Confessional Poems


by Sylvia Plath

‘Daddy’ by Sylvia Plath uses emotional, and sometimes, painful metaphors to depict the poet’s own opinion of her father.

This poem is often cited as a prime example of confessional poetry, a genre characterized by its raw and deeply personal subject matter. The poem's autobiographical elements and its frank portrayal of the speaker's emotions and experiences make it a prime example of this genre.

You do not do, you do not do

Any more, black shoe

In which I have lived like a foot

For thirty years, poor and white,


by Anne Sexton

‘Rowing’ by Anne Sexton is a moving and unforgettable poem about depression. It was written two years before Sexton took her life in 1974.

This is a confessional poem. Its stylistic elements include an intimate tone and how it reveals personal struggles, such as the speaker's desire to get rid of the "gnawing pestilential rat" inside her. Sexton's confessional style often addressed her struggles with mental illness and suicide, and this poem is no exception.

A story, a story!

(Let it go. Let it come.)

I was stamped out like a Plymouth fender

into this world.

First came the crib

Lady Lazarus

by Sylvia Plath

‘Lady Lazarus’ is one of the best poems of Sylvia Plath and an ideal example of Plath’s diction. This poem contains Plath’s poetic expression of her suicidal thoughts.

Plath is considered one of the key figures in the development of confessional poetry, a genre characterized by its personal and autobiographical subject matter. In 'Lady Lazarus,' Plath draws heavily on her own experiences to create a powerful and intimate portrait of her struggles with mental illness, suicide, and the pressure to perform for an audience.

I have done it again.

One year in every ten

I manage it——

Next Day

by Randall Jarrell

‘Next Day’ by Randall Jarrell is a confessional poem with a conversational tone that articulates the complex emotions of aging and change.

'Next Day' is an excellent example of confessional poetry. This poem reveals the innermost thoughts of an older woman who laments her old age. However, her thoughts are very jumbled and unfocused as she shifts perspectives, avoiding the idea at the poem's core. Still, eventually, the speaker touches on her true concerns, revealing that she is afraid of death.

Moving from Cheer to Joy, from Joy to All,

I take a box

And add it to my wild rice, my Cornish game hens.

Explore more Confessional poems

The Snowman on the Moor

by Sylvia Plath

‘The Snowman on the Moor’ explores the turbulent and abusive relationship between the speaker (presumably Plath herself) and her male spouse.

Plath has not only popularized but objectively introduced the genre of confessional poetry into the world of literary arts. Her discussion of emotional experiences best fits the confessional genre, connecting her to the reader. This poem is a fantastic example of confessional poetry and its interest in sharing first-person, very personal experiences and feelings.

Stalemated their armies stood, with tottering banners:

She flung from a room

Still ringing with bruit of insults and dishonors

In Celebration of My Uterus

by Anne Sexton

‘In Celebration of My Uterus’ by Anne Sexton is an uplifting poem about the meaning of womanhood. The poem explores Sexton’s perspective on feminine identity.

Anne Sexton remains one of the female pioneers of the genre of confessional poetry, and this is one of the better examples of her verse. Sexton persisted and even encouraged other women to write in this specific genre, even though most writers at her time were male. Today, she is recognized as one of the best confessional poets the world has ever known.

Sweet weight,

in celebration of the woman I am

and of the soul of the woman I am

and of the central creature and its delight



by Jackie Kay

‘Rubble’ by Jackie Kay is a dramatic monologue that was included in her collection, Darling: New & Selected Poems. It conveys an individual’s cluttered and chaotic mind. 

It is not clear whether the narrator is aware of their confession, or if they merely feel they are relaying events and thoughts to them self. Regardless, the poem's confessional tone is stark and moving due to its honesty.

What was the thought that I just had in my head?


the broken heart. The world outside is breaking

The Confessional

by Robert Browning

‘The Confessional’ by Robert Browning is a dramatic monologue following a woman who is betrayed for her blind faith.

