Thursday, 9 February 2012

Lyra's Shadows

00:00:00 Posted by Damp incendiary device , 5 comments
I'm going to come right out and say it... I'm a narrative girl and I'll tell you for why. It's the same reason I'm not a huge fan of landscape poetry. I want humanity in my art. That's my raisin. It's the same with paintings or sculpture. Abstract form has its place and I like to wrangle with something conceptual as much as the next mentalist but if there's a glimpse of a person and a story in there then I'm more likely to connect with it.

I'd like to compare lyric and narrative poetry to two pieces of art. Tracy Emin's 'My Bed' is comparable to lyric poetry. It portrays emotions in an abstract way. There is no character present but we get a fair idea of some aspects of a character from the traces they leave behind. I like to wonder about the bed, compare it to my own.

Now, take Paula Rego's Pillow man. There is character and story. This is a narrative piece. I'm not just wondering what the characters are like, I can see them and I know what they are doing. I can wonder why they are smiling or frowning or sleeping. I can wonder where they have been. But I have a lot more to work with.

Lyric poems are glimpses, narrative poems are the full picture. Perhaps I am being greedy but whilst a look through a keyhole is tempting as it implies that I am being given a glimpse of something secret or hidden, 9 times out of 10 I'd much rather see what's behind the door. I crave the action that narrative poetry entails. And with that, why not mosey on over to Robert Frost's Out, Out and see what I mean.


Anonymous said...

Good stuff. You mind reader.

Ashley R Lister said...

Thank you.

That's a succinct distinction and it summarises why Tracy and I can experience the same piece of art and one of us can say, "Wow!" and the other can say "What the hell was the point of that?"

Eloquent and insightful as usual.


Ste said...

Nicely put. Surely it's possible to mix narrative and Lyric though? That 'Prototypes' one I've just done is an autobiographical narrative but expressed as a lyrical poem. I do take your point though and, yes, I agree with you, if I had to choose between the two, narrative would win. That 'Out, Out' poem was powerful (and disturbing) I also found it quite ironic that there was an advert on the page for a buzzsaw company! 'Just read a poem about a kid dying by chopping his hand off with a buzzsaw? Why not buy one? Quote 'Out, Out' and get a special internet offer of one year's health insurance' Mental marketing (shakes head)

Great post as usual Vicky. And can I just add 50 minutes of memorised narrative as your dissertation piece? 50!!!? You're nuts! ;)

vicky ellis said...

Steve, my view of it is that a narrative poem can have lyrical elements but if a lyrical poem has a narrative then it's a narrative poem. There. Clear as mud. So narrative trumps lyric because if it's present it gets to be the top form. But I guess you could argue that there are traces of story in lyrical poems without them having a clear narrative. This is giving me a headache. Can't we all just get along? :)

I'm not really thinking of it as 50 minutes to memorise. It's more like 4 x 10 and 5 x 3. Which comes out as 55 minutes... Ugh.

Ste said...

Ah ha - compartmentalisation - that's the ticket! I look forward to seeing it. :)