The Poet In The Confessional
The commonest form of poetry now is not the narrative, but instead the lyric. We assume that narratives are made-up stories, but most contemporary poetry sounds confessional—and some certainly is. But poetry too is fiction, as much so as a story. This is still true even it really is based on the poet’s own experiences and feelings.
But the common assumption now seems to be that a poem has to be autobiographical. No one assumes that the author of a detective story is a real detective, but even with a poem written from the third-person perspective, the reader too often assumes the protagonist is the poet.
I think one of the reasons for this is that almost everyone at some point in their life writes what they consider poetry, and it is virtually always highly personal and autobiographical. (And usually crappy poetry.) So they think that is what poetry is about. Their concern is with ‘expressing themselves’, not with creating a work of literature. I often think that the idea that ‘expressing your self’ is what art is all about has poisoned the well of art.