'The Confessional' is a type of confessional poem. However, not a typical confessional, as usually confessional pieces are taken from one's life events or experiences. Instead, this poem focuses on events from a fictional woman. Still, the story's basis is about her experience with the church and how they betrayed her, making an excellent confessional.

It is a lie---their Priests, their Pope,

Their Saints, their ... all they fear or hope

Are lies, and lies---there! through my door

And ceiling, there! and walls and floor,

There, lies, they lie---shall still be hurled

Till spite of them I reach the world!


Pain for a Daughter

by Anne Sexton

‘Pain for a Daughter’ by Anne Sexton is about a mother’s internal conversations while witnessing her daughter’s metamorphosis into a young adult.

This poem is a prime example of a confessional poem. 'Pain for a Daughter' is deeply personal and honest and is also universal in its appeal and speaks to the experiences of mothers and daughters everywhere. Sexton was a pioneer of confessional poetry, and in this poem, she might be expressing her own fears for her daughter's future. She worries that her daughter will experience pain and suffering and wants to protect her from it. However, she also knows she cannot protect her daughter from everything.

Blind with love, my daughter

has cried nightly for horses,

those long-necked marchers and churners

that she has mastered, any and all...

The Almond Trees

by Derek Walcott

‘The Almond Trees’ By Derek Walcott is a confessional poem about identity, history, and cultural identity.

Derek Walcott's 'The Almond Trees' is a confessional poem and is structured as such, but the content differs slightly. Confessional poems rely on the speaker discussing personal events and experiences. Still, Walcott takes it in a slightly different direction as he speaks about not just individual identity but the identity of an entire culture.

There's nothing here

this early;

cold sand

cold churning ocean, the Atlantic,

no visible history,


by Derek Walcott

‘Lampfall’ by Derek Walcott dives deep into an investigation of thought, dreaming, community and connection while also implying that nature and thought are more meaningful than development.

Walcott is, by and large, a confessional poet. This poem, which reveals Walcott's perception of the natural world as he looks out from the seaside, contains clues about Walcott's perception, ideas, wisdom, and feelings about his home. The focus on imagery in this poem also falls in line with confessionalism, each image having complex associations that convey intense emotional meaning.

Closest at lampfall

Like children, like the moth-flame metaphor,

The Coleman's humming jet at the sea's edge

Red Roses

by Anne Sexton

‘Red Roses’ by Anne Sexton is a story of child abuse told by a narrator, but with the vernacular, that represents the emotions and thoughts of the child undergoing the abuse.

This piece is a confessional poem, drawing from Sexton's experiences and emotions to convey the story. It feels very personal and incredibly painful, two elements her poetry often connects with.

Tommy is three and when he's bad

his mother dances with him.

She puts on the record,

"Red Roses for a Blue Lady"

Two Lovers and a Beachcomber by the Real Sea

by Sylvia Plath

‘Two Lovers and a Beachcomber by the Real Sea’ by Sylvia Plath explores imagination. Reality, the speaker realizes, doesn’t always live up to what one imagined.

This poem is a classic example of Plath's work. While it may not precisely conform to the stylistic norms of confessionalism, it is introspective and deeply personal.
Cold and final, the imagination Shuts down its fabled summer house; Blue views are boarded up; our sweet vacation Dwindles in the hour-glass.  

A Picture of Otto

by Ted Hughes

‘A Picture of Otto’ by Ted Hughes is addressed to Sylvia Plath’s father, Otto. It contains Hughes’ disagreements about how he and Otto were depicted in Plath’s work.


by Sylvia Plath

‘Ariel’ by Sylvia Plath is a deeply metaphorical poem. It focuses on the speaker’s experiences during a terrifying horseback ride.

Stasis in darkness.

