Ellen Bryant Voigt Other literary forms

Other literary forms

(Poets and Poetry in America)

Ellen Bryant Voigt (voyt) is also known for her critical essays on poetry, collected in The Flexible Lyric (1999). She explores and defines lyric, narrative, style, structure, form, and other concepts of genre and versification: tone, image, diction, gender, tension, and voice. The central concern is testing differentiation between the modes and impulses of lyric and narrative.

The lengthy title essay develops definitions of lyric and narrative, form and structure, texture and voice that reveal how the elements of each pair are set in tension in the best poetry. Quoting from Randall Jarrell, who regarded tension as “a struggle between opposites,” Voigt considers unity in a poem to emerge from tension, and this emergence is a poem’s necessary function. Lyric is “a moment lifted out of time but not static, movement that is centripetal and centrifugal rather than linear; an examination of self which discovers universal predicament; insight embodied in individuated particulars and at the same time overriding them.” Voigt illustrates her point by briefly tracing the evolution of lyric poetry from the Renaissance through the present to show that form does not limit the poet’s freedom but rather impels the evolution of lyric poetry.