Tag Archives: Questions

Mystery Hybrid: Further Thoughts on the Lyric Essay

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I did a recent post on an article featuring explanations of the lyric essay and today I would like to open up one more quote, this one, from Judith Kitchen. She writes: 

“…Like a poem, the lyric essay must not only mean, but be. It is a way of seeing the world. A hybrid—a cross between poetry and nonfiction—it must, as Rene Char said of the poet, ‘leave traces of [its] passage, not proof,’ letting mystery into the knowing. Or the knowing to incorporate its mystery. And part of that knowing is through sound—the whisper of soft consonants, the repetition of an elongated vowel that squeaks its way across the page, the chipping away of k-k-k-k, the assonance and consonance of thought attuned to language. The internal rhyme of the mind. “(46)”

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1. The lyric essay must be. I don’t know if I understand this particular angle. I assume it is referring to the shape or path of the piece as it is as an experience, the essence or the spirit of the essay–the presence of it over and above its meaning, the “character” of the piece, perhaps.

2. It is a form of perception (a way of seeing). This is straightforward enough. It allows us to be aware of the frame of the piece and how it is, not only what it stands for. It is not framed only in expressing a logical argument, but in presenting the argument in ways that may seem strange, unusual, unique, or even cinematic. It is an experience in a new way of seeing. 

3. It is a hybrid, leaving traces of its proof. The lyric essay does not seek to demonstrate, but to infiltrate, to linger and fester in the mind of the reader. A fragmented piece, while reading it, might baffle the reader, but upon exit, upon reflection, cracks that went unnoticed might rise to the surface and take a wholly new form.

4. Mystery. The lyric essay is a space for wonder, for curiosity, for smearing and blurring, for making clear (or making messy) and for slicing, dicing, cutting, and weaving. It is a spot of suspense and beauty, a thing-in-itself, and a passage–a corridor.

5. The importance of sound. Like the way a song lingers, the lyric essay should linger as more than “information,” but more as an entrance. One should enjoy or revel in the pleasurable experience of voicing a lyric essay, of reading it aloud, be drawn in by the sound, the music, the poetry. 

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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?

The Influence of Each Other

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In his book “Leaders and Leadership: Searching for Wisdom in all the Right Places,” Lee Thayer writes, “Relationships are necessary. You can’t be anyone without first auditioning in front of others. But the influence goes both ways. Other people want you to be who they want you to be. If that is consistent with what you intend to be, then consider yourself the most fortunate person on earth and move on.”

If this is so, then problems most definitely arise when two people are at odds with who they want the other to be in their eyes. In these cases, how do we navigate each other away from the problem? If I want you to acquiesce to my way of seeing things and you want me to acquiesce to your way of seeing things, then we will have a problem. Is the solution simply a matter of one person acquiescing to the other? Or, is this a mis-diagnosis of the problem? Will the fundamental difference (the, perhaps, stubbornness) go away or increase in the changing of oneself?

Relationships between couples seem to be a good example. If one of us wants to go north and the other south and both have compelling reasons for wanting to go their respective ways, then how do we as a couple solve this problem without ending the relationship? How do we compromise? And, say one goes north with the other, getting his/her way, but then becomes adverse to the decision thus blaming the other for proliferating a mood of negativity, it would seem that both lose this game. How could the two resolve this problem? Again, is there something more fundamental that the two are not seeing?

If the couple intends to be together, yet suffers such problems of who the other is (diverging views of each other) then would that mean that they ought to redefine the relationship and their purposes for being together? Other than either redefining each other or acquiescing to one or the other (deferring), what other possible solutions are at hand?

Do relationships fail on the basis of bad performances? Are the most fortunate relationships those who are sharing purposeful performances?

Contemplating the “Indirect Path” (Execupundit)

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Michael Wade over at Execupundit recently posted two provocative questions under the title, “Indirect Path.” His two questions are as follows, “Is happiness something that is captured or achieved?” and “Or is it more likely that happiness will climb our steps when we are not in active pursuit?”

What I would like to do here is to simply open up these questions and in doing so hopefully give readers of this blog and his, some food for thought in the contemplation of these matters.

First, if happiness is something that is “captured,” from where do we capture it? How does one “find” it? Could it even be possible that happiness exists apart from our attitudes toward what we do and how we experience life? Or, does one, as Herzog might say, “wrestle it from the Devil’s hands?” If happiness is achieved, then what does that tell us about such things as perseverance, effort, accountability and responsibility? Could it be that the pursuit of these leads one to a “happier” life because they align one with one’s purpose? How caught up are happiness and purpose?

And, to address Wade’s second question, does the direct contemplation of happiness somehow eliminate its manifestation? Any student of David K. Reynolds’ “Constructive Living” should be familiar with the adage that one cannot will oneself to be happy. Or, is it that happiness is a performable feeling that one can actually will into existence by the performance of that feeling? Also, does the direct desire to be “happy” have any meaning whatsoever? Is there a state of happiness apart from one’s own unique life circumstance in which that term “happiness” takes on whatever relevance it may have to that person in that circumstance? How has your understanding of happiness changed over the years? Is it the happiness that changed or your own changes in how you interpret things?

