#atozchallenge – Confessional Poets Inspire Me

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confessional-poets-sourceLike most young people, Literature in High School usually consisted of the Classics and Romantics. It wasn’t until I was around 15 that I read the first poem that really spoke to me on a personal level. The poet was Sylvia Plath. After devouring as much of her poetry as I could find, I soon discovered that she was one of many poets from a movement called Confessional Poetry. Before long, I was reading Robert Lowell, Anne Sexton, John Berryman, Allen Ginsberg, and W.D. Snodgrass. I was amazed that before these poets came along in the 1950s that no one wrote personal, confessional poetry. How had poetry been around so long and not succumb to this sooner? Their contribution to my poetic education has fueled my own poetry. The majority of which is very personal and often quite confessional.

Here is the poem that sparked it all:

Daddy

By SYLVIA PLATH

You do not do, you do not do
Any more, black shoe
In which I have lived like a foot
For thirty years, poor and white,
Barely daring to breathe or Achoo.
Daddy, I have had to kill you.
You died before I had time——
Marble-heavy, a bag full of God,
Ghastly statue with one gray toe
Big as a Frisco seal
And a head in the freakish Atlantic
Where it pours bean green over blue
In the waters off beautiful Nauset.
I used to pray to recover you.
Ach, du.
In the German tongue, in the Polish town
Scraped flat by the roller
Of wars, wars, wars.
But the name of the town is common.
My Polack friend
Says there are a dozen or two.
So I never could tell where you
Put your foot, your root,
I never could talk to you.
The tongue stuck in my jaw.
It stuck in a barb wire snare.
Ich, ich, ich, ich,
I could hardly speak.
I thought every German was you.
And the language obscene
An engine, an engine
Chuffing me off like a Jew.
A Jew to Dachau, Auschwitz, Belsen.
I began to talk like a Jew.
I think I may well be a Jew.
The snows of the Tyrol, the clear beer of Vienna
Are not very pure or true.
With my gipsy ancestress and my weird luck
And my Taroc pack and my Taroc pack
I may be a bit of a Jew.
I have always been scared of you,
With your Luftwaffe, your gobbledygoo.
And your neat mustache
And your Aryan eye, bright blue.
Panzer-man, panzer-man, O You——
Not God but a swastika
So black no sky could squeak through.
Every woman adores a Fascist,
The boot in the face, the brute
Brute heart of a brute like you.
You stand at the blackboard, daddy,
In the picture I have of you,
A cleft in your chin instead of your foot
But no less a devil for that, no not
Any less the black man who
Bit my pretty red heart in two.
I was ten when they buried you.
At twenty I tried to die
And get back, back, back to you.
I thought even the bones would do.
But they pulled me out of the sack,
And they stuck me together with glue.
And then I knew what to do.
I made a model of you,
A man in black with a Meinkampf look
And a love of the rack and the screw.
And I said I do, I do.
So daddy, I’m finally through.
The black telephone’s off at the root,
The voices just can’t worm through.
If I’ve killed one man, I’ve killed two——
The vampire who said he was you
And drank my blood for a year,
Seven years, if you want to know.
Daddy, you can lie back now.
There’s a stake in your fat black heart
And the villagers never liked you.
They are dancing and stamping on you.
They always knew it was you.
Daddy, daddy, you bastard, I’m through.

My favorite Anne Sexton poem:

In Celebration of My Uterus

By ANNE SEXTON

Everyone in me is a bird.
I am beating all my wings.
They want to cut you out
but they will not.
They said you were immeasurably empty
but you are not.
They said you were sick unto dying
but they were wrong.
You are singing like a school girl.
You are not torn.

Sweet weight,
in celebration of the woman I am
and of the soul of the woman I am
and of the central creature and its delight
I sing for you. I dare to live.
Hello, spirit. Hello, cup.
Fasten, cover. Cover that does contain.
Hello to the soil of the fields.
Welcome, roots.

