The lyric "I" and the anti-confessionalism of Frederick Seidel : a thesis presented in partial fulfilment of the requirements for the degree of Doctor of Philosophy in English at Massey University, Manawatū, New Zealand

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This thesis investigates the anti-Confessionalist status of the lyric “I” in the poetry of Frederick Seidel and in a collection of my own poems. Seidel’s use of autobiographical details, including his own name, in his poems has been treated by critics as an invitation to identify the lyric “I” with the poet himself. His poetry has been discussed by both his admirers and his detractors in a Confessional context. To his admirers, Seidel extends the Confessional poetry tradition in exciting ways, breaking new taboos as he incorporates details from his glamorous, privileged lifestyle into his poems. To his detractors, he is a retrograde reactionary, stale and derivative. I argue that although Seidel uses Confessional strategies, and owes obvious debts to Confessional poets, his poetry is fundamentally outward rather than inward looking; it is a poetry of cultural critique, and not of personal revelation. This outward looking focus also distinguishes Seidel’s poetry from various post-avant poetics that, in their own sophisticated ways, are as concerned with the subjective, lyric “I” as Confessional poetry is. I argue that in Frederick Seidel’s poetry, the lyric “I” is of interest insofar as it provides a means of cultural critique—a way of interrogating the complicity of the individual in its engagement with capitalism in its various aspects. In the poems that comprise the creative component of my thesis, the influence of Seidel is evident in their tone, their outward focus, and their limited interest in the lyric “I.” I have attempted in these poems to get beyond the absorption with the self that I perceive to be a besetting quality in much contemporary mainstream poetry. The various post-avant poetics explored in my research seem in their own ways deeply invested in the lyric “I.” Seidel’s poems offered other possibilities, other ways of representing the subject in the world, and of critiquing that world, that I could use in my own poems.
Seidel, Frederick, Criticism and interpretation, American poetry, 20th century, History and criticism, Self in literature, New Zealand poetry, 21st century, Upperton, Tim, Night we ate the baby