Then the substanceless blue

Pour of tor and distances.


by Sylvia Plath

Sylvia Plath’s ‘Balloons’ narrates her experience and perspectives of having the balloons around like a pet at home. She contrasts childhood with adulthood through the colorful balloons. The balloon when pops, takes the observer from the dream-like state of childhood to the harsh reality of adulthood.


by Sylvia Plath

‘Contusion’ by Sylvia Plath is a memorable, short poem about death and a loss of passion or meaning in one’s life. It is a dramatic monologue written 12 days before the poet’s death. 

Full Moon and Little Frieda

by Ted Hughes

In ‘Full Moon and Little Frieda,’ Ted Hughes describes his daughter’s observations of the world around her, reflecting on nature and family.

Going to him! Happy letter!

by Emily Dickinson

‘Going to him! Happy letter!’ by Emily Dickinson is a sweet love poem. It is told from the perceptive of a love letter.

Going to Him! Happy letter!

Tell Him —

Tell Him the page I didn't write —

Tell Him — I only said the Syntax —

Heart, we will forget him! By Emily Dickinson

by Emily Dickinson

‘Heart, we will forget him!’ by Emily Dickinson is a keen observation of the aftermath of a powerful love affair and how it will, or will not, be “forgotten.”

Heart, we will forget him!

You an I, tonight!

You may forget the warmth he gave,

I will forget the light.

How Happy I Was If I Could Forget

by Emily Dickinson

‘How Happy I Was If I Could Forget’ by Emily Dickinson contains a narrator’s confused thoughts and experiences. She uses complex grammar and imagery to convey it further.

How happy I was if I could forget

To remember how sad I am

Would be an easy adversity

But the recollecting of Bloom

I wish I could remember that first day

by Christina Rossetti

‘I wish I could remember that first day’ by Christina Rossetti is also known as ‘First Day.’ It focuses on the speaker’s regret that she can’t remember more about her first love.

I wish I could remember that first day,

   First hour, first moment of your meeting me,

   If bright or dim the season, it might be

Summer or winter for aught I can say;

Into My Own

by Robert Frost

Robert Frost’s ‘Into My Own’ explores the concepts of maturity and growing up. The poet delves into the exploration of childhood and self.

One of my wishes is that those dark trees,

So old and firm they scarcely show the breeze,

Were not, as 'twere, the merest mask of gloom,

But stretched away unto the edge of doom.

Mad Girl’s Love Song

by Sylvia Plath

‘Mad Girl’s Love Song’ by Sylvia Plath explores the truth of a relationship. The speaker wonders how deep and meaningful it really was.

"I shut my eyes and all the world drops dead;

I lift my lids and all is born again.

(I think I made you up inside my head.)

Mementos, 1

by W. D. Snodgrass

William DeWitt (W. D.) Snodgrass’s personal piece ‘Mementos, 1’ is about the discovery of an old photograph of the speaker’s divorced wife and the stream of memories that came with it.

Missing My Daughter

by Stephen Spender

‘Missing My Daughter’ by Stephen Spender is a poem about a speaker’s desire to see his daughter and how he feel trapped in a prison of loneliness. 

My Grandmother

by Elizabeth Jennings

‘My Grandmother’ by Elizabeth Jennings is a thoughtful poem about one person’s relationship with her grandmother and her grandmother’s passion—collecting antiques. 

My Mother

by Ellen Bryant Voigt

‘My Mother’ by Ellen Bryant Voigt explores a speaker’s understanding of her mother and how her mother considered her as she aged.

November Graveyard

by Sylvia Plath

‘November Graveyard’ by Sylvia Plath describes a cemetery in November. She discusses her views on the afterlife and what the graveyard truly symbolizes.

The scene stands stubborn: skinflint trees

Hoard last year's leaves, won't mourn, wear sackcloth, or turn

To elegiac dryads, and dour grass

Guards the hard-hearted emerald of its grassiness


by Jackie Kay

‘Pride’ by Jackie Kay is a moving poem about identity and pride. The poet utilized her personal experience when writing this piece. 

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