Sunday, February 15, 2015

Week 50: Robert Lowell - The Personal Bleeding Into Writing

This weeks Tarot Card connects me to Robert Lowell. My first impression, another tortured soul of a writer. But I also know Lowell to be an influence on numerous poets from his time period. Sylvia Plath, Anne Sexton, Elizabeth Bishop, W.D. Snodgrass to name a few.

Lowell's best known work is probably Life Studies. You might credit Lowell with the beginning of the Confessional Poetry period or at very least he was an early player. His life, his struggles became entangled with his writing. Like other confessional writers of this period his work was both celebrated and criticized. In part perhaps because at times connected others so precisely in his work that the ethics of it was called into question.

So what can I learn this week from Lowell?  Do I have the ability to write from an internal perspective of my own life? Is their value in this?  I have long been touched in a positive way by the work of Sexton and Plath. I have been especially drawn to poetry that can be a bit on the edgy side. Maybe dark at times. This is not to say that I don't appreciate more uplifting material as well. I don't consider myself a Goth. Is there therapeutic value in writing confessional poetry? How do I feel when I read poetry that gives enough insight into other personalities as to know who is poet speaking about?

So I ask myself this week if there is value in incorporation one's own life history into poetry?  I have to a degree done so in the past, I think at times unknowingly  but sometimes will full knowledge as will.  I think very often I have been aware of the bleed over into poetry of some personal aspects of life and I have to say I am not always really  free about letting everything in. Yes, I do sometimes self edit out things I might be uncomfortable with. Actually, I  more often edit out things I think others might be uncomfortable with. In revision, I have been known to sanitize so to speak. I'm not sure that I'm happy as I look back at this because it says to me that I am not always genuine. But in the moment of revision, it is harder to feel this way as I am more likely to be driven by fear, discomfort, or  shame.

Lowell may have had it  right to dig deep into is life. Such writing can bring us insight into ourselves. But is that the best writing to submit for publication? I suppose that is an answer that only each writer can answer for him/herself  For right now, I do not have a static answer for this question today. It will have to wait.

But I will be communing with Lowell this week about these things. My views may shift as I explore these questions. At some point I will update where this all has taken me.

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