The Lyric Essay - Lewis Center for the Arts

Topics For Lyric Essays - Topics For Lyric Essays

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Make another list of ten events in your life that are important to you and provoke your curiosity. Often, this list contains events that are still mysterious to you in some way, and that intrigues you in a way that you can’t quite make concrete conclusions about. Write down all the questions that come to mind around these events. Make a list of questions. Essay ideas often arise out of an exploration of these questions (adapted from Dinty W. Moore).

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An essay has been defined in a variety of ways

This can take the form of very specific instructions, such as how to catch a fish, as in ’s The Seasons (Spring 379-442) or how to write good poetry as in ’s Essay on Criticism.

Lyric essays

Because the lyric essay is a new, hybrid form that combines poetry with essay, this form should be taught only at the intermediate to advanced levels. Even professional essayists aren’t certain about what constitutes a lyric essay, and lyric essays disagree about what makes up the form. For example, some of the “lyric essays” in magazines like The Seneca Review have been selected for the Best American Poetry series, even though the “poems” were initially published as lyric essays.

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Soyinka follows the flowing associative arc of his thoughts, and he goes on to write about sunsets, and quotes from a poem that he wrote in his cell. The essay ends, not on a restatement of his thesis, but on yet another question that arises:

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Most high-school and first-year college students have plenty of experiences to draw from, and they are convinced about the importance of certain events over others in their lives. Often, students find their strongest conviction in the process of writing, and the personal essay is a good way to get students to start exploring these possibilities in writing.

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Lyric poetry retains some of the elements of song which is said to be its origin: For Greek writers the lyric was a song accompanied by the lyre.

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The point to having students write personal essays is to help them become better writers, since part of becoming a better writer is the ability to express personal experiences, thoughts and opinions. Since academic writing may not allow for personal experiences and opinions, writing the personal essay is a good way to allow students further practice in writing.

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Because the personal memoir is more demanding than the personal essay, for both writer and reader, it doesn’t fit into introductory courses as well as the personal essay. An intermediate level course is a good place to introduce the memoir. However, if the instructor takes the time to explain and introduce the memoir form, it can be adapted for introductory courses.

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Creative nonfiction is a broad term and encompasses many different forms of writing. This resource focuses on the three basic forms of creative nonfiction: the personal essay, the memoir essay, and the literary journalism essay. A short section on the lyric essay is also discussed.