Confessional

Confessional Poetry began as one of many artistic movements in post-war twentieth-century America. Its most fundamental aspect is blatant autobiographical content, which often manifests as self-deprecation. It frequently deals with taboo topics such as sex, addiction, mental health and familial relationships. A Confessional Poet’s emotional authenticity draws on personal experiences and real situations, giving “negative” emotions—fear, anger, sadness, impotence—the attention and artistic relevance traditionally reserved for “positive” emotions. Where sonnets are often associated with love, and epics ultimately celebrate strength, Confessional Poetry exposes and intimately handles private, human pains.

Critic M. L. Rosenthal coined the term “Confessional Poetry” in reviewing Robert Lowell’s Life Studies, published in 1959. The term has since been applied to the works of several poets, primarily Lowell, Anne Sexton, Sylvia Plath and W. D. Snodgrass. In these four cases, the poets knew each other personally, and some critics argue that their works had common characteristics. However, the Confessional Poetry movement has never formed a cohesive group. Critical debate continues over who can and cannot be considered a “Confessional Poet.” Some argue that Plath does not fit in this category, and Snodgrass rejected the label outright. Though the designation of “Confessional Poet” is rare, the writing of Confessional Poetry continues today.

Details

School of Poetry Overview
Title Confessional Type of Content School of Poetry
Number/Poets 8 Number/Members 2
Originally Posted 17 Apr 2013 Number/Content 9
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Creator Modern American... Tags No Data

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Poet Listing

Anne Sexton Portrait
Anne Sexton

Born Anne Gray Harvey in Newton, Massachusetts, the child of a wool merchant, Sexton's family lived in Boston suburbs and spent the summers on Squirrel Island, Maine.

Group/School: Confessional

Race/Ethnicity: European
Gender: Female

Elizabeth Bishop Portrait
Elizabeth Bishop

Born in Worcester, Massachusetts, Elizabeth Bishop's childhood was structured around a sequence of tragedies. Her father died when she was less than one year old.

Group/School: Confessional

Race/Ethnicity: European
Gender: Female

James Merrill Portrait
James Merrill

Born and raised in New York City, James Merrill was the child of a founder of America's most famous brokerage firm.

Group/School: Confessional

Race/Ethnicity: European
Gender: Male

John Berryman Portrait
John Berryman

Berryman was born John Smith in McAlester, Oklahoma. At age twelve, after his family had moved to Florida, Berryman's father shot himself to death outside his son's window.

Group/School: Confessional

Race/Ethnicity: European
Gender: Male

Robert Lowell Portrait
Robert Lowell

Robert Lowell grew up in Boston, Massachusetts, as part of a family with a distinguished literary heritage. Poets James Russell Lowell and Amy Lowell were among his ancestors.

Group/School: Confessional

Race/Ethnicity: European
Gender: Male

Sylvia Plath Portrait
Sylvia Plath

Born in Boston, Massachusetts, Sylvia Plath grew up in Winthrop. She was raised by her mother after her father died of complications from diabetes when she was eight.

Group/School: Confessional

Race/Ethnicity: European
Gender: Female

Theodore Roethke Portrait
Theodore Roethke

Theodore Roethke was born and raised in Saginaw, Michigan, where his family managed greenhouses that were the subject of several of his early lyrics.

Group/School: Confessional

Race/Ethnicity: European
Gender: Male

W. D. Snodgrass
Group/School: Confessional

Race/Ethnicity: No Data
Gender: Male

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Curator since 17 Apr 2013