ACW

ACW

Monday, 19 June 2017

Is confession good for the soul? by Veronica Zundel

Confessional
Since starting my poetry writing MA (which has now had to be put on hold for a year because of my cancer treatment), I have become increasingly aware that 'confessional poetry' is largely a term of abuse in today's poetry scene. It calls to mind poems about personal pain (usually of a love-related
nature) in which the word 'I' occurs a lot and there is not much attention to technical quality or striking language and imagery, rather what appears to be prose chopped up into little lines, and a hearty helping of clichés.

Now I've probably written a lot of this sort of poetry myself in the past, though sometimes disguising its personal nature by using 'She' or even 'You' instead of 'I' - unrequited love is an endlessly fruitful source of poetry, and I've had more than my share of it. There is of course a Christian equivalent, pious poems with a liberal sprinkling of religious platitudes, generally the literary equivalent of those slushy worship songs often known as 'Jesus is my boyfriend' songs, ie if you took out the word 'God' they would sound exactly like Top 10 romantic ballads (only not quite up to the Top 10).

George Herbert
But is the personal really that taboo in modern poetry? You could argue quite easily that much of the poetry of my heroines Sylvia Plath, Stevie Smith and the earlier but in many ways very modern Emily Dickinson, was personal and 'confessional' to a high degree, yet no one would claim that the result is bad poetry. Or going back further in history, is not the work of John Donne or his contemporary George Herbert, not to mention Shakespeare's 154 sonnets, deeply confessional? Yet all use powerful, unusual language and imagery and can never be accused of cliché.

It was 1970s feminism that coined the phrase 'the personal is political', and from a Christian viewpoint we could add 'the personal is theological' too. I have said often that I prefer to read novels by women rather than by men - they just seem to be far nicer to their characters, while men's writing can often be rather detached and cold. I am finding now that the same applies to poetry: women's poems reach and sometimes break my heart, while so much of men's poetry (not all by any means) seems mainly to be about showing off how incomprehensible you can be.

The fact is, confessional does not have to mean slushy, formless or sentimental. 'Written from the heart' does not automatically imply 'written without use of the head'. Ultimately, we all make whatever we write from the fabric of our own lives, or our personal observations of the lives of others. If we are good writers, it goes through a transformation in which our inner feelings and thoughts become an outer artefact, separate from ourselves and capable of independent life (a bit like having children really). If we are not, perhaps we should give up.


Veronica Zundel is a freelance writer whose latest book is Everything I know about God, I've learned from being a parent (BRF 2013). She also writes a column for Woman Alive magazine, and Bible notes for BRF's New Daylight. Veronica used to belong to what was, before it closed, the only non-conservative, English speaking Mennonite church in the UK, and is currently playing at being a high Anglican. She also blogs (rather occasionally!) at reversedstandard.com

8 comments:

  1. Well said, Veronica. And I have a daughter who would like your latest book. And she has a birthday coming up . . . I agree about women writers being kinder to their characters but occasionally I enjoy a good-old, one-dimension. bad-boy novel (a wee break off making psychological allowances all the time) and men are definitely better at those!

    ReplyDelete
  2. It's out of print, but you can probably get it used or new on Amazon, or direct from me for a mere £5 plus postage! Email vez@makewrite.demon.co.uk

    ReplyDelete
  3. Dunno if you saw this before...
    yet, here it is once moe, curly:

    Greetings, earthling! Need summore new-fangled-thots N ideers? Look no firdr, brudda. Can't stay long. Done gotta git, Paw... yet, if Im a sower, we plant the Seed; if Im an artist, we RITE the Word:

    Would U please help a plethora of King Size, wildchild, rawkuss poetry/wordz which are lookin 4 a home in thy novelty?? Thx. Whew. They're pretty insane. They're bereft of reason. Oi! Blimey! They're bloody PINK spiders!

    Gotta gobba lotta shrewd, surreal, supersonic, sardonic satires, sassy N savvy elixers N electronic elegance (and palpable nuance) on our YOUTHwitheTRUTH blogs. Wannum? Have'm. N'joym. Gettm outta my hair!!!

    How mucha wanna betcha our sugar-high-mojo, pleasure-beyond-measure, fuse-blowin-exploits R a copious madhouse of one lavish bookay D.O.A.? Our proFUSE NRGod who leads U.S. to explosive fairy-tales in the 'one-stop-shop' symphony Upstairs? God's the BigDude, the Owner of ElysianFields, the Grand Prize, the Austere Overdrive, NoPurchaseNecessary: our bombastic tenaCITY on a Hill which'll plant the Seeds 4u2 grow-up to new N greater heights!! Mama mia! Thatsa good pasta!!

    CAUTION: our 22ish, avant-guard, accurately-atrocious, offa-the-reservation-like-Jimmy-Hoffa, metal breadcrumms R sooo out-of-order, toots, they're an intimate wealth of bottomless sophistication. And dats da lethal fak, Jak. Go ahead. Sue me. Yawn. But, yet, here's the perennial KOO D'TAH: who else has actually SEEN the Great Beyond in spirit & lived to tella youse bout the bionic, bloated, brevity-like-earth we're living on?? Yes, earthling, Im an NDE, almost salivating4salvation. So gain altitude, never attitude: death has no intrinsick favorites.

    If Mr. abSUREditty's an ultra-great-reward, and not everyone enters, Q: why is it an excruciating deluge of epic-.357-caliber where the quality's a limitless bulldozer plowin, pushin-your-power-cord with eternal goodies? A: the Prize-A+-TheEnd just gives U.S. moe-curley-graphix 2 VitSee: an explosion-of-extravagance which few R asking 4 anymore! Grrr. They're too concerned withe grotesque sanity of ambivilant piss-ants which swiftly crawl like lemmings to their scorecard destruction. C'est la guerre.

