Which poet ranks as the most confessional of the confessional poets, Plath, Ginsberg, Bishop, or Lowell?
Ginsberg: "Howl" and "A Supermarket in California"
Plath: "Daddy" and "Lady Lazarus"
Bishop: "The Fish" and "The Moose"
Lowell: "Skunk Hour" and "For the Union Dead"
Lowell (Sylvia Plath's teacher) is noted as the innovator of confessional poetry that has--for good or bad--had such a profound influence upon contemporary poetry. "Skunk Hour" is one of Lowell's confessional poems in which he reveals the "I" of personal feeling and experience within the context of the poem:
my ill-spirit sob in each blood cell,
as if my hand were at its throat. . . .
I myself am hell;
However, Sylvia Plath's "Daddy" is viewed by many critics to the best example of early confessional poetry, thus making Plath the most confessional of the confessional poets. In some ways, it may be taken as a metaphor though it was written to her father who died when she was age 8, even though in the poem she says, "I was ten when they buried you." Since his death occurred in 1940 while he was a professor at Harvard, Otto Plath was never a Nazi.
Sylvia feels that his early death--which came through his choice for medical neglect--had such a profound psychological hold upon her (she felt that his death was tantamount to suicide since it may have been prevented with medical care) that it was like a Nazi grip upon a Jew, hence the German-Nazi-Jew metaphor and imagery.
Not God but a swastika
So black no sky could squeak through.
Sylivia Plath's suicide four months after penning "Daddy" raises the question for some critics of the effect of confessional poetry upon poet as well as upon reader.