Playing for Keeps: Intensity and Creativity in the Lyric Essay

Reporting from the 2011 AWP conference in Washington, D.C., I’ll be posting notes and tidbits from panels on writing, editing and publishing; news from the book room; and the thoughts that hit me late in the night.

Tonight’s post comes from the Playing for Keeps: Intensity and Creativity in the Lyric Essay panel. Here’s the description:

The lyric essay gives writers the license to experiment–to play with language in fresh and surprising ways–but if this playfulness lacks intensity the lyric essay can become a game, or worse, an idle exercise. What do writers do to animate the form so that it not only enjoys the freedom to explore but achieves the level of passion and intelligence we expect from all great writing? A panel of writers will consider the question and offer concrete suggestions.

Rebecca McClanahan started us off with her 13 Ways of Looking at Lyric Essay in 15 Minutes. Here they are in bold with my own notes following:

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Memoir, Schmemoir – Just Write the Damned Thing!

In my “it’s a new year, let’s do something productive” stage, I’ve begun serious work on a memoir.  The plan is to write eight interlocking essays that will also stand on their own – meaning a reader could theoretically read any one essay from the collection and have a complete narrative without needing to read the entire collection while at the same time providing a book-length narrative that is cohesive and engaging when read altogether.  So far, the essays have been roughly outlined, titles have been played with, and the first essay of the collection is in the drafting stages.  Things were moving along just swimmingly until Continue reading