This seminar proposes to examine the phenomenon of Confessional poetry.
What did these four poets write about themselves that merits the rubric “Confessional?” Each poet lived in turmoil. Three of the four poets committed suicide. How did they lay bare their psyches in their poems? How do we as readers feel about listening to a recital of so much personal unhappiness? How do their conflicted lives get expressed in the styles and forms of their poems? Sexton and Plath were students of Lowell at Boston University and Berryman was a good friend of his. Do they comprise a school of poetry? And one last important question: the traditional lyric poem is a kind of self-communion and sometimes exposes raw nerves and psychological crises. How do the lyric poems of this quartet differ from a Shakespeare sonnet, one of Coleridge’s romantic meditation, “Frost at Midnight,” or Modernist poems saturated in angst? This class will attempt to answer the above questions. This class will focus on Lowell’s Life Studies, Berryman’s Dream Songs, Plath’s Ariel and a selection of Anne Sexton’s poems.
Herbert Leibowitz is the founder and editor of Parnassus: Poetry in Review and the author of "Something Urgent I Have to Say To You": The Life and Works of William Carlos Williams.
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