Lyric Complexity: A Craft Class

Taught by David Baker
Wednesday, March 23, 6:00 to 8:00 p.m.
Registration fee: $45.00
Register online here.

The traditional dream of the lyric poem is to present, in an instant “outside of time,” an epiphany, a deep understanding of things. At least that’s the party-line for a “pure” lyric poem. But what if the poem steps into time instead of out of it? What does time look like in a poem? How does the lyric tell and measure and even embrace the complexity of time? As any poem, any word, pure? In this class, we’ll consider the prospects when time and action—often regarded antitheses to the pure lyric—are put to the poet’s use.  We’ll read and talk about a variety of poems and strategies, focusing on narrative and rhetorical structures. I’ll argue that all poems are narrative, in some way; but we’ll consider varieties ranging from suppressed to sustained to braided narratives. I’ll offer specific assignments based on what we discuss in class. There’ll be a bit of time for writing, but most of this session will be reading and discussion—recent poems alongside older ones, traditional and innovative, formal and “free.” How can we more powerfully build into our poems a capability to tell complex, layered, meaningful narratives? I’d like to invite each participant to bring to class two or three unfinished drafts or parts of new poems.