Faculty Research & Creative Activity

Document Type


Publication Date

January 2015


With the technological ability and pop-cultural fascination to record private moments and distribute them, poetry that reveals personal details and conflates the identity between speaker and author must feel the effects of what could be viewed as an over-saturation of the confessional—which was during the 1950s and 1960s with Robert Lowell, Anne Sexton, and Sylvia Plath a political, rebellious act. It is far from that now. In this Kim Kardashian era, revealing sex tapes are used as marketing tools to launch careers whereas once they destroyed careers. Considering the hyper-confessional climate of our era and that “Confessional” is something of a derogatory label among poets, what are some ways a post-millennial confessionalistic book can transcend the personal and its particulars? In other words, what options are available to poets who do wish to write about a personal subject matter, but who are aware of the barbs and pitfalls of doing so? This essay analyzes three poetry books that offer different degrees of distancing the self from the Confessional while at the same time delivering a personal narrative: Natasha Trethewey’s Native Guard (2006), Anne Carson’s Nox (2010), and Joseph Harrington’s Things Come On (2011).