The ‘lyric poem’ comes from the Ancient Greek, and was developed by Aristotle as a formal type of poetry which expresses personal emotions or feelings. Designed to be spoken out loud in the first person, the lyric is an address to an absent other: often a lover or a friend, or someone for whom this intimate communication is intended to be kept secret, despite the public nature of the published poem. With these definitions in mind, what is the difference between a lyric poem, one of the most venerated historical examples of literature across centuries, and the voice-mail or the voice-note? To what extent can these casual expressions be captured in these media be properly categorised as a lyric? How can everyday expressions take on the forms and meanings of poetic address?
Contemporary lyric poets like Eileen Myles, Ben Lerner, and Peter Gizzi have taken up these questions and asked how lyrical and poetic address might be changed, reframed, or understood as technologies of communication develop. In our own moment, as we were forced to communicate using variations of voice-notes during the Covid-19 pandemic, Dr Matthew Holman asks what is at stake when the boundaries between the poetic and the everyday are blurred.