Lia Purpura: “the form is a necessity of thought.”

Split Pink

Although this article of notes on the lyric essay is from 2011, I am only now just discovering it and find this particular passage most engaging and illuminating–helpful in the craft of composition:

This is Not a Lyric Essay (Robert Root, read by Harvey) The lyric essay might be considered as a kind of blurting of words: unplanned, spontaneous, first and final draft, charged. It has a kind of inadvertence. The lyric can be felt in the blood. Place is a lyric essay. Deborah Tall said of the lyric it partakes of the essay in its weight, in its desire to engage with facts, in its passion. The form is simultaneously essay and poem and music; attends language with precision and rigor but with a different vision from poetry about what it might achieve. The lyric is an entity in itself; embodies a sense of wholeness; is an essence; is not decorative. As Lia Purpura says: the form is a necessity of thought.

via AWP Nonfiction Cheat Sheet: Friday Afternoon.

Specific phrases that I admire are:

1. “The lyric can be felt in the blood.”

2. “…embodies a sense of wholeness; is an essence; is not decorative.”

3. “As Lia Purpura says: the form is a necessity of thought.”

I have read certain essays, felt them on a level below the intellect, a level that pierced the skin or stayed stuck on the skin, skin sticky with how the essay just wouldn’t fade after reading.

Certain works, too, shine with a wholeness and a brevity, a sheen that bubbles up around them, a lasting power that incites more questions than answers. Textual power via ambiguity, images, fragments, the slice of a thought or a thought too wide and fragmented, that it must be cut to lend more power to the content it is expressing.

“…the form is a necessity of thought.” By this, is she suggesting that the form crafts the thought or that the thought crafts the form? How do different forms influence or meld the way a thought’s meaning is attributed? Or, is this merely a call out from the traditional five paragraph essay of composition textbooks, a call to experiment with how, for instance, a personal narrative shifts and shatters under varying forms?

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