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Elmer Andrews has argued that one of the most notable developments in modern American poetry has been the emergence of a “confessional poetry…giving direct expression to the poet’s personal life”

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Introduction

Elmer Andrews has argued that one of the most notable developments in modern American poetry has been the emergence of a "confessional poetry...giving direct expression to the poet's personal life". (1996) How far do you think this comment is appropriate to the poems in this selection? In you answer you should refer to at least two poets The style of confessionalism revitalised the American literary scene. What is surprising is that two major exponents of the genre were both very shy and extraordinarily eccentric. Emily Dickinson was born into an upper-middle class family who were very religious, her father was a clergyman. Dickinson's desire to break free from the confines of conventional religion is apparent in her poem No. 67, in which she claims that American Patriotism is a new religion in its own right. In the first stanza, she shows her indifference to G-d and religion, "to comprehend a Nectar/ requires sorest need." The Nectar, the drink of G-d, is used to communicate Dickinson's views with the endnote, "requires sorest need." The reader could understand this as denouncing religion. This standpoint could be strengthened with quotes from the second stanza, "Not one of all purple host," which links the highest US military award for those who are injured in battle and the holy wafer used in the holy communion. ...read more.

Middle

This is very interesting in regard looking at her as a Confessionalist, as the differing attitudes within the poems could be attributed with a change of perception of the earth as Dickinson got older. Sylvia Plath used her poetry to convey her feelings of despair. This is at its most apparent in her poem Lady Lazarus. In Lady Lazarus, the speaker is developed as a character of religious persecution and Nazi incarceration. She uses extended metaphors and allusion to develop terrifying images of death that surround her attempted suicides. The speaker defines her consecutive attempted suicides and describes her internal conflicts surrounding them. She describes her suicides as a form of entertainment for an onlooking "peanut-crunching crowd," her revival as nothing more than "the big strip tease," a form of entertainment for others. The speaker describes dying as being "an art," yet, suicide is not so simple for her. In this way Plath developed the Confessional genre by creating a "Pop-Confessional" genre, by using her inner thoughts and using them to sell poetry and herself. In lines 65-79 she compares the doctors who helped revive her after an attempted suicide to Nazis giving her life which, the speaker felt, was worse than killing her. She uses metaphors and allusion to develop this theme. The speaker uses apostrophe to address the doctors in her past: "So, so Herr Doktor / So, Herr Enemy." ...read more.

Conclusion

I believe that, for Plath, everything in her life revolved around her getting attention. Her poetry was almost the handbook that accompanied her suicide "shows." I believe that Plath never really wanted to die and thought that her suicide attempts would be constantly foiled. The suicide attempts would allow her to gain more coverage. If Plath, was alive today, the cult status that she has obtained would almost certainly be eradicated. Elmer Andrews is certainly correct when he has argued that, one of the most notable developments in modern American poetry has been the emergence of a "confessional poetry...giving direct expression to the poet's personal life." The confessional style of opening up is one which is beneficial to culture and society as a whole. The most beautiful works are ones, which can touch the soul, and the raw emotion that the genre brings out invokes the emotions of the reader as well as the poet. However, I believe that the two poets above, Dickinson and Plath are very different in their poetry. Dickinson uses her poems like an external think tank where all her thoughts are on an external document. In my opinion, this is pure, unadulterated confessional poetry. This is in stark contrast to Plath's works, which is almost an advertisement to try and get more publicity. Although, Plath's works are important in modern American culture. I believe that the works of Dickinson's works will be far more influential in shaping society and will be of more value to society in the future. ...read more.

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