We all know song lyrics. A lyric is also a form of poetry, and it’s fair to call many popular songs lyric poems set to music. The term originated, in fact, as a form of Greek poetry written to be accompanied by a lyre.
“Lyric” is generally used to distinguish personal, emotional poems from narrative and dramatic poetry. Narrative poems tell a story using one or more characters (epics are a good example). Dramatic poetry is written to be spoken aloud by the characters themselves (Shakespeare’s plays qualify as dramatic poetry; dramatic monologues are also a popular form). Lyric poetry is typically, but not always, short.
As with most other categorization schemes, the boundaries between these three forms of poetry can be a bit fuzzy, especially with contemporary poetry. It’s entirely possible to incorporate elements of all three into a single work. It’s also possible to create a poem that doesn’t really fit into any of these categories; so I don’t consider them all-inclusive, but I do find them useful.
Here’s a poem I published not long after I started this blog. Some would call it pure narrative, but I think the last two lines make it a lyric, because they make it clear that I’m not telling the story just to tell it. I’m using it to express personal feelings.
Manny Ramirez once caught a fly ball
for out two
and tossed it to a fan
instead of throwing to second.
He even jogged halfway to the dugout
before he realized his mistake.
Manny was like that.
(He thought he had the third out,
Just in case you don’t know baseball
or never heard of Manny.)
A to Z Badge by Jeremy of Being Retro