notes on lyric 2
|But the lyric is more than that. It’s a political registration as well, a declaration of relationship between self and text, self and the empirical “outside.”|
Futile to attempt to unpack this fully before we’ve heard more, but this is where things get interesting. Now we’re talking about the second strand in current appeals to the “lyric.” Lyric poetry is that which is to be understood as issuing from a speaking (singing?) subject, especially, on this formulation, in response to experience. To say “subjective experience” here would be to emphasize something rather than add anything – though it perhaps suggests that a poem consisting mostly of information might be harder to assimilate to the lyric. Despite the sentence structure, I don’t think JK means us to take “text” and “empirical ‘outside’” to be different terms for the same thing (he’s not Derrida); what he’s really proposing is a three-term relation among work, text, and (let’s say) world.
The lyric “declares” this – states that a certain relation among these items holds? Perhaps, but not necessarily explicitly – in poems of some kinds, the picture on which I use language to express my response to the world is simply a grounding assumption.
Two uncashed checks here: (1) Why is “outside” scare-quoted? Simply b/c it’s a quick, vague formulation, or because there’s something troubled about distinguishing subject and object? (Self as “inside”: a metaphor fundamental to modern philosophy.) (2) What is it to describe the three-term relationship induced here as “political”? [I think this is exactly the kind of claim that contemporary poetics is too inclined to nod “of course!” at.] One could mean that communicating one’s subjective response to the world through the public medium of language implies a relation to others (actual or potential communicants), and that any thing that brings one into a relation with others has a political element. Fine, if broad, but is that to say that other (poetic) uses of that same medium are any less political, or only that they “register” the political differently? Or one could mean that a particular politics is implicit in writing that conforms to the relationship described. [Probably it will turn out that part of the freight of “political” is that the lyric relation constructs an individualist subject – but this is reading in.] If this is the claim, I’ll admit that it seems a little dubious, as I don’t think it can be denied that lyric poems have been written in the service of vastly divergent politics. But, in response to this, a certain modernist or vanguardist claim might be that all such expressions are of a piece, and that certain political possibilities cannot be made manifest in poetry from within the lyric relation, or an uncritical version of same.
Two aspects of the lyric are now on the table. The musical, and the subjective, with the latter also tied in some way to the political. We have not yet seen any comment on the relationship between these aspects. Why should a given manifestation of a certain presumed relationship among self/word/world also foreground the prosodic/phonetic aspects of language? This is an intriguing question in part because “the musical” aspect of language is orthogonal to “the semantic” – the aspect that does the [potentially political] work of communication through engaging a systematized set of conventions. (This is not to say that other features of language do not signify, just that they do not do so through that system of conventions.) There is a tension here.
It declares an intentionality in appearance, in its desire for continuation.
Beyond registering the interesting thought that a song or a singer might “desire” to go on, that a voice once engaged might tend to perpetuate itself, this is opaque, and its connection to what’s gone before is not obvious. “Declares an intentionality” is just pretentious.