    THANK GAWWWD!!! the Don has the ebullient BAWLS!!! to do the Manifest Destiny!!! To lead U.S. forward to the White House Upstairs with his SQUARES!!!

    So, break-free, earthling; be like a contraversial outgrowth of incredibly-intoxicating-effusiveness in your zeitgeist to give the ultimate, stunning, backknuckle potency: Wiseabove. Wanna join this useFULL idiot Upstairs 4 the most zany, kooky, X-acto-knife antidotes? Extremely exquisite, explicit endorphins in abundance? Puh-lenty of pulverizingly-tantalizing psychopathic psychosomatics with eXtras? i2i-kick-velocity's-ass-ultra-maximum-rocket-fuel-party-hardy at my pad ya ever encountered without d'New Joisey accent 4 an eternal slew of precarious, magnanimous & primeval absurdities indelibly etched in the granite corridors of eternity with a total-barrage-of-melt-in-thy-mouth 'depth-of-undenial'???

    Make Your Choice  -SAW
    ...cuzz nobody gitts outta here alive, earthling.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I'll git everyone in Seventh-Heaven
      to pray for you...
      me, too.

      Vive Christos Rei!!!
      (Portugese:
      Long Live Christ [the] King)

      If you say THAT,
      you'll be better in no time flat.
      God love you.
      Cya soon Upstairs...

      Delete
    2. I'll git everyone in Seventh-Heaven
      to pray for you...
      me, too.

      Vive Christos Rei!!!
      (Portugese:
      Long Live Christ [the] King)

      If you say THAT,
      you'll be better in no time flat.
      God love you.
      Cya soon Upstairs...

      Delete
  4. Dunno if you saw this before...
    yet, here it is once moe, curly:

    Greetings, earthling! Need summore new-fangled-thots N ideers? Look no firdr, brudda. Can't stay long. Done gotta git, Paw... yet, if Im a sower, we plant the Seed; if Im an artist, we RITE the Word:

    Would U please help a plethora of King Size, wildchild, rawkuss poetry/wordz which are lookin 4 a home in thy novelty?? Thx. Whew. They're pretty insane. They're bereft of reason. Oi! Blimey! They're bloody PINK spiders!

    Gotta gobba lotta shrewd, surreal, supersonic, sardonic satires, sassy N savvy elixers N electronic elegance (and palpable nuance) on our YOUTHwitheTRUTH blogs. Wannum? Have'm. N'joym. Gettm outta my hair!!!

    How mucha wanna betcha our sugar-high-mojo, pleasure-beyond-measure, fuse-blowin-exploits R a copious madhouse of one lavish bookay D.O.A.? Our proFUSE NRGod who leads U.S. to explosive fairy-tales in the 'one-stop-shop' symphony Upstairs? God's the BigDude, the Owner of ElysianFields, the Grand Prize, the Austere Overdrive, NoPurchaseNecessary: our bombastic tenaCITY on a Hill which'll plant the Seeds 4u2 grow-up to new N greater heights!! Mama mia! Thatsa good pasta!!

    CAUTION: our 22ish, avant-guard, accurately-atrocious, offa-the-reservation-like-Jimmy-Hoffa, metal breadcrumms R sooo out-of-order, toots, they're an intimate wealth of bottomless sophistication. And dats da lethal fak, Jak. Go ahead. Sue me. Yawn. But, yet, here's the perennial KOO D'TAH: who else has actually SEEN the Great Beyond in spirit & lived to tella youse bout the bionic, bloated, brevity-like-earth we're living on?? Yes, earthling, Im an NDE, almost salivating4salvation. So gain altitude, never attitude: death has no intrinsick favorites.

    If Mr. abSUREditty's an ultra-great-reward, and not everyone enters, Q: why is it an excruciating deluge of epic-.357-caliber where the quality's a limitless bulldozer plowin, pushin-your-power-cord with eternal goodies? A: the Prize-A+-TheEnd just gives U.S. moe-curley-graphix 2 VitSee: an explosion-of-extravagance which few R asking 4 anymore! Grrr. They're too concerned withe grotesque sanity of ambivilant piss-ants which swiftly crawl like lemmings to their scorecard destruction. C'est la guerre.

    THANK GAWWWD!!! the Don has the ebullient BAWLS!!! to do the Manifest Destiny!!! To lead U.S. forward to the White House Upstairs with his SQUARES!!!

    So, break-free, earthling; be like a contraversial outgrowth of incredibly-intoxicating-effusiveness in your zeitgeist to give the ultimate, stunning, backknuckle potency: Wiseabove. Wanna join this useFULL idiot Upstairs 4 the most zany, kooky, X-acto-knife antidotes? Extremely exquisite, explicit endorphins in abundance? Puh-lenty of pulverizingly-tantalizing psychopathic psychosomatics with eXtras? i2i-kick-velocity's-ass-ultra-maximum-rocket-fuel-party-hardy at my pad ya ever encountered without d'New Joisey accent 4 an eternal slew of precarious, magnanimous & primeval absurdities indelibly etched in the granite corridors of eternity with a total-barrage-of-melt-in-thy-mouth 'depth-of-undenial'???

    Make Your Choice  -SAW
    ...cuzz nobody gitts outta here alive, earthling.

    ReplyDelete
  5. This comment has been removed by the author.

    ReplyDelete
  6. Please do not post advertisments on this blog which is for Christian writers to post about their writing and faith. If you want to post incoherent rubbish twice, please go elsewhere.

    ReplyDelete