I may have mentioned in my last post that I am reading Jonathan Culler’s book on the theory of the lyric with the intention of getting back to my own work, revision at very least, writing if at all possible. So I have begun.
Lyric continues to be my main poetry mode, though I do pursue narrative and non-lyrical haiku forms occasionally. I haven’t spent too much time dwelling on how to define lyric as a genre; I just accept it as a sort of catch-all term for a continuum of many kinds of poems that in general are brief, “you” or “I” directed, subjective as to observation, and often patterned rhythmically or patterned using rhyme.
Here are some quotes from the book that I found useful, thought-provoking, or relevant.
“Fiction is about what happened next; lyric is about what happens now.”
“Many twentieth-century poems…require sounding or voicing and may juxtapose phrases that evoke various voices…[asking] to be read in relation to the lyric tradition…”
“Poems provide formulations that may explain for you a situation you found incomprehensible.”
“The lyric, by its formal patterning and mode of response, asks to be learned by heart, even if that seldom happens…” (This concept is one he takes from Derrida).
“The lyric aims to be an event, not a representation of an event, and sound is what happens in lyric.”
“Lyric address is usually indirect.” (This, despite the frequent use of apostrophe in lyrical poetry, which Cullers argues is used indirectly most of the time.)
Lyrical apostrophe “posits a third realm, neither human nor natural, that can act and determine our world.”
I especially like that last one. Lyric as Kosmos, as universe (and possibly universal). It jives with Whitman in some ways–resonates, at very least, with his idea of poetry as vast and of himself (as poet) containing multitudes.
Something to aspire to be, to write, to wrap my mind around.