Assay@NFN15: “The Lyric Moments”

I had a wonderful time attending the NonfictioNOW 2015 Conference at Northern Arizona University in Flagstaff. Here’s a write-up of the panel I was on — about “the lyric moment” in both lyric poems and the lyric essay.  I wrote poetry first and still think of myself (in many ways) as a poet who happens to work mostly in prose these days. Thank you, Heidi Czerwiec, for blogging about so many of the terrific creative nonfiction panels for Assay: A Journal of Nonfiction Studies — a true example of literary citizenship.

Assay: A Journal of Nonfiction Studies

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Matthew Olzmann, Justin Bigos, Sejal Shah, Bojan Louis

Panel description: When Samuel Taylor Coleridge set off in pursuit of “a semblance of truth sufficient to procure for these shadows of imagination that willing suspension of disbelief for the moment, which constitutes poetic faith,” the phrase “suspension of disbelief” entered the poetic lexicon. It can be argued that an equivalent poetic faith is at the heart of the lyric essay. However, despite sharing similar impulses and effects, the lyric essay and the lyric poem handle, develop, and court poetic faith in different manners. There is a distinct difference between the suspension of disbelief in poetry and the development or maintenance of actual belief in the essay. This panel of poets, essayists, and editors will discuss the lyric essay in relation to the lyric poem, and consider what constitutes a “poetic faith” in nonfiction.

Matthew Olzmann: This is a panel of…

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3 thoughts on “Assay@NFN15: “The Lyric Moments”

  1. I love that you brought up suggestion vs. assertion in poetry. I’ve been asked to talk about the difference between poetry and story, and I’m struggling with this. Something happens with time in a poem, but it’s this notion of suggestion versus assertion that resonates with me and will help me to articulate what I feel is the difference (however small) between the two. Thank you!

    • Hi Andrea! I was using an excerpt of writing on the lyric essay from Deborah Tall and John D’Agata from the Seneca Review website, in which they quote Helen Vendler. They write: “The lyric essay does not expound. It may merely mention. As Helen Vendler says of the lyric poem, ‘It depends on gaps. . . . It is suggestive rather than exhaustive.'” It is something about time– isn’t it? I struggle with being able to articulate this as well– so writing my presentation was difficult, but also a learning experience.

      • Thanks for the link to the essay! I love what Celan says about the poem being lonely.

        Ah, the ineffability of time. I think the important thing is that you/we are trying to capture its language, even if for a short while.

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