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Freedom Writers Review Essay
Dagatas introductions to each selection contain personal anecdotes, such as i was an eight-week-old fetus when my mother first read to me (she read nonfiction) and in this year i am fired from my position as news editor of my fifth-grade classs in-house newspaper mrs. But i suggest the analogy to frame the different kinds of ownership that might be at stake here. It would be impossible, especially for me, to compare gender and race among other offenses, doing so would deny the existence of intersectionality.
A new york native, she currently resides in athens, ga. And yet, when a writer sits down to write something, she must consider form. To make space in the high art realm for a type of writing is to confer power on those who practice it.
As helen vendler says of the lyric poem, it depends on gaps. Still, we can salvage that obsolete front door and make a window out of it. And yet theres something suspiciously self-anointing about it.
Thus, ingeniously, the term lyric essay simultaneously disowns the low-art subgenres on both sides of the fiction-nonfiction border. What is the difference between importing the artfully indeterminate lyric i into the realm of nonfiction, as a way of granting power to subjectivity, and simply making shit up? Does such a distinction matter? Dagata claims not to care, but i side with gutkind in suspecting that theres a difference between queering genre and borrowing the authority of one genre, on bad credit, to bolster the profile of another. Like most taxonomic classifications, both genre and gender are somewhat arbitrary they have hidden agendas.
Essays like boullys show how formal innovation can arise, at least partially, out of the urgent need to explore the lived reality of a particular identity. Yet the central trope of our intellectual heritage is of a transcendent, disembodied mind (306). Each paragraph (nelson prefers proposition), like a stanza of poetry, becomes a little island of text, lapped by whitenessset against blankness, and in relation to the others.
At its best, the lyric essay accurately locates the writer in the great soup of being the confusions of lived time, the jagged shape of thought, the betrayals and silences of the body. Biss has described the form as organic to the way i think (57). But perhaps racist and sexist structures can resemble each other both in the erasures they inflict and the ways in which their charged, dubiously defended borders might invite a kind of generative violation. When critics do define lyric against something else, its often something perceived as normative, some sort of front door. But what there can be a breakage, a re-shuffling.
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Bodies of Text: On the Lyric Essay – The Essay Review
Ben marcus writes, once upon a time there will be readers who wont care what imaginative writing is called and will read it for its passion, its force of intellect, and for its formal originality. If, as noted above, ever-more-subtle classifications might become generative sites of identification andor resistance, lazar and crosby remind us that they can constrict and chafe as well. The category contains everything from journalism to memoir to biography to cookbooks. Furthermore does such a maverick stance towards fact betray a certain kind of presumption? One wonders how a writer might reliably distinguish between irrelevant factsfacts that can be smudged for the sake of artand facts on which others lives and legal futures might hinge. Doubleday prefers a special form of literature read by young men who recognize the sternness of the battle of life and prepare themselves for it by serious reading.
They trust their contemporary readers to grant that objectivity is a mythan an assumption upon which earlier lyric theorists, defending the legitimacy of their field against the presumed objectivity of science and reason, could not necessarily count. So here is the high art thing again. Caroline levine writes in her book forms, networks might seem altogether formless, perhaps even the antithesis of form. When people arrived, christina told me, a student handed everyone an index card and asked them to write how they identified on it, then pin it to their lapel. We might fantasize some pure organic formsome control-group formbut new forms have always ruptured older ones in order to bring themselves into existence.
But theres a different kind of capital at stake here, the kind associated with high art. Even so, if the traditional academy is what the lyric essay seeks to transgresswell, im not sure this is a transgression that interests me. In francestanza can be used to describe a stancea way of carrying oneself (382). Though most reviews labeled it as poetry, its formal indeterminacy and plurality have invited a variety of classifications. Unlike doubleday, who feared the threat of a genre he regarded as feminine and other, dagata is troubled by a tradition hes writing withinon one side, by the pedantic, fact-fetishizing world of reportage, and on the other, by the fuzzy overshare of the memoir, with its oprahs-book-club whiff, its trauma narratives hawked for redemption. Yet dagata complains that the terms largeness robs it of legitimacy within the span of a single century, non-fiction has overshadowed half a dozen other literary terms to become the bland de facto banner that flaps above everything from journalism to memoir, imposing the same aesthetic standards and expectations on everything that falls beneath its shadow. It may offer unique tools for expressing the presence of absences. The genre category difficult or impossible to characterize, the essay, is also queer. And yet, for many, writing about gendered experience presents a paradox how to represent the robustness of ones own lived experience while also representing the experience of obscurity, of erasure? How to explore the messy, fluid realities of the body without sacrificing so much linearity that ones work is labeled incoherent or unreadable? How to transcend the diminutive, the traditionally feminine, without devaluing it? Susan griffin again is it possible to write in a form that is both immersed and distant, farseeing and swallowed? I am thinking now that this is what women have been attempting in the last decades. And yet, somehow, lyric has come to stand in for poetry in general, or prose at its most poetic, whatever that means.Amy Bonnaffons’s writing has appeared in The New York Times, Kenyon Review, The Sun, The Literary Review, and elsewhere. She is a founding editor of 7×7, a journal ...