Published online by Cambridge University Press: 12 July 2019
Baldwin’s most fertile period – the mid-1950s through the mid-1960s – corresponded with the advent of the confessional school of poetry, a deeply personal and emotionally intense mode inaugurated with the publication of Robert Lowell’s Life Studies (1960). Yet Baldwin is more frequently associated with social commentary than with personal confession. Malcolm X once said to Baldwin, “I’m the warrior of this revolution and you’re the poet.” The distinction might be false: poetry, even of the confessional type, can be considered as politically efficacious as any speech. Put succinctly, poets can be warriors, too.