LYRIC IS A SOUND WE HEAR BEYOND THE NOISE: On the Lyric Essay
It’s always this way -- we learn to think with an ear toward tuning. If I had listened to you, I’d never have invented that song. I hear your objections even when your mouth is sewn shut.
Given its genre mingling, the lyric essay often accretes by fragments, taking shape mosaically … (Deborah Tall)
How accessible is this? Because that becomes the question, never mind the eye to form, or what the fissures whisper. A small yellow kernel shoots to eight feet tall with enough sunlight and water (natural elements of a ready nature). Let it be known that no one came along yesterday to test for pH and still we eat, still we sing the songs inside our bones while the green stalks rise.
Like our fictitious “wild child,” a progeny of poetry and prose, the literary lyric essay is often misunderstood, considered a self-indulgent, willy-nilly collection of disjointed thoughts and sentences that lead nowhere. (Diana Wilson)
Trees grow creatively, outside a form or mold, unlike the bonsai which is nipped and tucked, its original shape tractable beyond its will.
…a careful study of lyric essays will reveal a cornucopia of connectors and structures rooted in both poetry and prose… (ibid.)
People create during periods of cultural turmoil. Frustration builds in tight spaces, and when the volcano blows, new landforms emerge, creation happens. Maybe God longed for something once, maybe solitude fomented desire in that divinity, and out of it a genesis leapt leaping leaping, leapt leaping. Singing.
Braided through image, language, story, rhythm, and mimetic technique, the lyric essay expands upon its forbearers [sic]… (McDowell Syllabus)
Ryuji Suzuki assures us that “elements of language are seen in [humpback whale] songs.” Some call this a simple type of non-human hierarchical syntax. And beyond that, us, we who step-up notes like so much genius.
A snippet of image here, a stray bit of dialog there, nested in the telling … (Sarah Menkedick)
The language must glide. This is, after all, a “poetic” essay. Do not, however, try to insert lines of poems into a staid essay and attempt to call it a “lyric essay.” This will not play.
The tension comes when such engagement is blended with a poetic, subjective sensibility. (Laura Tetreault)
The lyric is not a line but limns a span, and thoughts, concepts. It “accretes by fragments,” particle by portion. See the tame neutered horse we saddle easily, ride confidently; this is not the lyric. But there’s the wild brumby that must be roped, calmed, and corralled before the slightest attempt at approach; the thing keeps running off. Approachable? Of course. With all the care needed to make the wary trust.
The language and images are the driving motivation of the piece … (Sandra Beasley)
Assuredly, there’s more to life than breathing: a melody that forms us from the blank sheet up.
First published in Tishman Review, April 2017 & slightly adapted here.