Kim Garcia’s first book of poetry, Madonna Magdalene, was called “a startling book of origins, a mature and passionate first book of poems” by Edward Hirsch. In Madonna Magdalene, Kim expands known Biblical and mythological narratives by using her personal experiences and gently but unequivocally questioning what is known. On a surprisingly kind November morning in Boston, Kim and I discussed poetics, politics, women and poetry, and of course, the process of writing Madonna Magdalene.Read the entire interview.
Angela Veronica Wong: Recently, I’ve been really interested in defining the “confessional” poetics. I’m not trying to label your poetry as “confessional,” but I do think that your poetry does explore, return to, and depend on the self. So I ‘m interested in how you see and understand “confessional poetry.”
Kim Garcia: It's hard to say where poetry is not confessional in a sense. If you're looking to the personal. Confession used to have a strongly religious meaning. You confessed your sins to another person. There was also the sense of confessing as witnessing or telling the truth. It was testimony. So the term changes with what people hang their meanings on. Most people are no longer talking to God like Milton or even to the capital “I” Imagination as the Romantics did.
The first poets who were called confessional—Lowell and that crowd–were hanging their meanings on psychotherapy—Freud and the talking cure. You're still “justifying God's ways to man,” or making some kind of narrative, but it's a different frame. Poets are not going to escape from the hard work of laying bare their particular moment with their particular meanings.
I don't think poetry should escape confessing. The term is meant to be a little snide, I think. A way of distancing yourself from vulnerability, or a way of putting that down.