Reading material(Source):

Because the subject matter was so personal, the work of several prominent mid-twentieth century poets has been termed "confessional” poetry. But confession is a bad metaphor for what those poets did. The motive for confession is penitential or therapeutic—by speaking openly about personal guilt and suffering, the poet hopes to make them easier to bear. But these poets always approached their writing as artists, and their motive was aesthetic. Writing from experiences like madness, despair, and lust, their aim was to make effective art, not to cure themselves. To treat their poems mainly as documents of personal experience is not just to diminish the poets' achievement, but to ignore their unanimous disdain for the idea of confessional poetry.

Consider each of the choices separately and select all that apply.

The passage implies that the poets discussed did NOT

A. think that a poet’s motivation for writing was relevant in evaluating that poet’s work

B. experience any relief of their personal suffering as a result of writing

C. apply to their own work the label by which it has subsequently been know

I believe that C is correct, since the poets didn't apply to their own work the label "confessional poetry" by which it has subsequently been known. (Is my reasoning sound?)

I think both A,B don't look correct, since they can't be indicated from this passage. But it seems to me that "Writing from experiences like madness...not to cure themselves" may imply B.

I would like to know how native speakers of English approach this problem. Thanks!

  • (B) is a trick question. The passage claims that the poets did not intend to cure themselves. It leaves open the possibility that they may have inadvertently experienced some "relief of their personal suffering". The question is phrased as an absolute -- "did not experience any relief". Unfortunately, using strict binary logic ("never say never") is not appropriate, because the question explicitly asks for what the passage "implies", not what the passage "proves".
    – Jasper
    Aug 9 '17 at 4:09
  • I agree with the original poster's conclusions that A is not supposed to be selected, and that C is supposed to be selected. But notice that I did not say A is true (or false). This is because the question deliberately uses a gratuitous "NOT", in a question about a passage that includes two "buts", two "nots", a "bad", a "just", and an "ignore". Many American standardized tests use this kind of complicated logic. These logic questions don't test whether the test taker understands what they read. Instead, they make the test "standardizable" vs. similar tests with complicated logic.
    – Jasper
    Aug 9 '17 at 4:21

I would say it's only C. B seems almost correct but it's too broad - while the passage states that the poets didn't write the poems with the intention of confessing, it doesn't imply that they didn't experience any relief as a result. A is not really relevant to the passage.


I'm going to say B and C. The passage doesn't advance any opinion on whether the poets thought their writing was relevant or not. C is clearly correct, one doesn't apply a label that one disdains to one's own work.

B is less clear, but I think it's implied. The reason is that the passage sets up a point and counterpoint: confessional writing is therapeutic (point), but these writers didn't write confessionally (counterpoint). They related their experiences for purely esthetic reasons. So the implication is that, since they didn't write for the purpose of curing themselves, they didn't cure themselves.

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