Poetic Turns in the Lyric Essay

1 02 2016

wilson

Over at Assay: A Journal for Nonfiction Studies, Diana Wilson has published “Laces in the Corset: Structures of Poetry and Prose that Bind the Lyric Essay”, an essay that uses poetic structures to examine the movements in a number of lyric essays. Wilson uses the emblem structure to read Richard Selzer’s lyric essay “The Knife”; the retrospective-prospective structure to read Brian Doyle’s lyric essay “Leap”; the ironic structure for Robin Hemley’s “Twirl/Run”; and the elegiac structure for Lia Purpura’s “Autopsy Report.”

In her penultimate paragraph, Wilson notes:

I often think of the lyric essay as a mysterious sea creature, its structure hydrostatic, like a jellyfish that appears, to the casual observer, to be nonexistent.  The lyric essay, a subgenre of creative nonfiction, is a wild thing born of poetry and prose, the prose sentences appearing to wave and dance willy-nilly like tentacles of jellyfish while poetic elements flicker and flash through the sentences like neon luminescence. Only careful study reveals the muscular structure that propels the lyric essay forward.

I love this insight: that by carefully attending to structure’s turn we can see how the lovely, odd creature that is the lyric essay moves.

I love, too, that Wilson has begun to find broader application for thinking about and with the poetic turn. I’ve long thought that one of the turn’s attractions is the way in more closely connects poetry and prose–how completely appropriate, then, to employ the turn to examine and think more deeply about the lyric essay’s prose poetry.

According to her author’s note, “Laces in the Corset” is Diana Wilson’s first publication. My thanks, then, to Ms. Wilson for taking the time and effort at the start of her publishing career to consider so carefully, and use so creatively, the turn. I look forward to seeing how her thinking and writing continues to develop–develop and turn…!

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Bob Bray’s “David Lee”

9 02 2014

david lee

he was my friend
and then he wasn’t
he got wild
I went to college
he loved a girl named ann
she loved him back sort of
he played the saxophone
he had a band

tenor        ramrods

ann went somewhere else
he got wilder
he broke a window
he stole a naked manikin
they put him in the asylum
he died there of something
and then he wasn’t
he was my friend

–Bob Bray

*

My colleague Bob Bray shared with me the above poem which he wrote in tribute to a high school friend, and I wanted to share it with the readers of this blog. I deeply admire this poem–its humanity and humility, and also its craft, its care. It is a gorgeous, understated elegy, an acknowledgement of both complexity and loss.





Elegy Ending Without a Rhyme

14 01 2013

newMoon2

Here is a terrific (and frightening) new elegy inspired by the discussion of the elegy in Structure & Surprise.

Thanks to D. A. Powell for such a fine essay on the elegy; to Patrick Phillips for such a lovely, haunting poem (here is a cool version of it); to Kim Addonizio for her support of the turn (at the retreat, and elsewhere, including teaming up with me to co-edit Voltage Poetry); and, last but not least, to Claudia Mills for her own new, strong poem.