A Look into Narrative and Confessional Poetry

My Ph.D. colleague, Dante Di Stefano, recently had an essay published by Shenandoah. The essay, “A Defense of Train Wrecks: Lyric Narrative Poetry and the Legacy of Confessionalism,” ┬ámakes a fine case for narrative poetry today. Not only does the essay give a deep reading to some of the best contemporary narrative poets, including Joe Weil, Maria Mazziotti Gillan, Denise Duhamel, and Sharon Olds, but the essay looks at the history of that mode of poetry, going back to Robert Lowell, John Berryman, Sylvia Plath, and Anne Sexton, viewing their work as a reaction against Eliot, Williams, Pound and other Modernists who often fractured narrative.

This essay gives a good reading and deep understanding to the last several decades of American poetry. Check it out.

In Honor of Maxine

The American poetry scene has lost some big names over the last few years, including W.D. Snodgrass and Adrienne Rich. This weekend, Pulitzier-prize winning poet Maxine Kumin passed. In an article published by The Los Angeles Times, Carol Muske-Dukes says of Kumin’s work, “Kumin wrote deceptively straightforward poems. The ‘below surface’ artistry of these poems lay in their ability to transform familiar experience to precisely calibrated insights, couched in a quietly elegant style.”

Most recently, over Christmas break, I was thinking of Maxine Kumin while reading Anne Sexton’s letters, specifically how Kumin provided important support and friendship to Sexton, especially through Sexton’s bouts with depressions or doubt in her work. Kumin was also friends with Adrienne Rich and Sylvia Plath, and Muske-Dukes notes that the passing of Kumin means we “have lost the last ‘member’ of this august sisterhood of poets.” And yet, while Kumin may have addressed feminism and gender issues in her work, like the “sisterhood of poets,” I always enjoyed her naturalism, the way she recounted the cycles of life and death, witnessed after living on a farm in New Hampshire for years and raising horses.

For more info on Kumin’s work, visit her website here or her bio on the Academy of American poets here.