What makes a poem confessional?

A Brief Guide to Confessional Poetry | Academy of American Poets states the following about confessional poetry:

Confessional poetry is the poetry of the personal or “I.” This style of writing emerged in the late 1950s and early 1960s and is associated with poets such as Robert Lowell, Sylvia Plath, Anne Sexton, and W. D. Snodgrass.” (Organic Form: From A Poet’s Glossary)

This article will explore confessional poetry, and we will do this by using the core boundaries and rules of confessional poetry against three notable poetic works from three unorthodox artists: Etheridge Knight, Kendrick Lemar, and Roxane Gay.

The reason behind this is to gain a richer understanding of the art of confession. By widening the subject matter, an essential dialogue about contemporary art could take place and reveal new truths and solutions to our twenty-first-century issues.

I will be using the following characteristics of confessional poetry to help frame the examination:

  • the use of the pronoun ‘I.’
  • the topic of poetry primarily focus on high emotional events, a trauma of an individual
  • the prevalent use of free-verse

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