So we're studying lyric poetry in my creative writing class. Okay, actually, she gave us this assignment that she really didn't explain, and we had to read this essay explaining lyric poetry, but I still don't get it.
Basically, we have about six poems that we have to categorize into story, symbol, or incantation. Now, while I adore Emily Dickinson, I have no idea what category "There's a certain Slant of light" falls under or why. So please, anyone, please help! Thank you!
There's a certain Slant of light,
Winter afternoons --
That oppresses, like the Heft
Of Cathedral Tunes --
Heavenly Hurt, it gives us --
We can find no scar,
But internal difference,
Where the Meanings, are --
None may teach it -- Any --
'Tis the Seal Despair --
An imperial affliction
Sent us of the air --
When it comes, the Landscape listens --
Shadows-- hold their breath --
When it goes, 'tis like the Distance
On the look of Death --
story, symbol, or incantation
An odd trio of alternatives, Heather, certainly not exhaustive in relation to lyric poetry.
This poem of ED's doesn't tell a story, so it must be one of the other two. My SOE dictionary defines 'incantation' as 'A magical formula chanted or spoken; an utterance of such a formula, the use of such a formula in magic, or in any magical act or ceremony' It's not that. So by a process of elimination it must be 'symbol', whatever your teacher takes that to mean. It's not a categorisation that makes much sense to me applied to the poem as a whole.
Ignoring the distractions of ED's bizarre punctuation, I'd say that this poem of hers uses metaphors, similes and personification to describe the emotional effects of a certain type of natural light she associates with winter afternoons. Does that make it 'symbol'?
Does the essay that you had to read explain your teacher's understanding of this assignment? Is it available on the Internet for us to read too? Maybe you can find out by searching on Google for some unusual phrase from it.
It's actually a chapter from a book called Poetry as Survival by Gregory Orr. I did find something a little similar online.
Thanks for your help!
Poetry as Survival by Gregory Orr
What an incredible load of baloney!
The Princeton Encyclopedia of Poetry states that,
"LYRIC: The term used to designate one of the three general categories of poetic literature, the others being narrative and dramatic. Although the differentiating features between these arbitrary classifications are sometimes moot, lyric poetry may be said to retain most pronouncedly the elements of poetry which evidence its origins in musical expression -- singing, chanting and recitation to musical accompaniment."
A similar definition:
One of the three main groups of poetry, the others being narrative and dramatic. By far the most frequently used form in modern poetic literature, the term lyric includes all poems in which the speaker's ardent expression of a (usually single) emotional element predominates. Ranging from complex thoughts to the simplicity of playful wit, the power and personality of lyric verse is of far greater importance than the subject treated. Often brief, but sometimes extended in a long elegy or a meditative ode, the melodic imagery of skillfully written lyric poetry evokes in the reader's mind the recall of similar emotional experiences."
Now look at some of Orr's nonsense:
"Lyric poetry, especially the personal lyric, exists in all cultures and at all times precisely because it performs an essential survival function for individuals, especially when they undergo crises."
Yeah, well, so do both Narrative and Dramatic forms. That definition is meaningless.
"The personal lyric is “a poem about experience that features an I.”
Again, the definition is too narrow. A Narrative poem cannot be about experience and feature an I? Of course it can! Moreover, Browning's My Last Duchess experience is a Dramatic Monologue, and it also features an I. I feel sure I could find many more examples if pressed.
Furthermore, the fact is that Lyric Poetry is not the only genre with "story, symbol and incantation". Almost all poetry has symbols (simile, metaphor, personification, etc.), and huge amounts of poetry tell a story of some sort or another. Incantation seems to be a term interpreted by the author to his own ends:
"The Handbook to Literature (Sixth edition; Holman and Harmon; Macmillan Publishers, 1992) defines incantation as follows: “A formulaic use of language, usually spoken or chanted, either to create intense emotional effects or to produce magical results.”
So that means rhythm and/or rhyme, I am guessing? Seems a stretch, but not worth belaboring the point I suppose.
I suspect the assignment has been misinterpreted, though. Possibly the instructor wants the students not to categorize the poems into story, symbol and incantation, but instead to show those elements in each of the works?
So, for the Slant of Light one, the story is Emily's description of the light that comes at that time of day and year through a window, or across a landscape? Examples of some symbols are cathedral tunes, seal despair and shadows? The incantations the meter and rhyme scheme (trimeter stanzas rhyming xbxb)?
Just guessing, you understand, but it makes more sense to me that way.
Well, you're partially right. When we were talking about it in class today, it was definitely categorization, but the way we steered the conversation was to talking about elements of the poems. I think my professor is crazy, but that's another story.
Ironically enough, I recited/performed My Last Duchess for my Later English Lit midterm my freshman year. I even found a "portrait" of Lucrezia.
This babe here?:
I wonder what she is squeezing with her right-hand fingers. Not one of Ferrara's jalapeños, I feel sure.
Haha, that would be her. I wonder what the real story is... did he kill her or just lock her away in some convent?
did he kill her or just lock her away in some convent?
Answered on another thread - when asked, Browning declined to elucidate, noting that either consequence could be interpreted by the reader. To me, she was killed and thrown (weighted down) into the nearest river, where she remains to this day. I mean, there simply has to be some fatal result for not appreciating the Duke's gift of his 900-year-old name, wot?