The neuroscience literature is packed with examples of bizarre pathologies, but there are plenty of everyday experiences which are just as bewildering and which have yet to be satisfactorily explained. Déja Vu is one example. Another is the so-called ‘Autonomous Sensory Meridian Response’ which is, essentially, the tingle we sometimes get from great poetry or music. There is an interesting discussion of this on a blog written by my friend and fellow poet, Martyn Crucefix, which you can read here:
As noted in my previous post, the lyric poem is usually described as an expression of the poet’s thoughts and feelings at a given moment in time. The importance of being hyper-attentive to the world around us and within us, to register ideas and sensations as they happen, is something that the Romantics, in particular, were keen to stress, though almost every poet since then would regard this as an essential part of what they do and who they are. Ezra Pound, for example, in the the essay on Imagism that appeared in the March 1913 edition of Poetry, describes the image in terms which are very close to the definition of the lyric poem. The image, he says, is “that which presents an intellectual and emotional complex in an instant of time”. Pound, of course, differs from the Romantics in his rejection of the idea of poetry as ‘expression’, but he shares with them the notion that poems seek to capture a moment, to present ‘the present’.
But a problem arises when we start to examine more closely the idea of ‘the present moment’, for there is an increasing amount of evidence suggesting that we never experience things ‘as they happen’, and that we are all, poets and non-poets alike, doomed to be the ‘unreliable narrators’ of our own lives. Continue reading
Though it originally referred to verse that was accompanied by a lyre or other musical instrument, the term ‘lyric’ now denotes poetry that expresses the thoughts and feelings of the poet (or their persona) at a particular moment in time. From the Romantic era onwards, the lyric has been seen as the ideal vehicle for examining the nature of conscious experience and ideas about the self, and its pre-eminence has meant that we sometimes forget it is just one poetic genre amongst others, and see it as more or less synonymous with poetry itself.
Consequently, poetry, more than any other literary form, tends to be seen as ‘self-expression’. But what exactly are we expressing when we express our ‘selves’? Naturally, we all assume that we have a ‘self’ and that our self is what makes us what we are. But what if there were no self – if the self were just a kind of illusion or a notion that we have invented to make sense of an otherwise bewildering and incoherent mass of impressions? How might this affect the theory and practice of poetry? What happens when we take the ‘I’ out of lyric? Continue reading