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The Porch: Writing the Lyric Essay Workshop

“The lyric essay happens when I’ve forgotten to get dressed. When I’m disheveled.  When I’m not wearing any shoes.” ~ Brenda Miller

“The lyric essay partakes of the poem in its density and shapeliness, its distillation of ideas and musicality of language. It partakes of the essay in its weight, in its overt desire to engage with facts, melding its allegiance to the actual with its passion for imaginative form.” ~ Deborah Tall and John D’Agata

Not a poem, not a narrative, not an idea-driven essay, but something other.  Outside and/or inside this post-structuralist definition exists a genre of writing contemporarily vital to our literature.  Braided through image, language, story, rhythm, and mimetic technique, the lyric essay expands upon its forbearers (Creative Nonfiction and New Journalism) popularized in the 1960s and 1970s by the likes of Joan Didion and Hunter S. Thompson and Tom Wolfe.  The lyric essay, however, has pushed beyond even those texts to include new levels of perception and insight, music and poetry.  In this class, we will spend the first three weeks defining, reading, discussing, and writing the lyric essay (writers discussed may include, among others, Lia Purpura, Joni Tevis, T Fleischmann, Karen Green, Brian Lennon, and Brenda Miller), and then we will embark upon a three-week workshop-style look at our own work.

  • Instructor: Gary McDowell
  • Length of workshop: 6 weeks
  • Dates: Tuesdays, February 21 - March 28
  • Time: 7 p.m. - 9 p.m.
  • Cost: $227 non-member/$207 members

About the Instructor:

Gary McDowell is the author of a collection of lyric essays, Caesura: Essays (Otis Books/Seismicity Editions, 2017) and five collections of poetry, including Mysteries in a World that Thinks There Are None (Burnside Review Press, 2016), winner of the 2014 Burnside Review Press Book Award; Weeping at a Stranger’s Funeral (Dream Horse Press, 2014); and American Amen (Dream Horse Press, 2010), winner of the 2009 Orphic Prize in Poetry. He’s also the co-editor, with F. Daniel Rzicznek, of The Rose Metal Press Field Guide to Prose Poetry (Rose Metal Press, 2010). His poems and essays have appeared in journals such as American Poetry ReviewThe NationGulf CoastNew England ReviewPrairie Schooner, and Colorado Review. He lives in Nashville, TN with his family where he’s an assistant professor of English and Poetry Editor ofThe Belmont Story Review at Belmont University.