Each cell has a life.
There is enough here to please a nation.
It is enough that the populace own these goods.
Any person, any commonwealth would say of it,
“It is good this year that we may plant again
and think forward to a harvest.
A blight had been forecast and has been cast out.”
Many women are singing together of this:
one is in a shoe factory cursing the machine,
one is at the aquarium tending a seal,
one is dull at the wheel of her Ford,
one is at the toll gate collecting,
one is tying the cord of a calf in Arizona,
one is shifting pots on the stove in Egypt,
one is dying but remembering a breakfast
one is stretching on her mat in Thailand,
one is wiping the ass of her child,
one is staring out the window of a train
in the middle of Wyoming and one is
anywhere and some are everywhere and all
seem to be singing, although some can not
sing a note.

Sweet weight,
in celebration of the woman I am
let me carry a ten-foot scarf,
let me drum for the nineteen-year-olds,
let me carry bowls for the offering
(if that is my part).
Let me study the cardiovascular tissue,
let me examine the angular distances of meteors,
let me suck on the stems of flowers
(if that is my part).
Let me make certain tribal figures
(if that is my part).
For this thing the body needs
let me sing
for the supper,
for the kissing,
for the correct
yes.


And here is a poem I wrote as a result of reading Confessional poets for so long, especially Anne Sexton:

Pondering My Womb

By LORI CARLSON

On that cold, cold slab
they ripped you out
like a dead cold fish
left the nothingness
inside
a black hole
where seeds of life
failed to sprout

Twice I plucked
the seeds from you
disassociated
the sucking, the sucking
and although
shame followed me home
I wanted
what I wanted
and that did not include
birthing babies

I gave up
motherhood
for poetry slams
coffee shops
and college
I wanted
the writer’s dream:
3 a.m. muse attacks
midday luncheons with poets
library overloads
and group readings over pot luck

And so I wonder
after getting what
I wanted
why this final separation
of you from me
leaves such an emptiness
and the hushed whimper
of a child

Published in Diverse Voices Quarterly Volume 6, Issue 22

Interesting fact: Out of the six major Confessional Poets, three of them committed suicide: Sylvia Plath, Anne Sexton and John Berryman.


 

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Thank you for joining me for the A-to-Z Challenge. If you’d like to see who else is participating, check them out here.
Each day, I will be posting about People Who Inspire Me.

 

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9 thoughts on “#atozchallenge – Confessional Poets Inspire Me

  1. And so I wonder
    after getting what
    I wanted
    why this final separation
    of you from me
    leaves such an emptiness
    and the hushed whimper
    of a child

    That made me hold my breath while remembering my own loss of what I considered womanhood. Exquisite poem, Lori.
    I read Plath’s “The Bell Jar” not too long ago. I didn’t discover her in school like some of my friends did. I had no idea Anne Sexton had taken her life.
    Your theme for this challenge is wonderful, btw.

    • Thank you, Calen… It may be my own poem, but every time I read it, it floods me with memories and chills me to the bone.
      I am sorry you had your own loss, Calen. *hugs*
      “The Bell Jar” left me speechless. Plath knew how to get to the center of my being with that book.
      I had no idea Sexton had committed suicide either when I first began reading her. I was so in awe and thought maybe I could meet her some day… then I learned she committed suicide and I was heartbroken.
      Thank you.. I am glad you are enjoying my theme 🙂 Got some great people coming up. A few may shock everyone *laughs*

  2. Pingback: 04.04.16 – End of Day Notes | As the Fates Would Have It

  3. I’ve not read any of these poets – and now I can see why. It would leave me in a blue funk. Having said that, I can understand it as an avenue of a type of journalling.

  4. I can see why so many of them commit suicide – they are such tortured souls – you can see it in their writing – that first one “Daddy” in particular. I think I like my poetry lighter (I’m a bit of a Tennyson fan) Leanne @ cresting the hill

    • Aye, Leanne.. it is there in their work, in mine as well. I cannot blame you for preferring lighter poetry. I wish I could find peace and joy in it as well. Thank you for stopping by 🙂

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