I’m interested in how the confessional is so abrasively critiqued today. I’m not really comfortable with simply confessing but I do think “confessing” is a major part of reckoning. One of the problems with a lot of “confessional” writing is that it starts and stops with the confessional and doesn’t really tie the “I” into a “we” at all. I’m still surprised at how mad critics get at that kind of confessional writing. They call it “navel-gazing” and “self-indulgent” but really it’s often just writing that needs four or five more revisions. That’s it.
In essay writing, I’m trying to push the form of expository writing. I’m trying to remember, trying to reckon, trying to find connections with the world, the nation and me, but I’m always trying to push the form, too, without being too obvious that I’m trying to push the form. The “How to Slowly Kill Yourself and Others” essay was so hard to write because of the memories, the sensory stuff, but also because it didn’t follow the form of any essay that I’ve ever read. And the truth that I was exploring necessitated that obliteration of traditional form, I think.
From Kiese Laymon in The Rumpus.