Once relegated to the realm of belles lettres, the lyrical essay has become a highly popular genre in multiple disciplines, from journalism to the personal essay. Authors from Purpura and Forché to Didion and Dillard have written them. But what, exactly, is this form? Poetic essay or essayistic poem? Both – or neither? The form employs a series of images or ideas, rather than chronicle or argument, to sculpt a narrative. Often inconclusive, lyrical essays reach beyond archetypal classical frames to a meditative sense of place and displacement.
We’ll begin by identifying key components of the form, learn how to negotiate its terrain, and then get down to the business of crafting a lyric essay. In later weeks, we’ll add the connective tissue, and work towards a finished piece. Prior experience in writing fiction or poetry is strongly recommended.