Five Basic Kinds Of Lyric Poems

Not only can lyric poetry be broken into typical topics—moment, object, living thing, concept or experience —but also into five typical modes of expression. Master lyricists are able to combine these modes or vary them (as an improviser might vary a melody), but the following methods will simplify the process so you can execute well-crafted lyrics:

Investigate the meaning of a concept. Such a poem often focuses on a word or phrase and deconstructs it —takes it apart, bone and sinew as it were — to reveal a meaning greater than any previously stated one. Here is such a lyric from my files:

EVANGELISTS, ENVIRONMENTALISTS

Evangelists like to flash backward

Playing records and tapes,

Listening for Lucifer in the low syllables.

Environmentalists like to flash forward Taperecording temperatures, Looking for holes in the high altitudes.

EvarcgeZists have halos; environmentalists, Ores. Halogens. Lists of souls, species Near extinction. Both believe in floods,

The mythology of lifeboats and whales.

One wants to save Jonah,

The other the orca whose song is a psalm.

Both damn man, prophesying doom At the door. Donations are deductible. One can't wait to get to heaven,

The other can't bear to leave earth. One thinks that God will reward him. The other thinks not.

Method of composition: Pick a word or phrase that has particular meaning to you, one that causes you great joy or sorrow —in sum, a concept that speaks to you personally. Then research all shades of meaning in that word or phrase, using standard reference books. Once you have contemplated those meanings, look for a new one —some grain of truth or epiphany to convey how you feel. Then use your mechanical tools (voice, line, stanza, etc.) to link the various meanings and unify them in your ending.

Investigate the essence of an image or object. Such a poem evaluates all aspects, parts, meanings or components of a thing, endowing the image or object with new meaning.

In this lyric, Ruth Daigon probes the essence of a bullet:

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