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.