Today I’m supposed to be discussing the difference between narrative and lyric poetry. You know, I could do that. I could tell you that “lyric” comes from the ancient Greek instrument, the lyre, and that the Greeks used to always sing their poetry to its accompaniment. I could also tell you that lyric poems resemble songs in three distinct ways: they are shorter than epic (narrative) poetry, they usually express the thoughts of the poet, and they often give you the feeling they can be sung.
On that note, I’d also mention that epic (narrative) poetry stems from Greek too. From the word “epos,” which means to speak or to tell a tale. Homer’s Iliad is and example of an epic poem. So is the Odyssey. Epic poems are supposed to enhance the reader’s sense of good and evil, by focusing on the heroism of a certain individual that is a symbol of strength, virtue, courage … really I could go on and on telling you what these forms of poetry are and bore the crikeyness out of you. So let me tell you a little something about myself …
I hate rules. I love to learn them, however, and I love to know that I know them. But rarely do I utilize them, and rarely do I label poetry as this, that, and the other. Poetry, to me, is art. There are no limits to art. You can’t pigeon hole it. This is another reason why I don’t much like ‘genres’ in fiction. But that’s a completely different discussion.
The ‘type’ or style of poem, ultimately has no significant meaning. They’re there for scholars to refer to in their lectures and print in their theses, so … Narrative or Lyric? Who cares! Does your poem evoke emotion? Yes? Then you’re good to go in my book. Does your poem keep me engaged? Does it make me want to read more of it? Does it use vocabulary creatively, avoid cliché, kick me in the gut and make me want to write like you? Does it make me email all my friends and tell them to check out this new and upcoming genius? Does it make me read the same poem over and over and over and find new meaning in it with every reading? Yes? Brilliant. Then keep doing what you’re doing.
And if you’ve mixed and matched various forms of poetry to create your own, then you deserve a standing ovation. Because seriously, rules can suck the life out of art … they can also enhance it, but again, that’s another discussion, and maybe Vicky can invite me back one day to tell you what I think about that. So I’ll just leave you with this:
Don’t ever listen to people who begin a sentence with, “You can’t do that because … .”
You can do that. Do it. And show everybody how it’s done.
Jessica Bell Online:
String Bridge (a novel)
Retreat & workshop
Vine Leaves Journal