How devoted are you?
Have you dressed yourself
In woes and wills, fermented
On this feted starlit hour?
I have never seen you so vapid.
I have never seen you so you.
Past your life’s attire.
Stage lights fall on faces
Faltered, dim-black, mimetic.
Have you got what you came for?
What an absurd cobblestone,
Glass is noiseless here.
To the angel eyes above,
Carrying out foretold detonation:
“Wie konntest du mir das antun?”
Your standing ovation is in your hair,
In forfeited shards, those small
You have outdone yourself yet again.
I read Sylvia Plath first in High School. I remember how, when reading “Tulips” in class, I became absorbed in the emotion of her writing. We only spent a week with her and she was taught alongside other poets who we, here in Post 45, would have categorized into other schools (i.e objectivists, transcendentalists). She seemed so different from these poets. The intensity of feeling, of devastation or elation, felt right to me. It was relatable. That’s why, of all the poets we have read here in class, the only full book of poetry I have in my collection belongs to Plath. I did not know, nor was I taught, that her poetry is “confessional,” though now, after reading Deborah Nelson’s article, it makes sense, though I’m not sure if Plath herself would have labeled herself as such.
I decided the best way to understand the “confessionalists” would be in the creative format. I’ve always wanted to try my hand at imitating Plath’s – and now, I realize, the confessionalist’s – aesthetic, but have always been too afraid to try. I suppose, too, what draws me to confessionalist poetry is the idea of self-revelation being a part of a therapeutic tradition. It’s an emotional outpour of self-exposure, a revelation of the raw side of your psyche, and unpacking that intensity of feeling on page, through an organic form, can be freeing. They are so deeply personal, the contents so deeply private, that exposing them can be cathartic because you no longer have to hide your “shameful” transgressions.
In this exercise, I do not shy away from autobiographical recall. I tend more toward Plath because her writing tends to have more esoteric qualities. For example, though “Ariel” bleeds with equestrian imagery, it would be (almost) impossible for the reader to make the connection that “Ariel” was Plath’s horse unless the reader is privy to Plath’s life. Her poems, on stylistic level, make use of associative poetics, her imagery tending to be rapid and fragmented when the poem’s intensity is at its crux. The narrative of the poem seems to lie in its rhetorical questioning and repetition of image, theme and confessions. She makes use of assonance and enjambment as well, though her technique of enjambment seems softer, more fluid than say the Black Mountain poets. I hope I captured some of these aesthetics.
Lastly, I hoped to delve a little more into the performative aspect of confessional poetry. If you think of a poem as a house that stores intense, private emotion, then reading the poem is an invasion of that privacy. By allowing confessional poetry to be read, the poet is performing in this act of invasion. Is something truly private once it has been exposed? Are poems private spaces that, caught in the act of being seen, become public spaces?
A note about the german in “Prost:” It is a coincidence rather than an aesthetic imitation. My mother is really German (I often must make this distinction as people will assume I mean she just has German ancestry).