In Defense Of Confessional Poetry

Nadia Colburn makes the case:

The themes of the domestic, of sexuality, and of mental health are labeled “confessional,” perhaps, because they are considered “not quite honorable.” After all, one goes to Catholic confession to confess one’s “sins.” But I fear that sometimes the threat of the term “confessional” prevents people from staying on the path of their own truths, a path of self discovery and ultimately potentially of a spiritual awakening that asks us to move beyond these notions of “manliness” or womanliness, or other categories. After all, the “confessional” is a religious practice that assumes that in expressing one’s problems, one can ultimately let them go and move beyond them to get closer to God.

In a recent piece called “Confessional Writing Is Not Self-indulgent,” the essayist Leslie Jamison discusses the ways in which personal writing connects people through self-recognition. Even beyond that, though, removing masks is an important task of poetry, and of all writing, because it is often exactly through revealing the personal that we are able to transcend the rigid boundaries of self and the categories around it, and to connect with others outside ourselves, both on a political and a spiritual level. Those themes that are considered “personal” are important to us all — not only in our private lives — but also in our public, communal lives. And the people who write about them, even in our age of Oprah, continue to be pioneers.