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The Significance of form in Confessional Poetry

Abstract

The present article aims to explore the significance of form in a number of well-known Confessional poems. The defining element of Confessional Poetry is its highly personal content and unprecedented frankness; having said that, the present paper aims to see if Confessional poems were as form-based as they were theme-based and if they deliberately manipulated carefully selected figures of speech to maintain an artistic balance between form and content. The central question to be tackled here, therefore, is: do typical Confessional poems simultaneously and concurrently manifest careful attention to form as they do to content? To answer the question, a number of the best representative Confessional poems including Robert Lowell’s “Home after Three Months Away,†W. D. Snodgrass’s “A Locked House,†John Berryman’s “The Ball Poem,†Anne Sexton’s “Noon Walk on the Asylum Lawn,†and Sylvia Plath’s “Mirror†are given a formalistic treatment in an attempt to discover the craftsmanship of the poets and their use of formal features and figurative devices such as rhyme, metre, rhythm, imagery, personification, metaphor, symbol, and similar tropes and the role they play in the thematic development of the poems. The present formalist study reveals that while Confessionalists' treatment of the poetic self was groundbreaking and shocking to some readers, they maintained a high level of craftsmanship through their careful attention to and the use of formal features and figurative devices such as rhyme, metre, rhythm, imagery, personification, metaphor, symbol, and similar tropes. Typical Confessional poems exhibit careful word choices and superb manipulation of poetic techniques, all of which contribute to the richness and compactness of their thematic load.  

Key Words: Confessional Poetry, literary devices, form, and content.