Perhaps you’d like to write a mini-autobiography—either a brief overview of your entire life with only the essential details, or a full account of a single event in your life—but you do not feel confident at writing prose. Is poetry an option? It sure is. There’s even a name for it: “confessional poetry.”
Walt Whitman is widely considered to be the first confessional poet, with his Song of Myself and Leaves of Grass infusing first-person narrative into poetry. Before Whitman’s time, it was considered indulgent for poets to insert themselves into their verses. But Whitman seems to have opened the barn door. “For good or ill, we live in the age of the memoir,” write David Graham and Kate Sontag in their anthology, After Confession: Poetry as Autobiography.
Perhaps you’ve always written poetry and you’re comfortable with it; then you’re a perfect candidate to express the episodes of your life in verse. If you haven’t written much poetry before but the memoir poem appeals to you, take a course in poetry writing. And, of course, read lots of contemporary “confessional poetry” to get into the rhythm of this genre. Here are a few lines from For My Lover, Returning to His Wife, by 20th century poet Anne Sexton:
She is the sum of yourself and your dream.
Climb her like a monument, step after step.
She is solid.
As for me, I am a watercolor.
I wash off.