Tuesday, April 21, 2015

Writing Tips: The Greater Romantic Lyric

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(Notes from a Poetry Workshop)


I think that it was during my first visit to the poetry workshop at the Birmingham Public Library that Tina Braziel* talked to us about the Greater Romantic Lyric and let us try our hand at it. M.H. Abrams described this form used by the Romantic poets (e.g. Keats, Wordsworth, Coleridge). Abrams, in “Structure and Style in The Greater Romantic Lyric,” described it as a meditative process in which the poet examined his natural surroundings which would then evoke a memory, a thought process, or a feeling associated with the outer scene. The result would be some change or insight within the poet.  The reader of the poem then becomes privy to that “sustained colloquy,” that is, the conversation or inner dialogue through which the poet comes to a new awareness.

Tina explained that the movement in the Greater Romantic Lyric is outward, inward, then outward again. The poem begins in the present tense, looking at something outward, usually in the natural world. The poem then goes “inward” to the thoughts of the poet in the form of a contemplation, a memory of the past, or a projection into the future. Finally, the poem comes back to the present with its outward view once again.

It is remarkable how a little bit of direction from an instructor can get the creative juices flowing. We all spent some time thinking about this poetic form and then wrote what came to mind. As I sat there in the library conference room imagining a natural setting, my mind went immediately to trees, which have long been a source of inspiration for me. I came up with a short three-stanza poem. I could have gone back to elaborate, creating a longer colloquy on the wonder and grandeur of trees and plotting a path to an enlightened turning (the turning is always an important aspect of a poem, being that moment where things take a dramatic change).  Instead, I kept the poem short and simple, trusting the reader to catch where the subject is coming from and where he is headed. The point, I think, with these poetic devices, is not to copy what was an exciting art form during Keats’ and Wordsworth’s day and relevant to their audience. Rather, the point is to learn from these poetic genres and techniques and use them to spark our own creativity.

Tomorrow, I will share my greater romantic lyric, “Ancient Oak.”


*Note: Tina Mozelle Braziel leads an adult poetry workshop and Birmingham's Central Library downtown on the first and third Tuesdays of each month. It is free and open to the public. She is also director for a creative writing program for high school students which will take place in June, in connection with the UAB English Department. Check out the details at http://www.uab.edu/cas/english/about-us/events-and-series/ada-long-creative-writing-workshop

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