Confessional poetry? Yes, please!

Does poetry need labels? I have been thinking a lot about this topic lately. I am part of a group of poets known as the Revolutionary Poets Brigade. We write poems that are not  meant for old, dusty, elitarian parlors on topics dealing with social themes--such as injustice, labor, etc.--and that are closer to people and their struggle.

This said, I know that as much as the social aspect of poetry has a deep resonance for me, I also know that there is another aspect of poetry that truly grabs me. It's the "me, myself and I." It's talking about oneself, about one's body, one's feelings without hindrance or fear. I know some people and poets detest confessional poetry, but it is really the poetry I consider closest to my spirit. Anne Sexton and Sylvia Plath's poems have played a key role in making me love this form of poetry, making me always more aware of how poetry can deal with love, death, suicide, sex, abuse, but also menstruation at 40. Why should these topics be considered overtly assertive bewilders me. As poets we can and should mostly deal with things we can relate to and, as much as some of these topics may be considered "unconventional," they cannot but ring true. Truth is really all I care about in poetry. Being true to myself and  writing about things that truly touch me is all that matters to me.

From Sylvia Plath's Journals

I am reading Sharon Olds' latest poems from her Stag's Leap collection and loving them. They are made of the same stuff Truth is made of. Just a couple of days ago I read one of Margaret Bashaar's poems, Editor of Hyacinth Girl Press, in the latest issue of Stone Highway Review. "The Day You Were Born" is a poem that made me gasp and feel that there are amazing confessional poets out there who know too well what they are doing. Chapeau to them!

The Day You Were Born
by Margaret Bashaar

I spent every moment I was alone crying,
lamented the loss of my life, imagined
wearing white sneakers, imagined cutting
crusts off sandwiches, packing your lunch box.
I hated everyone who owned an SUV,
no different from days leading up to your birth
except I feared someday I would hate myself.
Felt the tug of stitches at my cunt, prayed
you hadn’t stretched me too much because
I’d always wanted a man to do that,
but with his cock, not the skull of an infant
I hadn’t planned for, hadn’t really wanted.
I was 21 - do you think for an instant
I’d thought to make you? I was relieved
when you latched onto my breast - I’d heard
you’d burn 5000 calories a day, and bunny,
I am vain. I was glad for a moment you
were 2 months early because while my left hip
has 3 stretch marks, my stomach is a smooth,
even white sheet you press your ear against, listen
to the body of the woman who will always expel you.


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