Confessional poetry

The Bedford Glossary of Critical and Literary Terms - Ross Murfin 2018

Confessional poetry

Confessional poetry: A contemporary poetic mode in which poets discuss matters relating to their private lives, including their deepest sorrows and confusions. Confessional poets often address the reader directly and go beyond romanticism’s emphasis on individual experience in their use of intimate detail and psychoanalytic terms to describe even their most painful experiences. Pioneers of the mode include Anne Sexton and Sylvia Plath. More recent practitioners include Adrienne Rich and Jane Kenyon.

EXAMPLES: Sexton’s To Bedlam and Partway Back (1960) and Live or Die (1960); Plath’s Ariel (1965), a collection including the poem “Daddy,” from which the following excerpt is taken:

You stand at the blackboard, daddy,

In the picture I have of you,

A cleft in your chin instead of your foot

But no less a devil for that, no not

Any less the black man who

Bit my pretty red heart in two.

I was ten when they buried you.

At twenty I tried to die

And get back, back, back to you.