Origins of Lyric Poetry
Literally, lyric poetry traces its roots back to ancient Greece where melodic tales of great battles and lost loves were
recited publicly, accompanied by the stringed instrument known as the lyre. These singing minstrels, if you will, would travel
from city to city spreading their oral histories as well as entertaining the populace. They were, in a sense, the Bon Jovis
and Ricky Martins of their day.
Because these recitations were very structured in format and musical or melodic in
nature, they were consequently quite easy to commit to memory, enabling them to be passed on to others in the community, and
perhaps most importantly, passed on to future generations. Thus, the oral traditions of lyric poetry were born.
poems continued to evolve up to the era of the nineteenth century romantic poets, eventually losing instrumentation accompaniment,
but retaining their emphasis on the characteristics that make them memorable--structure and melody. Perhaps the last and greatest
of all the romantic poets, the Irish poet William Butler Yeats, created an astounding body of work that entrances and seduces
its readers with its subtle, yet intricate, patterns of sound. This is the essence of lyric poetry.
Lyric Poetry Today
The present state of lyric poetry can be defined in only one of two ways: dead or dying. It's not that nobody writes it
anymore (for there are surely many who do), but rather that nobody publishes it anymore. And should some publisher be bold
enough to do so, nobody will buy it. Just visit the neighborhood book superstore and find literally ten times the available
titles on professional wrestling stars as on the greatest traditional poets. Poetry in general is a very non-commercial artform,
with traditional and lyrical forms being the least commercial of all.
What then is marketable today? Not much.
Even the most widely published poets in the world will scarcely earn a living writing poems. They almost all fall into the
category of modern poets, a twentieth century phenomenon that essentially eliminated all the rules to writing poetry, replacing
them only with mandates of self-expression and sometimes social conscience. U.S. Poet Laurette Maya Angelou is a wonderful
example of a gifted modern poet who speaks for her generation and her ethnic heritage with great insight and emotion, but
whose work lacks the structural and lyrical aspects of her predecesors. Will anyone remember Maya Angelou fifty years from
now? Of course. Will anyone be able to quote her extensively or recite her works verbatim from memory? I doubt it. Yes,
my friends, I'm afraid the King has left the building.
The Future of Lyric Poetry
If there is a future for lyric poetry, it lies in the technology of the internet. For the first time in our history as a
people, there is a relatively inexpensive medium with which to expose a non-commercial artform to a large number of people.
Sponsored sites, such as this one, make it possible for anyone with the vision and desire and dedication to expose his work
to the world without the consequence of financial ruin if he is not a commercial success (which is a given).
there is a glimmer of hope on the horizon. Readers may not pay $25 for a volume of poems at Amazon.com and certainly will
not charge $19.95 per month on their Visa cards to join a poetry club, but they might just take a free peek every now and
then at a site containing lyric poetry, and maybe--just maybe, they'll like it. If fate is truly kind, perhaps some will
even pass it on to their children, or even (God forbid!), be inspired to create their own works.
free-versers, and rappers be forewarned: the ghosts and melodies of great poets don't die easily!
The ancient Greeks used the lyre to accompany stories of romance, heroic adventures, and battles.
A modern-day version of the lyre (pronounced "liar").
Another modern-day version of the liar (also pronounced "liar" and also a pronounced liar).