Introspection and Contemporary Poetry

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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.