Lyric Powers

Lyric Powers

Lyric Powers

Lyric Powers

Synopsis

The authority of poetry varies from one period to another, from one culture to another. For Robert von Hallberg, the authority of lyric poetry has three sources: religious affirmation, the social institutions of those who speak the idioms from which particular poems are made, and the extraordinary cognition generated by the formal and musical resources of poems. Lyric Powers helps students, poets, and general readers to recognize the pleasures and understand the ambitions of lyric poetry.
To explain why a reader might prefer one kind of poem to another, von Hallberg analyzes- beyond the political and intellectual significance of poems- the musicality of both lyric poetry and popular song, including that of Tin Pan Alley and doo-wop. He shows that poets have distinctive intellectual resources- not just rhetorical resources- for examining their subjects, and that the power of poetic language to generalize, not particularize, is what justly deserves a critic's attention.
The first book in more than a decade from this respected critic, Lyric Powers will be celebrated as a genuine event by readers of poetry and literary criticism.

Excerpt

Poetry, not prose: the distinction proposes a limit on what prose can be expected to do. the currency and institutionalization of legal, journalistic, and academic discourses make secular, rational explanation, conventional syntax, and sequential narrative seem comprehensive—the orders of truth itself. But the differential concept of poetry identifies a range of language beyond the orders of most institutionalized communication. Exactly what lies within the scope of poetry is indefinite; successive generations reconsider inherited definitions. Moreover redefinitions are constructed along two tracks: in essays by poets, but more reliably in poems. the essays are conjectural; they propose a range of extravagant language as belonging to poetry. Whether these proposals have been or will be effectively realized depends on the powers of individual poets. Because of the indefiniteness of the term “poetry,” there is always a utopian element to prose definitions of this art’s powers. Poems that redefine the operations of poetry do so by instantiation, not conjecture; they are rather evidence of what truly can be done outside the conventions of prose.

My objective is to clarify issues that arise when one prefers one kind of poem over another. Various concepts of poetry circulate now in U.S. literary culture, and among them are some family resemblances. the following chapters are oriented on two rival . . .

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