james-longenbach-448An essay about lyric poetry by faculty member James Longenbach appears at Poetry Magazine:

Lyric Knowledge
Ideas of order in poetry.

The impulse to be lyrical is driven by the need to be no longer constrained by oneself. As poems have testified for centuries, we become lyrical when we suffer, when we love. But like poems themselves, we exist because of constraints — cultural and linguistic ways of organizing experience that allow us to imagine we know who we are. Why, when we’re driven to be lyrical, are we gratified by familiar patterns, formal patterns made by breaking words into syllables, structural patterns made by conjoining words with other words? Why do we imagine we may be liberated by unfamiliar patterns, patterns whose novelty depends on patterns we already know? Why, having experienced the pleasure of a lyric poem, do we bother experiencing it again? Why, when we’re in love, can the repetition of an experience feel more fulfilling than the discovery of it?

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