Domestication of wolves & 'Intimate with madness': metaphors for the mind and mental illness in confessional poetry
Item statusRestricted Access
Embargo end date31/07/2022
Craven, Timothy Peter
‘The Domestication of Wolves’ is a collection of poems written, revised, and assembled during the four-year period of my PhD. My writing has been informed and guided by the work of the Confessional poets Anne Sexton, Sylvia Plath, Robert Lowell, and John Berryman, particularly by their construction and deployment of richly figurative language to characterise their inner psyches and intense emotional extremes. By drawing on the knowledge and vocabulary gained from my early career as a neuroscientist specialising in psychiatry within the pharmaceutical industry, I attempt to construct new metaphors and reshape other, more established, metaphors to explore the subjective and intangible qualities of human relationships and psychology. I also employ the Confessional lyric ‘I’ in my exploration of distance, displacement, rootedness, masculinity, blue-collar work, and class – themes to which I have found myself repeatedly drawn. Additionally, I have included a long poem, ‘Three Journeys to Harris’, which I wrote while writer-in-residence at the Isle of Harris Distillery. The poem is built by layering metaphors depicting the maturation process of whisky and setting them against images of Harris’s unique landscape and culture. While individual poems wrestle with a wide variety of subjects – from a fictional disease that turns limbs to spiders to the contemplation of what it means to be a good son – I hope that the collection as a whole offers the reader a satisfying balance between inner and outer worlds, joy and solemnity, and absence and embodied physicality. In the accompanying critical essay, ‘“Intimate with Madness”: Metaphors for the Mind and Mental Illness in Confessional Poetry’, I perform close readings, predominantly of the poetry of Anne Sexton but also of the work of her fellow Confessional poets Sylvia Plath, Robert Lowell, and John Berryman. In reading the work of these poets, I argue that their mental illness is often framed in terms of the conceptual metaphors of ‘madness as destination’ and ‘madness as possession’. I explore how each poet negotiates these two conceptual metaphors in different ways, sometimes adhering to the established connotations and sometimes dissenting from them to create distinct literary effects that convey novel insight into evasive, individual pathologies.