The following essay is based on the penultimate version of the article published in My Father Was Shiva by Jim Flosdorf in 1994*. It has only been slightly revised for publication here in Survive and Thrive (but see the “Poetry Editor's Note: A Missive to Our Selves,” which updates and sets up the reappearance of the article below for this Volume). Here, as in the original article, the author at least tentatively suggests that confessional poetry is not necessarily therapeutic, and in some cases rhetorically may make psychological problems worse. “I” arrive at this tentative conclusion after considering the rhetorical and psychological role that narrative plays in constructing not only our identities, but our life story, stories which we repeat to ourselves over and over again. Rhetorical analysis is not often applied to the analysis of poetry anymore. But in this article, it is not being used to interpret the literary meaning of poetry, but the social, psychological, and affective truthfulness of poetry. Narratives have their own fidelity created by the genre of the structure, and because they have to do with ethoi. (Strictly speaking, for Aristotle, the constructing of the ethos the character of the speaker or writer created in a speech or a text is necessary for the other two modes of appeal, logos and pathos, to persuasion.) These narratives, then, become powerfully persuasive––not only to those listeners and readers we tell them too, but also to ourselves. So if the narrative is wrong, or a destructive one... “I” think Rex’s “Endnote,” following this article, is yet another beautiful parsing and response to this article, and a different limitation on confessional poetry that goes beyond “my” original article/argument, and is also is highly worth considering here and everywhere where human life is still the center of meaning, motive, and action.



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