Maybe all poetry, insofar as it moves us and connects with us, is a revealing of something that the writer doesn’t actually want to say but desperately needs to communicate, to be delivered of. Perhaps it’s the need to keep it hidden that makes it poetic—makes it poetry. The writer daren’t actually put it into words, so it leaks out obliquely, smuggled through analogies. We think we’re writing something to amuse, but we’re actually saying something we desperately need to share. The real mystery is this strange need. Why can’t we just hide it and shut up? Why do we have to blab? Why do human beings need to confess? Maybe if you don’t have that secret confession, you don’t have a poem—don’t even have a story. Don’t have a writer. If most poetry doesn’t seem to be in any sense confessional, it’s because the strategy of concealment, of obliquity, can be so compulsive that it’s almost entirely successful. The smuggling analogy is loaded with interesting cargo that seems to be there for its own sake—subject matter of general interest—but at the bottom of Paradise Lost and Samson Agonistes, for instance, Milton tells us what nearly got him executed. The novelty of some of Robert Lowell’s most affecting pieces in Life Studies, some of Anne Sexton’s poems, and some of Sylvia’s was the way they tried to throw off that luggage, the deliberate way they stripped off the veiling analogies. Sylvia went furthest in the sense that her secret was most dangerous to her. She desperately needed to reveal it. You can’t overestimate her compulsion to write like that. She had to write those things—even against her most vital interests. She died before she knew what The Bell Jar and the Ariel poems were going to do to her life, but she had to get them out.
Ted Hughes, in Paris Review, n.º 134, Primavera de 1995.