I'm starting a new movement in American poetry. I'm calling it potentially "neo-confessionalism" or "professive poetry." Who's with me?

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At AWP last year, I heard over and over again about what a demonized term "Confessional" poetry was. In fact, I attended the panel on which Aimee Nezhukumatathil sat with Duhamel & Addonizio which spent a long time discussing how reductionist this term was now as it applied to contemporary women's poetry, and I agreed with the boxing effect, especially when this term is dismissively applied by WHeMaCs (pronounced "WEE-max"—white hetero male critics).

But as someone who feels he writes in a mode owing a debt to Confessional poets, I wonder: is it time to reclaim?

Lynn Emanuel told me once that in Then, Suddenly—, the reader was confronted with Lynn Emanuel within the poems—but not just one Lynn Emanuel; it was "a carnival of Lynn Emanuels." This notion of the mutable self applies to what the new movement will achieve. We are all multiple people, multitudes of voices (see also Walt Whitman).

So, to manifestoize, I perceive this new movement to shake off the negative aspects of "Confessionalism"—including revalorizing that term, divorcing it from notions of SIN and GUILT, which I feel are its major short comings: when do people ever confess to something positive? NEVER. Instead of confessing the self, we profess the self! We enrapture the self in a multitude of selves, multitudes of moments!

I'm writing in part because some of the titles Eduardo C. Corral came up with for his ms. involve these types of impulses: "All About Me," for example.

Professive poetry is not poetry about a life, but of a life. It might be lying. It might want to go to bed with you, it might not. Maybe it feels like a light dinner of salad with vinaigrette; maybe it will order out for pizza. You just don't know. But truthful or not, professive poetry is honest of the self: capturing the selves in their reconstructed habitats, cared for and fed by trained professionals.

Do you profess?

Does your mother know?


  1. I'm in. I'm your follower. Me, H.D. & you, Pound. Give me poetry brimming with life! Give me poetry bursting with things! Talk to me about the moon. Lie to me: tell me the heart is a hand holding back a velvet curtain. Tell me who you are today. Tell me who you were yesterday. Invent yourself for me. Whisper. Scream. Beg. Sing. For me, for me!

    Eduardo C. Corral
    Professive Poet

  2. I totally agree that elements of mulitplicity within the voice of the poet are essential. However, doesn't this multiplicity have its root in the "negative capability" of Keats? Isn't what you're getting at the ability to maneuver and reinvent the self in ways that allow you to say things that you, "yourself," can't say? To confess lies? To assert the way that things might have been or the way they should be?
    It seems to me that the constant reidentification of the self, the numerous overhauls of the poetic voice, is truly, at its core, an effective use of the objective correlative, allowing the poet to give voice to the voiceless. It is through such correlatives and associative leaps that the mind of the individual becomes linked to that which is not the mind, a la Whitman's movement into innumerable plains of existence.
    Obviously, as outsiders to "WHeMa" poetry, minority groups across the board are, to an extent, voiceless. However, as the dead, themselves voiceless, gain voice through Pound's poetry, I hesitate to proclaim this ideology new. I have always thought that such a lending of voice to those without one was at the heart of poetry. So, I suppose, my reaction is "Yes, I am with you," but my question is, "Is this really new?" I'll think more on it. Best, Ryan

  3. If you haven't run into the anthology, After Confession, I think you might find it of interest. :)

  4. sign me on as a post-avant neo-confessional.

    Nah, I'm probably not post-avant enough for the Sillimans of the world, but I identify with neo-confessionalism just fine.

    Or professive poet.