1st Edition

Poetry and Autobiography

Edited By Jo Gill, Melanie Waters Copyright 2011

    This collection makes a critical and creative intervention into ongoing debates about the relationship between poetry and autobiography. Drawing on recent theories of life writing, the essays in the first part of this volume provide new analyses of works by a range of poets, dating from the early modern period to the present day. Exploring the autobiographical resonances of poems by Martha Moulsworth, Mina Loy, Anne Sexton, Joe Brainard, Edward Kamau Braithwaite, and Gwyneth Lewis, the authors here examine the extent to which discourses of truth and authenticity have been implicated in traditional interpretations of lyric poetry. In doing so, they endeavour to illuminate the complex intersections – and divergences – of poetry and autobiography, asking what these forms might learn from each other about issues of shared concern, from questions of identity and textuality to those of reference and audience. The creative reflections which form the second part of the collection develop and respond to these questions in various suggestive and original ways; here poetry and prose are used in order to test the relationship between poetry and life writing and to explore issues of memory, time, place, subjectivity and voice. This book was published as a special issue of Life Writing.

    1. ‘The Birth Day of my Selfe, & of Theis Lynes ’: Self-expression and Poetic Form in The Memorandum of Martha Moulsworth,Widow (1632) Ulrike Tancke

    2. ‘A Kind of Authentic Lie’: Authenticity and the Lyric Sequence in Gwyneth Lewis’s English-language Poetry Alice Entwistle

    3. Gifts of Love, Gifts of Poison: Anne Sexton and the Poetry of Intimate Exchange Rose Lucas

    4. Empire, Motherhood and the Poetics of the Self in Mina Loy’s Anglo-Mongrels and the Rose Alex Goody

    5. Blowing up Paper Bags to Pop: Joe Brainard’s Almost-Autobiographical Assemblage Andrew Fitch

    6. Ritual Masking and Performed Intimacy: The Complex ‘I’ of Edward Kamau Brathwaite’s Life Poem Anne Collett

    7. Poetry, Ontology, and Autobiography in Gide and Sartre Candace Lang

    8. ‘Another Kind of Writing’: Off-road with Susan Howe David Arnold

    9. Sea, Self and Sustainability Laura Stocker

    10. ‘Faking it up with the Truth’: The Complexities of the Apparently Autobiographical ‘I’ Helen Farish

    11. Selvage Andy Brown

    12. Two Poems Tirzah Goldenberg

    13. Five Poems Helen Farish


    Jo Gill is a Senior Lecturer in Twentieth Century Literature at the University of Exeter. She is the author of Anne Sexton’s Confessional Poetics (2007) and the editor of Modern Confessional Writing: New Critical Essays (2007). She is currently working on a book about the poetry of the American suburbs.

    Melanie Waters is a Senior Lecturer in Modern and Contemporary Literature at Northumbria University. She has published essays on feminist theory, popular culture and twentieth-century women’s poetry, and is the author of a forthcoming monograph on the gothic. She is also the editor of Women on Screen: Feminism and Femininity in Visual Culture (2011).