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The Breath of the Poem: Confessional Print/Performance circa 1959

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  23 October 2020

Abstract

This essay offers an early chapter in the conjoined history of poetry and performance art, literary criticism and performance studies. Beginning in the mid-1950s and with increasing fervor through the 1960s, American poetry lived simultaneously in print, on vinyl, and in embodied performance. Amid this environment of multimedia publicity, an oddly private poetry emerged. The essay locates confessional poetry in the performance-rich context of its birth and interrogates not only its textual voice but also its embodied, performed breath. Focusing on early confessional work by Robert Lowell and Anne Sexton, this essay conducts side-by-side “readings” of printed poems and recorded performances and suggests that confessional refers to an intermedial, print-performance style—a particular logic for capturing personal performances in print form and for breathing performances back out of the printed page.

Type
Research Article
Copyright
Copyright © 2012 by The Modern Language Association of America

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