Confessional Poetry - MHS AP Literature 2013

Confessional Poetry
Period 1
Cody Dela Cruz
Celestine Largoza
Genevieve Libed
Karol Rivera
Background Information
• Emerged in the 1950s and 60s , during the US Civil
Rights movement and women subordination (50s) and
women liberation (60s).
• Written almost like an autobiography.
• Depression, suicidal tendencies, alcoholism, drug
abuse, and sexual affairs are usually the topics.
• “Poetry of the personal or ‘I’ “
• Writer usually refers to real events.
• Each poet utilizes rhyme, rhythm, meter, tone, and
Sylvia Plath
• Plath was born on October 27, 1932 in Boston, Massachusetts.
• Her mother, Aurella Schober, a student at Boston University
married her professor, Otto Plath.
• At the age of eight years old her father died from diabetes and due
to his strict attitude and their relationship, he plays a big role on her
• In 1953 Sylvia Plath attempted a suicide, but was still able to
graduate in 1955.
• 1956 she married Ted Hughes and in 1960 she gave birth to Frieda
Hughes and in 1962 to Nicholas Hughes.
• After Nicholas Hughes birth Ted left her for Assia Gutmann Wevill.
• That winter Plath wrote her most famous book, “Ariel.”
• In 1963 wrote a note to her neighbor telling him to call a doctor then
committed suicide.
Notable Works
The Colossus (1960)
Ariel (1965)
Crossing the Water (1971)
Winter Trees (1972)
The Collected Poems (1981)
Analysis: Family Reunion (1950)
• Theme: Having to hide who she really is in fear of not being
accepted by her family.
• This also relates to society because there are times when people
feel like they must mask who they really are so they can fit in with
the social norms
• Alliteration: In the poem Plath rhymes the ending words
• (Hear, near) (Talk, walk) (Claws, pause) (Heat, beat) (Thin, within) (Meeting, greeting)
(Breath, Elizabeth) (All, Uncle Paul) (Whine, line) (Land, stand)
• Similes:
• “Like a diver on a lofty spar of land Atop the flight of stairs I
• “And hands like nervous butterflies; While rough as splintered
Robert Lowell
• Born on March 1, 1917 in
Boston, MA
• He was violent and bullied
kids his age
• He attended Harvard College
for two years before
transferring to Kenyon
College, received an
undergraduate degree in
• He took graduate courses at
Louisiana State University
• He wrote formal poetry
containing meter and rhymes.
• He was against WWII, and
was imprisoned.
• Had manic depression
• Died after a heart attack in
Notable Works
• Lord Weary's Castle (1946)
• 1947 Pulitzer Prize
• Life Studies (1959)
• Mixed of free and metered verse
• Imitations (1961)
• For the Union Dead (1964)
• The Dolphin (1973)
• 1974 Pulitzer Prize
• History (1973)
• Day by Day (1977)
• Free Verse
Analysis: To Speak of Woe That Is in
Marriage (1976)
Tone: Sad, regretful, and worried
Shift in tone
Simile: “he stalls above me like an elephant”
Uses Rhyming Couplets
Disputes, Prostitutes
Edge, Pledge
Lust, Unjust
• Theme: Marital Breakdown
• Some marriages are not as perfect as they seem.
• Some people find sadness in marriage, leading to loss of interest
but still have a strong feeling for lust.
John Berryman
• Born October 25, 1914 in
McAlester, Oklahoma
• Considered a key figure in the
Confessional school of poetry
• He was scarred by his fathers
suicide & wrote about his
struggle with it in his Dream
• Berryman went to college at
Columbia College where he
studied with literary scholar Mark
Van Doren
• Credited Van Doren for sparking
his interest in writing poetry
• Died January 7, 1972 in
Minneapolis, Minnesota
Notable Works
• Best-known work is The Dream Songs
Analysis: Dream Song 14 (1969)
• Theme: Despite all the luxuries we have, life will always have
no meaning.
• Literary Devices:
• Tone: Dissatisfied
Anne Sexton
• Born Anne Gray Harvey in
Newton, MA on November 9,
• Modeled for Boston's Hart
Agency for a short time
• Suffered from bipolar
disorder, in 1955 she met Dr.
Martin Orne who encouraged
her to take up poetry – her
form of therapy
• Morning of October 4, 1974,
Sexton had lunch with poet
Maxine Kumin revise last
book. On returning she locked
herself in her garage, and
started the engine of her car,
committing suicide by carbon
monoxide poisoning.
Notable Works
• Standard themes of depression, isolation, suicide, and despair,
also issues specific to women, such as menstruation and
abortion, masturbation, and adultery.
• Actually books of poems
• The Awful Rowing Toward God
• The Death Notebooks
• To Bedlam and Part Way Back
• All My Pretty Ones
• Live or Die – Pulitzer prize winning
Analysis: Wanting to Die
• Figurative language:
• Personification
• Shift in tone in 9th stanza
• Simile
• Metaphor
• Theme: Curiosity , Curiosity will not cause us
to die
Louise Bourgeois
Precious Liquids
Louise Bourgeois
cylindrical bedroom with installed vials filled with blood, sperm, and tears.
Name 3 of the topics that Confessional
poetry is based on.
Depression, suicidal tendencies,
alcoholism, drug abuse, sexual affairs
Question #2
Who played a big role on Sylvia Plath’s
Her father
Why was Robert Lowell imprisoned?
He was against WWII
Question #4
What event influenced John Berryman’s
Dream Songs?
His father’s suicide
Dr. Martin Orne encouraged Anne
Sexton to take up poetry as a form of
therapy for what?
Bipolar disorder
Who is this poet?
Anne Sexton
When did Confessional Poetry emerge?
1950’s and 60’s during the U.S. Civil
Rights Movement
What 2 poetry movements formed as a
reaction to Confessional poetry?
Language and New Formalist poetry
How did the movement get it’s name?
M. L. Rosenthal used “confessional” in a
review on Robert Lowell’s Life Studies
Life Studies is underlined
AP Prompts
• Based on the poem given, analyze the
literary techniques, theme, and focus and
explain how it is apart of the Confessional
Movement. (see next slide)
• Write an essay in which you compare and
contrast the themes and techniques used
in Family Reunion and Dream Song 14.
Cinderella by Sylvia Plath
The prince leans to the girl in scarlet heels,
Her green eyes slant, hair flaring in a fan
Of silver as the rondo slows; now reels
Begin on tilted violins to span
The whole revolving tall glass palace hall
Where guests slide gliding into light like wine;
Rose candles flicker on the lilac wall
Reflecting in a million flagons' shine,
And glided couples all in whirling trance
Follow holiday revel begun long since,
Until near twelve the strange girl all at once
Guilt-stricken halts, pales, clings to the prince
As amid the hectic music and cocktail talk
She hears the caustic ticking of the clock.
Helpful Links