Experimental Confessionalism: The Personal Turn in American Post-conceptual Poetry

By | 1 August 2018


As we have seen, experimental confessionalism returns poetry to the arena of the personal and confessional, of which language poets and conceptual poets were somewhat wary. Nevertheless, it also questions the fundamental premises of confessionalism. These poets adopt self-exposure in a more self-conscious way and with more artifice than their predecessors, who did not call themselves confessional (but became known as such through a label that was imposed by critics). Here I have only looked at post-conceptual poetry in America, and in a restricted range of poets, but in the future it might be useful to consider how relevant experimental confessionalism is to poets in Australia such as Oscar Schwartz (Schwartz 2017). Similarly, it might be useful to look at confessionalism in relation to electronic works. It can sometimes be an aspect of digital storytelling, while Leonardo Flores has drawn attention to Twitter bots, which he found ‘were doing things that were in tune with contemporary poetry and poetics – conceptual writing, flarf, Language poetry, e-poetry, even a kind of robotic twist on Post Confessionalism’ (Lauer Undated). I have written elsewhere about my collaborative project with Roger Dean in computerised text generation through deep (machine) learning (Dean and Smith 2018 ; Smith 2017): we can only speculate about how a machine might learn to become ‘confessional’ and also interrogate its own confessions.

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