“We turn to the lyric essay – with its malleability, ingenuity, immediacy, complexity, and use of poetic language – to give us a fresh way to make music of the world.”
– Deborah Tall, Editor and John D’Agata, Associate Editor for Lyric Essays, Seneca Review
We had a special guest in the lab today. Mattie Sempert is an acupuncturist and creative non fiction writer (and PhD candidate) in our school. She shared her esssay ‘Navel Gazing’ with us and discussed the ethical issues involved with writing about ‘real’ patients. Having said this, ‘Navel Gazing’ actually features an entirely invented character, yet other pieces contain stories of potentially identifiable people. Georgia sad that she wanted to know more about the mother figure in the story and Mattie replied by saying that she doesn’t give all the answers, or tie up loose ends – the reader has to do a lot more more with the lyric essay.
We talked about the processes Mattie uses to write her lyric essays – she says that she likes to ‘smear everything on the wall’ and see how it looks. The mosaic-like quality of the lyric essay allows for all kinds of seemingly divergent material to be included: scientific, medical, spiritual, philosophical anecdotal, to name just a few. Much of the art is in the organisation of these seemingly unrelated ideas – what is it that links them all together?
Personally I found the discussion of Mattie’s writing process exciting as she has a non-linear, open-ended way of approaching her essays which is quite far away from my own practice. I hope it opened up some intriguing possibilities for you too.