THE CONFESSIONAL POSTMODERN POET With World War II finally over and a chapter in history written, the next chapter is about to begin. The twentieth century brings with it a new literary movement called postmodern, where poetry is ‘breaking from modernism’ and taking on a whole new style Within postmodern poetry emerge confessional poets whom remove the mask that has masked poetry from previous generations and their writings become autobiographical in nature detailing their life’s most intense personal experiences, therefore becoming the focus of their work. Considered to be the ‘mainstream of postmodern poetry’ confessional poetry did not hit its peak until the late twentieth century. Confessional poetry is in direct contrast to the poetry of William Butler Yeats. Yeats poetry, Romantic in nature, depended on symbols and images to convey his themes. Confessional poetry is very direct and conveys the inner most feelings of the post modern poets.
The twentieth century brought forth many confessional and post confessional poets who appeared to be embarking on unmarked territory. Confessional poets Robert Lowell, Sylvia Plath, Theodore Roehtke and post confessional poet Adreinne Rich all dealt with taboo subjects. Their life held an intensity of personal experience that became the focus of their work. Confessional poetry does not simply touch upon emotion. Confessional poetry allows emotion or looks at emotion through an examining eye rather to drive poems, permeating each poem with an air of necessity, the necessity of conveying and aiming to understand emotion through confession. Postmodern poet, Robert Lowell’s poetry really captures the true essence of confessional poetry by sharing his own raw emotions with the reader.
... rhyme. (See also Euphony, Modulation, Resonance, Sound Devices) DIDACTIC POETRY Poetry which is clearly intended for the purpose of instruction -- to ... add beauty or emotional intensity or to transfer the poet's sense impressions by comparing or identifying one thing ... speaker to effect a desired reaction from her listener. The poet must use word choices, placement, hyperbole, metaphor, paradox, irony ...
The mask that once was placed upon the influence of the symbolist, Eliot and Pound, Lowell removes. The speaker of his poems is unequivocally himself. Lowell does not spare himself in his poetry. In his poem ‘Man and Wife’ he deals directly with his own marriage. The reader gets grotesque glimpses into his marital life. He begins ‘Tamed by Miltown, we lie on mother’s bed.’ And later tells how ‘All night I have held your hand, / as if you had/ a fourth time faced the kingdom of the mad-/ its hackneyed speech, its homicidal eye-/ and dragged me home alive’.
Lowell shares the details surrounding his marriage that has grown stagnate and silent over the years and is no longer healthy. ‘Skunk Hour’ is another poem where Lowell does not spare the details surrounding his personal inner anguish where he confesses ‘I myself am hell; nobody’s here. (35-36).
Postmodern poet Sylvia Plath, is like Robert Lowell for she ‘centers much of her poetry on intensely personal and forbidden subjects’ (593).
According to the anthology, Plath’s work exemplifies the ‘agonizing yet creative relationship between pain and creativity’ (593).
Plath was always trying to transcend the life she actually had.
Her works hit on taboo subjects. Her poem ‘Daddy’ translates a private message about the hurt her father has caused her and the intolerable hurt into a public message. She realizes the hurt her father has caused her over her life. Her writing is a form of therapy for her. By not mincing her words her intentions are clear and she is able to get rid of the hurt from her father once and for all. She writes: ‘Daddy, I have had to kill you.
/ you died before I had time’ (6-7).
In her poem ‘Lady Lazarus,’ she converts life into art by revealing her long escalating drive toward suicide: Is it an art, like everything else I do it exceptionally well. I do it so it feels like hell I do it so it fells real. I guess you can say I’ve a call. Post confessional poet Adrienne Rich showed how twentieth century poets were willing to take a risk and discuss the role of women in society. She appears to surrender herself and breathe life into revealing her personal life.
... poem at 19 years old just before his grandmother died. Keats wanted to be a poet but he knew that poetry ... really understood this and secretly summarized his life in this poem. Keats lost many of his family and ... describes how winter "shears" away plants and life like a shepherd cutting wool. When winter comes ... revolution was also going on during Keats' life. Keats describes how the poor have no choice ...
Her poetry absorbs the data of private events, the dramas of public life and the fears encountered while sleeping. Her best work, ‘Diving into the wreck’ is about an experience where the poet describes a journey under the sea, during which she has to discard all the conventional supports, the crutches on which she has leaned on the world ‘I came to explore the wreck’s he says: The words are purposes The words are maps The thing I came for The wreck and not the story of the wreck The thing itself and not the myth. Diving deep into the inner most recesses of her self, exploring the wreck of her own life, Rich feels compelled to map the geography of her self. Rich declares in a forward to her poems ‘with the failure of patriarchal politics’ and ‘to be a woman at this time’ is to know extraordinary forms of anger, joy, and impatience, love and hope.
Poetry, words on paper, are necessary but not enough; we need to touch the living who share… our determination that the sexual myths underlying the human condition can and shall be… changed. Rich’s work is personal, intimate and confessional.
Confessional and post confessional poets clearly chose to write about subjects that were taboo. That took their private lives and deep inner thoughts and made them public. Confessional poets took the baton from the moderns such as Yeat’s and Eliot and took poetry to another whole level. They opened up their heart, mind and feelings to a society that was able to relate.