Additionally, how is happiness discussed through mediums such as television, radio, film, books and the Internet? Which medium would be most useful a platform for learning more about what happiness could be and how it manifests itself in our lives? Which “stories” that you may live by most influence your understanding of happiness? Does it matter which story we use as long as it “works” for us?

Somehow, for me, in the thinking of these questions, some kind of internal calm overcomes me and I daresay I feel…happiness? I’m not sure. Perhaps this tells us something. But what? Is it that the right questions somehow guide us closer to a more lucid understanding? But without a purpose in mind how do we know what to ask? Why is happiness so sought after?

Tokyo Nights: Howl

I’ve been living in Tokyo for two months now. This is my first update since the move. I relocated from a quiet “bed town” in Ibaraki to a beautiful neighborhood close to Shinjuku. While my neighborhood in Tokyo is relatively quiet, I miss the dead-of-night stillness that comes from being in the countryside. I grew up in northern Michigan, so I am quite close to that quietude. It is odd to experience stillness in the midst of a metropolis like Tokyo, and for me, the experience is very different from that of the stillness in the country: being surrounded by open sky and dark woods as opposed to being surrounded by tiny streets, high-rise apartment buildings and cherry blossom trees. Being a fan of horror films, both of these experiences of stillness can be frightening, although the stillness of the woods is a fright closer to my heart. That makes the stillness of the city at night more frightening. The Unexpected can be conjured in both situations, but seems like a wholly different breed to unexpected fright. Are these both symptoms of a fear of what could be lurking around the corner? How do the two different landscapes affect the use and play of shadows?

What I like about the dark nights of the city is the sound of wailing voices coming from the street at night, the frightful chill of an unknown voice and then, upon looking out the window, realizing its only a drunken business man howling because he burnt his “manhood” with his cigarette while trying to urinate on the sidewalk. Now, that’s scary.

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The Unexamined Life is Not Worth Living: Demetri Martin’s “If I”

I haven’t spent much time with Demetri Martin’s comedy material, but through some great stroke of serendipity, stumbled across this hour-long special for the BBC, entitled “If I.” To my delight, this performance is not simply “stand-up,” but examines such things as communication, choices, life-making, creativity, meaning and thinking. Martin unpacks the word “if” and uses it to point us in the direction of how our lives are influenced by our choices and the power of imagining our lives through the “if.”

While watching this video, I couldn’t help but be drawn back to Lee Thayer when he wrote, “…there is no dynamic in what ‘is.’ What stirs the human mind to life is not what ‘is,’ but what could be, or what should be, or what might be (from “Pieces”).”

In addition, Martin uses original artwork, music and photography to help pull us into “his” world. He is a brilliant public speaker and I hope you can use this video (and the other five, which can be found on Youtube) to enhance your life in some meaningful and constructive way.

Japanicity: Three Questions w/ Ken Tanaka (田中けんさんとミツの質問)

sakura lomo

“Three Questions” is a song by the Kentucky based musician Bonnie “Prince” Billy from his “Master and Everyone” album. This haunting and beautiful song has been with me since winter 2004 and today I would like to incorporate the idea of “three questions” into The Eyeslit-Crypt. It is really quite simple. I choose one person and ask them three questions. Since this is my first experiment with this kind of blogging format, I kept the questions very simple and accessible. The honorable person whom I chose for this first endeavor is none other than Ken Tanaka…three questions were asked and this evening a response was received. As the beloved “Hero” Hiro Nakamura may say, “Yattttttta.”

If you are not familiar with Ken Tanaka’s video work, I suggest the following links:

Ken Tanaka on Youtube
Ken Tanaka on Myspace
The Japanicity of Ken Tanaka

THREE QUESTIONS with Ken Tanaka

Q: What kind of adventures have you been up to these days?

A: I recently have been traveling to a few locations searching for my parents…I just got back from Hawaii today. I am hoping to put up a video soon, but I am having some bad technical difficulties. I will also be returning to Japan sometime in May, hopefully. I hope to do some more videos about life in Japan if I can get my camera fixed.

Q: Any musical or literary recommendations from Ken Tanaka?

A: I have recently been reading some American authors. I like Kurt Vonnegut Jr. He seems like a very nice man. I have also been enjoying traditional American Blues and folk music by Leadbelly, Robert Johnson and Woody Guthrie. I recently heard a song at a vintage clothing store in Los Angeles by a New York folk/punk singer called Adam Green. I hope to listen to more of his music soon.
As far as recent manga, I am reading Gantz and 20th Century Boys (20seiki shonen).

Q: What are some of your favorite things about your home country, Japan?

A: Well, here are the things I miss most about home. Onsen and ofuru. It’s very hot in Los Angeles and I often wish I could go to a nice onsen for refreshment. There are Korean style spas in LA but they aren’t quite the same. When I arrive in Japan, I will go straight to a Sento. I also miss the quality of food. In the Japanese countryside, there is lots of tasty food everywhere. I have found that it is quite hard to find good food here, even in the city. There is very good food in Los Angeles, but you must do research in order to find it.
I also miss Game centers. Sometimes I want to play video games but it is hard to find them in Los Angeles. I miss trains and subways, and bento and sakura and anmitsu and matsuri and depa-chika and yakiimo too.

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Thank you for reading the first installment of “Three Questions” and I hope you learned something new about Ken Tanaka.