Week 1 recap #vizpoem

I think this is a good start. So far this week we have collectively tweeted 59 times, and created or edited 37 blog posts, not counting reblogging thanks to edits. This is down a bit from my vizpoem class last summer, which had tweeted 131 times and created or edited 85 blog posts by the end of their first week, but I assume you are all still getting the hang of online conversations. 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 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 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 embed 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 trailer, 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. The trick is to make sure you’ve selected the tweet in question, rather than somebody’s (or your own) feed — but you’ll know that one specific tweet is selected once you’ve got a number string of over twenty digits at the end of the URL.

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 hear). 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.

Jessica does a great job of starting with an affirmative statement about poetic length before contrasting it to prose, and also of providing a reason for why lyric poems tend to be short: they 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.

Megan’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 other ways of telling stories; this way is most concerned with depicting thoughts.

I want to be careful about responding to this one, since poetry’s uniqueness is no more unique than the uniqueness of plays or of prose fiction. I think what Arghya is getting at is that each poem is attempting to depict a mind, a thought, a momentary feeling, a consciousness, and it uses all the resources at its disposal to do so. Prose fiction and plays can do this too, but poetry is all about creating a frame to show you how the voice is thinking or feeling, rather than just telling you about it. In prose you generally have a narrator that descriptively tells you how to think about other characters; in drama you watch the characters reveal themselves through dialogue and action. Poetry dispenses with all barriers between you and the voice speaking to you. This is what Auden means in his introduction to “The Poet’s Tongue” which I quoted earlier in the week — the goal is intimacy between you and the voice. The form of the poem is devoted to constructing a psychology behind the voice in order to facilitate that intimacy:

 

 

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