In this bold defense of so-called confessional poetry, Alan Williamson shows us that much of the best writing of the past twenty-five years is about the sense of being or having a self, a knowable personal identity. The difficulties posed by this subject help explain the fertility of contemporary poetic experiment--from the jaggedness of the later work of Robert Lowell to the montage--like methods of John Ashbery, from the visual surrealism of James Wright and W. S. Merwin to the radical plainness of Frank Bidart. Williamson examines these and other poets from a psychological perspective, giving an especially striking reading of Sylvia Plath.
Alan Williamson, Professor of English, University of California, Davis, is a poet whose work has appeared in the New Yorker, New Republic, Partisan Review and other publications; a collection of his poems, Presence was recently published. He is also the author of Pity the Monsters: The Political Vision of Robert Lowell.
* Introduction *"I Am That I Am": The Ethics and Aesthetics of Personal Poetry * Real and Numinous Selves: A Reading of Plath * Language Against Itself: The Middle Generation of Contemporary Poets *"Surrealism" and the Absent Self * The Diffracting Diamond: Ashbery, Romanticism, and Anti-Art * The Future of Personal Poetry * Notes * Credits * Index