Truth Conforms to Music: on the lyric essay

Funny how I find myself in love with you / If I could buy my reasoning, I’d pay to lose / One half won’t do / I’ve asked myself, how much do you commit yourself?
Truth conforms to music.
There are two impulses in writing — the desire to render reality and the other to explore language. It’s verisimilitude (mimesis, objective truth) or patterns (myth, subjective truth); sometimes, it’s in shades both grey and resplendent, crude and ultra sophisticated. The lyric essay is a duplex with the interior walls removed. It is mimesis and myth; it is metonym and metaphor. It substitutes, and also stands holding your hand.
Lyric essays are both.
Huh?

Both what?
You probably heard it said — and it’s true the name sorta says it all — that lyric essay is a combination of essay and poetry. Good enough. Yeah, but what does that actually mean? In other words, if an essay is the autobiography of an idea, as Richard Rodriquez says it is and poetry is the unsayable said, as pronounced by Donald Hall (what are there no women in the world?) — I might give the final word to Judith Kitchen (finally an XX!), she says the lyric essay has a lyric in it. Then can we say: lyric essay is the unsaying of an idea with music.
Or…
Truth conforms to music.
Funny I blame myself in love with you…
In 1997 a little literary journal in St. Geneva, New York stared all this craziness by launching a new mandate to find, interrogate, publish and promote what it hailed as a new beginning, a new genre of writing creative nonfiction called the lyric essay. In the Seneca Review its editors John D’Agata and Debra Tall wrote:
The lyric essay partakes of the poem in its density and shapeliness, its distillation of ideas and musicality of language. It partakes of the essay in its weight, in its overt desire to engage with facts, melding its allegiance to the actual with its passion for imaginative form … The lyric essay … elucidates through the dance of its own delving.
Well, then: clear as mud, as they say.
The lyric essay isn’t anything you want it to be — it is first and foremost an essay — a meandering attempt to grapple with some idea — which is expressed in the conventions of poetry. It avoids coming to any conclusions, mind you; it revels in raising more questions than it answers. It’s primary drive is to evoke an emotion or tone through imagery juxtaposed against seemingly untenable dancing partners. In other words, a lyric essay is the contents of the essayist’s skull.
 It’s well… where
Truth conforms to music.
You don’t need an assignment to be a writer, a purveyor of all the weird and wonderful flotsam and jetsam you will swim through in your daily machinations. Observe. Gather. Take notes. Don’t write in complete sentences. Get it down on the screen. On the page. In hot pixels or stone cold black Pilot ink. Get it. Savor it. Take pictures. NOW. If I could find my reasoning how it pays to lose…(dang misheard again) I wrote this while listening over and over again to Talk Talk’s “It’s My Life.” This is your writing life. Go out and find it a voice. Find its untethered soul. One half won’t do…(got it)

Me I go from one extreme to another… Sorry, next song: ABC’s “Look of Love.”

See the world anew, try not to witness what is necessarily marked real, but for now notice how it’s one big puzzle and notice the music that comes from our humming as we slide pieces together just to see what is…

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