Confessional Poetry Essay

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Confessional poetry is a style that emerged in the late 1950’s. Poetry of this type tends to be very personal and emotional. Many confessional poets dealt with subject matter that had previously been taboo. Death, trauma, mental illness, sexuality, and numerous other topics flowed through the works of the poetry from this movement. Confessional poetry was not purely autobiographical, but did often express deeply disturbing personal experience. (Academy of American Poets)

Three important poets who are typically associated with the confessional poetry movement are Anne Sexton, Allen Ginsberg, and Denise Levertov. An analysis of selected works from these poets yields a deeper insight into the individual poets and the broad
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Much of her poetry deals with topics such as sexual abuse, suicide, addiction, relationships, and sexuality. Of interest is the liberated feminist aspect of her work which can be seen in such poems as “The Ballad of the Lonely Masturbator”. Throughout her adult life, and until her death in 1974, Anne Sexton plied her unique brand of poetry as a form of therapy and expression. Sexton stated: "My analyst told me to write between our sessions about what I was feeling and thinking and dreaming." (Poetry Foundation)

“45 Mercy Street” is an example of Anne Sexton’s late work, just prior to her suicide. Released in a posthumous collection, this poem extends past the idea of confession. “45 Mercy Street” is a pure cry for help from a tortured psyche which has already decided that death is the only viable escape. Sexton’s work is a case study in severe depression and bipolar disorder. Regarding her classification as a confessional poet, Sexton often disliked the term, yet still applied it to herself on occasion. In an interview with Patricia Marx, Sexton stated: "If anything influenced me it was W. D. Snodgrass' Heart's Needle.... It so changed me, and undoubtedly it must have influenced my poetry. At the same time everyone said, 'You can't write this way. It's too personal; it's confessional; you can't write this, Anne,' and everyone was
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