Sylvia Plath: Poems

Fathers and Father Figures in Women’s Confessional Poetry College

In his preface to Lyrical Ballads,William Wordsworth describes good poetry as being “the spontaneous overflow of powerful feelings” (6). The style of confessional poetry seems especially fitting to this description; to think that confessional poets merely transcribe powerful emotions onto paper is, however, a misconception. This paper attempts to examine the field and themes of confessional poetry, focusing on the poetry of Sylvia Plath, Anne Sexton and Sharon Olds. A common theme in the works of these women appears to be the subject of (incestuous) fathers and father figures; by analyzing their works relevant to this study and placing them in the context of previous research this paper seeks to explore and explain this motif from an angle of social oppression.

Confessional poetry, a writing style that emerged in the United States in the late 1950s, can be described as “the poetry of the personal or ‘I’”; it deals with highly personal subject matter that would ordinarily be kept out of the public domain. Themes like depression, suicide, mental trauma and abuse, which weren’t traditionally openly featured in poetry before, are discussed from an angle of private experience and emotion. As well as dealing with taboo or shocking...

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