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