet through his personal reflections and reactions to the event, portrayed in his/her own words and voice.


I have always felt that most confessional poems seem to derive themselves from memory.  They are so detailed to the individual experience.  For example, would anyone else compare the birth of their child to 'a fat gold watch that love set going' as Sylvia Plath did in her poem Morning Song?  

I also really love this image I stumbled across in my search:




I suppose it's safe to say that many confessional poems are the struggling births of some type of suffering.  But I do not believe confessional poems are limited only to suffering, as you can see from Anne Sextons poem Barefoot, confessional poems may also inhabit a sense of ecstasy, love, happiness, fond remembrance, nostalgia, elation.

Take, for instance, the mind-mapping done below on the work of Sylvia Plath and the subject matter she utilized for her work:





The first time I ever read Plath, I found her dark..so concrete (yet symbolic) in her references to the surrounding world.  And I found her angry; she spoke with a sense of fiery and desolation that I had not yet discovered in another poet (until I was introduced to the work of Sexton later on).  In reference to the image above, it seems many of Plath's pieces really were about life-altering personal experiences that effected her.  And, like many of us, I think she decided to write through them in order to make sense of the emotions attached to each event.


As a poet,  I view confessional poetry as a form of self-excavation (you could probably say that of poetry, in general, if you wanted), a type of pulling from inside yourself things that hurt, carrying memories onto the page as you would a stubborn child, kicking and screaming.  I've also experienced the type of confessional poem that pushes from your insides, an exhale, an exhiliarting invisible fist burning the center of your being until you give words and names to the things that are incinerating you from the inside out.


Explore confessional poetry written by various poets in the following links:


Daddy by Sylvia Plath

Brown Circle by Louise Gluck

Menstruation at Forty by Anne Sexton 

Loveliest Grotesque by Sandra Lim

Dusk Waitress by Claire Millikin

Twenty Weeks by Jennifer K. Sweeney

Time Problem by Brenda Hillman