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The Healing Power Of Confessional Poetry

Do you remember the poetry you wrote as a teenager? Many poets would rather eat paint chips than share their teen-angst poetry with the world. Teenage poetry is often raw, drippy, sloppy, histrionic, self-centered, and overdone. But there are valuable lessons to be learned in remembering the way we used to write before we ever dreamed of getting a poem published.

The type of poetry most often associated with a poet’s personal emotional journey is confessional poetry. This style is a particular favorite among editors of literary journals and magazines, because it demonstrates intimacy and reflection.

Writing confessional poetry is important to a poet’s personal journey toward self-improvement. Before you cared about poetic technique, you probably just cared about the act of writing. Writing a poem when you’re feeling a strong emotion is often a great way to make sense of your feelings. Poetry can be therapeutic and cathartic, allowing writers to discover their true feelings in a safe space.

When you’re feeling troubled, grab a pen. Writing heals. When you write, you make time for yourself—and that’s important. Confessional poetry can get you through the biggest hurdles in your life, and you should not be afraid of plunging into intimate, meaningful confession.

BUT before you go pulling your old, high school confessional poems out of the attic so you can get them published—or before you start thinking that every confessional poem you write is genius—think again. They are important to the writer but can come off as self-indulgent to the reader. To be published, they need to demonstrate that the writer is self-aware and has great insight and technique.

Apart from being overly emotional, the other problem with confessional poems is that they run the risk of being unruly. Although poetic verse can be free form, it must always be carefully wrought. Poems that spill on to the page and are done in a single draft are poems that you as a writer may want to consider putting away for a while. Better to judge your poems once you’re a bit distant from them—so you can see them for what they really are.

For more articles about poetry, read:

Seven Techniques You Must Know To Make Editors Notice Your Poetry

How To Get Your Poetry Published

Spotlight on Poetry

Free Verse: The Hidden Rules Of Free Verse Poetry

The Seduction of Questionable Poetry Contests

At Writer’s Relief we believe in the power of the pen. But be sure to learn the difference between when a poem is necessary emotional spewing and when it is true, carefully crafted art.

Writer’s Relief would be pleased to help you submit your poems for publication. We can target your poems to the editors of literary magazines and journals who will be most likely to appreciate your writing. Learn more about Writer’s Relief.

5 Responses to The Healing Power Of Confessional Poetry

  1. I rarely revise poems, or get around to finishing fragmented ones. I’ve always felt if it’s a good poem, it comes out right the first time. Coincidentially, I’m typing this after having come across my collecting book of various middle and high school poems while I was cleaning this weekend. There were the ones where I was trying to write “high” poetry (which end up sounding corny), the class assignments where I was required to use certain phrasing (like the poem that HAD to end “I will stand up”–it’d be a much better poem if I hadn’t bee shackled to that phrase) or force into a particular theme (in high school I had this fantasy of publishing two collections: “Terra’s Song” and “Song of the Universe”–talk about “big” topics), and poems I wouldn’t change much even now.

  2. My first drafts are often embarrassingly melodramatic. I feel like it’s a necessary evil though because it is so much easier to tone something down than it is to add feeling in a piece where there is none. Revising is where you should consider your audience and edit out all the emotional excess. First drafts are for your heart, use your head later.

  3. I can’t help but think about the audience just a LITTLE bit in my first draft. The emotions are what make me want to write, but I can’t use too many gory details about other people or I wouldn’t want to publish anything. So I try to at least blur identities so I can feel comfortable trying to publish later on.

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