Week 1 recap #vizpoem

I think this is a good start. So far this week we have collectively tweeted 131 times (as of 11:41am on Friday) and created or edited 85 blog posts. I’m sure you’ve noticed that these first-week activities have been designed to provide an easy access into online coursework; I happen to know (because you’ve told me!) that some of you are not that familiar with the twitter or with blogging — though I hope your familiarity and comfort level is growing and will continue to grow with each new interaction.

I’m using this post to recap some elements of our twitter conversations and to provide a model for the last required blog post for this week: using at least three tweets that you and your classmates have posted throughout the week to arrive at a definition for lyric poetry that satisfies you. I’d like you not to rely on only your own! Part of this is an exercise in constraints: I’d like your blog posts and the twitter convos to be mutually reinforcing, so I want you to limit yourself only to elaborating on a tweet, not using it as a pretext for saying something alien to the original tweet. If you now find that there’s a hole in your definition because you neglected to post an idea of yours — remember that for next time: we need to contribute our ideas in the moment so that they are useful for all of us.

So I’m going to use this post to do two things: 1.) to show how a proper definition doesn’t exclude contrary examples, but rather makes room for both typical and atypical examples, and 2.) to help you distinguish between poetry and the slightly smaller category of lyric poetry. Oh, scratch that — I also want to demonstrate how to imbed tweets in blog posts, and I’ll start with explaining that. In wordpress you can simply paste a url into a separate line of a post and the program will reconstitute it for you — I just pasted the url for my youtube tailer, for example, and WP gave it a professional-looking home (in my opinion). I’ll do the same for Soundcloud in my next post, and, since every tweet has a unique url associated with it, you can do that with tweets too. In other blogs you may need to seek out the help function of both the blog and twitter, but it’s not too hard there either: click on a tweet, then on “details” at the bottom, and you will be directed to its unique page (copy the url then). If you then click on “more” to the right of the links at the bottom of the tweet, you can click on “embed this tweet,” and then off you go.

The “Lyric” is a type of poem whose name actually comes from ancient Greek: poets would strum a lyre and speak at the same time — this is the same reason we call them song lyrics when we hear them on the radio and want to refer to the word parts of the songs (as distinct from, but intimately related to, the music we heard). Lyric poems are generally thought to be musical in nature, and like the songs you hear on the radio they are usually short, passionate, and dedicated to the relation of momentary timespan. That is not to say that lyric poems can’t be long sometimes (just as, although most pop songs are around three minutes, every now and then you hear a “Bohemian Rhapsody” or worse), but when they do you know the lyrics are operating against type.

Courtney does a great job of including variety in this statement: they tend to be brief because lyric poems are trying to communicate an emotional state in an instant of time. Granted, sometimes it takes a while to get across a particularly complicated emotional state, but often it might seem to defeat the purpose of representing a raw emotion if it would take forever to put it into words.

Kate’s point in this tweet is wonderful — it’s not as though lyric poems can’t be dramatic (or performative), or that they can’t tell stories (as many other tweets discussed, in response to my prompt about distinguishing poems from novels or plays). It’s that story and drama are secondary to the main task of conveying the psychological and emotional state of the voice behind the poem. If a lyric tells a story, it primarily wants you to feel something about the story first and foremost. There are after all other ways of telling stories.

I followed up with Sara after this tweet, because it sounded at first as though she was speaking only of “free verse” lyrics — but now I’m persuaded that she meant that lyric poems come in a variety of shapes and sizes, and might strictly obey or only kind-of obey rules (or that they sometimes seem entirely unaware of rules). Either way, the choice to employ or disregard poetic formal conventions is in the service of conveying a particular mindset and momentary feeling in unique ways that are admirable for their precision and economy.




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