What is 'lyric'?
Typically defined as "a single speaker relating his experience of the world," the term evokes for many Wordsworthian pastorals, Byron's Childe Harold or Frost's elemental Yankee loner. Yet John Berryman, the master of "shipwrecked syntax," navigated the lyric's powerful currents as the "voice of the other." In Ragan's Hunger Wall, Kinnell's Book of Nightmares, it is the spillway of brute force, the collective undertow of horror.
Through the intimate bonding of sound and meaning, the lyric poem draws the deepest emotional, the keenest sensual response, its enunciated breath the music that "joins the liberties of sleep with the intensity of extreme wakefulness," (Valéry) the rhythm and sonority that "respond to man's immortal need for symmetry and surprise." (Baudelaire)
Lyric is mesmerizing in any language, however rudimentary one's linguistic, thus, mental apprehension. Once emotionally allied with the piece, the listener imputes his own meaning, as here to a stanza in Suvicnai ("Shoo-veets-NYE"):
Voc mani sloka, sloka tedü,
The lyric poem's first stirrings are rarely verbal; it arrives by emotional sensation, by the internal color, texture, smell of a mood, by an image, pitch, cadence, hum, by the savor of a long vowel. "The poet is occupied with the frontiers of consciousness where words fail, but meanings still exist." (Eliot) This is the zone we inhabit when we enter into dialogue with the poem to transliterate our non-verbal exchange onto the page. Poet accounts solely to poem as the final arbiter of its completion; poem scrutinizes and challenges poet.
Rilke's Apollo is headless, limbless, yet every contour of muscle and bone radiates a gaze and a smile.
Denn da ist keine Stelle,
Only by surrender to the dialogue can we create anything true, anything of lasting value. By recovering the lyric, we acknowledge needs and reaffirm values that alter, enlarge, transcend ourselves.
In eleven sessions in New York, Paris and Prague, Lyric Recovery has sought to extend the lyric to full potential, presenting, engendering and visibly rewarding work marked by reach, craft, content and musicality. The 12th culminates with this festival session at Carnegie Hall.
Huddled since mid-century as "global village" around a dominant source of imagery, sound, even meaning, we must make uncommon use of language to ferry us beyond its perimeter to the essential, shared harmonics.
(Lyric Recovery is a p h i l o p h o n e m a presentation.)