Free Association Issue 21


ISSUE 21 : JANUARY-JUNE 2015

What is a Lyric Essay?


DENNIS ANDREW S. AGUINALDO

Madaling sabi

Pagbigyan sana kung uulitin ko lamang sa pagkakataong ito ang ilang mga nasabi na tungkol sa hulma ng “matulaing sanaysay” (“bakit hindi na lang tumula kung tutula, magsanaysay kung magsasanaysay?”). Patawarin ang ganitong paraan ng pagpapahiwatig.

Ani San Benito, “Walang bubulong-bulong, walang magsasalita—tinig lamang ng mambabasa ang maririnig doon.”

TUNOG
higit sa pagmamadali ng salita

Pagbigyan sana kung uulitin ko lamang sa pagkakataong ito ang ilang mga nasabi na tungkol sa hulma ng “matulaing sanaysay” (“bakit hindi na lang tumula kung tutula, magsanaysay kung magsasanaysay?”). Patawarin ang ganitong paraan ng pagpapahiwatig.

Ipagpalagay na nating sabay-sabay lang tayo at ngayon ko rin lamang narinig ang isang uri ng paggamit sa ilang baryant ng Tagalog ng salitang “tunog”. Masusumpungan ito sa sitwasyon kung saan nagtatawag na ang mga nakatatanda, pinapapasok na sa bahay ang mga bata para sa orasyon, upang unahan ang takipsilim, dahil (kabilang sa iba pang mahihiwagang kadahilanan): “aba’y ineng, baka kayo matunugan!” Hala! Matunugan nino o ng ano? At alin sa mga hiyaw, ingit, at awit ng kabataan ang hindi dapat makarating sa ibayong tainga? Ang pakikipagtawaran ba nila (“teka lang po, isang round na lang”), ang pangangatwiran (“e bat ho si Unyo hinayaan ng daddy nya?”), o alin pa nga kaya sa kanilang mga winiwika (“sabay ngayon gusto nyo akong pumasok dyan”)? At bakit masamang matunugan? Makikinabang kaya tayo rito sa isang kahulugan ng “matunugan” na may kinalaman (diumano) sa mga sabi-sabi—ito kaya ang iniiwasan, ang maging laman ng sabi-sabi?

Tingnan mo ang nangyari kay Rosanna...

Pagkatapos ng hapunan—kapag napatulog na ang mga bata at napaliwanagan na tayong mga dayo—saka lang natin mapagtatagni-tagni na ang “tunog” pala na pinag-uusapan dito ay hamog, na binibigkas pa nga ng ilang matatanda na “tun-og,” na wala naman palang kinalaman sa kulam o galaw, sa pagpapatiwakal o sa pagpapariwara. Pandong lang pala ang katapat. Pagsilong sa takdang oras. Pinakamalala na pala rito kung papasukin ka ng lamig sa ulo. Ngunit huli na, naisip na natin ang lahat nitong mga naisip. Kanina pa tayo pinapapasok, pinapipili ng kuwarto.

Sa halip ay nagmatigas tayo. Ani San Benito, “Walang bubulong-bulong, walang magsasalita—tinig lamang ng mambabasa ang maririnig doon.”



SHARON WANG

I thought of the lyric essay as a circuitous lyric. Maybe there are inevitable ruptures; maybe the speaker is forced to confront a looser, more prose-like form or voice that will force her (/him) to forgo her hiddenness, show the seams of the poem, before a contraction occurs. The lyric essay is like a pathway, containing an argument or playing against the idea of an argument, trying to reach a shifting target.

In the epistolary sequence I am working on, I began by trying to explore a form between confessional prose, lyric, and narrative. The poems’ argument is maybe that the addressee can’t be reached. To me it seems like... the poems are thwarting their own longing and their attempts to speak, but then always the lyric breaks through [a barrier of itself].



CARLOS QUIJON, JR.

The lyric essay is an essay that desires to sing, I remember reading from John D’Agata. My understanding of it is that it is an essay that requires attention to its singing in order to enact its essayistic capabilities—foregrounding language in its attempts to understand and process the world. I am thinking of Rosmarie Waldrop’s notion of gap gardening, for example.

A comment on my work has been that it is poetry—what of it then? I would like to think that every poem is an essay, and every essay, if done right—i.e., without the trappings of truth simply because of genre, i.e., nonfiction—is poetry. I would like to think that these things are just matters of attention—what you attend to when you read or write, what you choose to foreground in the experience of reading or writing—as a reader or a writer, respectively. This especially since I am always interested in the fabrication of a life, of biography, of using autobiography as style—something which both the lyric and the essayistic is invested in: the lyric in its process of perception, the essayistic in its perception of process.



CARISSA POBRE

I have not found a definition of the lyric essay which compels me, though I have spent much time contemplating the matter of the “essay,” and just as much the “lyric.” Certainly the birth of this term is, in practice, an invitation in drawing parallels between poetry and the essay, and a result of some renewed interests. But “lyric essay” itself seems clumsily phrased. I also feel cautious toward its inoculation. In this sense, I take great comfort in how John d’Agata recounts an early experience with Anne Carson: “[She] came to our program with her first American book, and I swear I heard her use the words ‘lyric’ and ‘essay’ in close proximity to one another, describing what she liked about some ancient Greek writer.” The two forms may simply be stumbling upon each other in a given work.



LAWRENCE BERNABE

time sinks suddenly words like
ships unmarked seas

invoking the form’s intervention in time, the telling
how one and the other must differ

leads on to what is other

***

extrapolations from a fragment, fragments
sufficing for enormous submergence and atmosphere

***

the many ways become disarticulation
and a necessary means to further

***

moments fatally placed: arrest and momentum

***

ultimately deferrals

of the one word, the one eye examining

***

ultimately to manifest

the desire to reconfigurate what is



STEPHANIE SHI

A lyric essay is a text that explores—or seeks to explore—something, for instance an event, idea, or the self. It is a hybrid of essay and poetry, in that the modes of writing in those two genres are combined. We essentially find in it the essay’s preoccupation with truth, human experience, and penchant for digression; poetry’s emphasis on language, tone, voice, and form. Through the lyric essay we are with an “I” as it attempts to articulate the subject by using other or many voices as multiple entry points into it, by having a circuitous flow of expression, or employing other mediums (e.g., photographs, sound) as text. It is a manner of telling that lets other things speak. And for what purpose? These endeavors barely have a clear progression, if there is movement at all. But lyric essays aren’t concerned with that. They instead push us to some place where we can feel the subject’s breadth; the subject is rendered palpable.