As an expert in contemporary poetry, I see the texts within my usual range of interest as those that are written about or inspired by our daily lives. However today I speak about some works of poetry that stand the test of time. “Good” poetry must have the qualities of language which make ideas and emotions condensed. They must display a recognisable format or structure that relates to our concept of poetry. A common test of what makes any text worthwhile is its popularity, its relevance and comprehensibility. Writers from the historical past form a cannon of works that give us a standard against which to judge other texts and see how they stand up against this body of literature.
One poet who does compare well with this tradition is Ted Hughes, a confessional poet from the 1950’s through to the 90’s, renowned for his work ‘Birthday Letters’ which is concerned with the universal themes of love and mental illness. His technical use of figurative language and form is clearly poetic in its genre. Within this structure Hughes sets up the concept of using biographical, historical and chronological backgrounds as a method of exploring life’s emotional journey.
The first poem in Birthday letters is important in terms of establishing the personal nature of confessional poetry. In Hughes poem, Fulbright Scholars’ his use of the 1st person for example “At 25 I was dumbfounded”, and, the poets use of direct address to the subject (Sylvia) with his words “your long hair” emphasise the subjective nature of the treatment of a biographical subject. In doing this Hughes forms a close connection with the reader creating a bond between the past and the present.
Fulbright scholars is a poem about the difficulty of telling the truth, especially in the context of remembering the receding past which sets up a base for the rest of the collection. It also makes it clear that we are seeing these past events from one’s person perspective- someone who confesses not...
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