Confessional Poets and Other 50's Flashbacks

Robert Lowell “Azure day/ makes my agonized blue window bleaker./ Crows maunder on the petrified fairway./ Absence! My heart grows tense / as though a harpoon were sparring for the kill. / (This is the house for the “mentally ill.”) –Waking in the Blue

Lowell was a mentor for later confessional poets Plath and Sexton. Lowell's poetry and prose speaks of his time in mental institutions and his tempestuous relationship with his father.

John Berryman “Life friends, is boring. We must not say so. / After all, the sky flashes, the great sea yearns / we ourselves flash and yearn, / and moreover, my mother told me as a boy/ (repeatingly) ‘Ever to confess you’re bored / means you have no / Inner Resources.’ I conclude now I have no / inner resources, because I am heavy bored.” Dream Song 14

Berryman confessed through the voice of Henry, a black minstrel, and Henry's friend Mr. Bones. Berryman pushed the proverbial envelope with daring rhyme and meter, and confessed to issues with women and with his father.

Anne Sexton “A woman who writes feels too much / those trances and portents! / As if cycles and children and islands / weren’t enough; as if mourners and gossips / and vegetables were never enough./ She thinks she can warn the stars ./ A writer is essentially a spy / Dear love, I am that girl.—The Black Art

Anne Sexton's doctor prescribed her to write poetry. A few years later she won a Pulitzer. Her poems are full of confession, both fictive and personal. Most deal with her sexuality and her relationship with her poems and her muses.

Sylvia Plath “Dying / is an art, like everything else. / I do it exceptionally well. / I do it so it feels like hell. / I do it so it feels real. / I guess you could say I’ve a call –Lady Lazarus

Perhaps the most infamous of the confessional poets, Plath had a dramatic life that critics love to analyze. Her poems are full of confessions about her father and his untimely death, as well as her passionate but failed relationship with fellow poet Ted Hughes.

Allen Ginsberg “I saw the best minds of my generation destroyed by madness, starving hysterical naked, / dragging themselves through the negro streets at dawn looking for an angry fix, angelheaded hipsters burning for the ancient heavenly connection to the starry dynamo in the machinery of night,

When Introducing Ginsberg's epic poem Howl, William Carlos Williams said "Pull up your skirts, ladies. We're going through hell." Ginsberg became the voice of a confused and lost generation, confessing their discontent with America and their place in life.


Bob Dylan “Mama, take this badge off of me / I can’t use it anymore, It’s getting dark, too dark for me to see / I feel like I’m knocking on heaven’s door.

Dylan's confessions were more political in nature, but his music was open and personal. Thousands of fans take up his songs as personal anthems.

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