Lyric Poetry: What is it, Examples, and How to Write It.

If you’re a writer or an adventurous reader, you may have heard of or read lyric poetry. Today, we’ll discuss lyric poetry holistically, including what it is, share examples of lyrical poetry, and also walk through how to write it.

What is Lyric Poetry?

Lyric poetry is a song-like poem, usually shorter in length, that expresses emotions. Often, lyric poetry is written in first-person, and historically, was accompanied by music when spoken aloud.

One main characteristic of lyric poetry is that is has a “song-like quality,” and in modern times, may sound like it could be the lyrics of a song rather than a traditional poem.

Examples of Lyric Poetry

I Felt a Funeral in my Brain, by Emily Dickinson

I felt a Funeral, in my Brain,

And Mourners to and fro

Kept treading – treading – till it seemed

That Sense was breaking through –

And when they all were seated,

A Service, like a Drum –

Kept beating – beating – till I thought

My mind was going numb –

And then I heard them lift a Box

And creak across my Soul

With those same Boots of Lead, again,

Then Space – began to toll,

As all the Heavens were a Bell,

And Being, but an Ear,

And I, and Silence, some strange Race,

Wrecked, solitary, here –

And then a Plank in Reason, broke,

And I dropped down, and down –

And hit a World, at every plunge,

And Finished knowing – then –

Our Editor’s Take

“I love this poem because when you read it aloud, you almost nod “to and fro” as Dickinson depicts. This makes the poem not only song-like, but the poem mentions musical elements outright with words like drum, beat, toll.” – R. R. Noall

Sonnet 18, by William Shakespeare

Shall I compare thee to a summer’s day?
Thou art more lovely and more temperate:
Rough winds do shake the darling buds of May,
And summer’s lease hath all too short a date:
Sometime too hot the eye of heaven shines,
And often is his gold complexion dimm’d;
And every fair from fair sometime declines,
By chance or nature’s changing course untrimm’d;
But thy eternal summer shall not fade
Nor lose possession of that fair thou owest;
Nor shall Death brag thou wander’st in his shade,
When in eternal lines to time thou growest:
So long as men can breathe or eyes can see,
So long lives this, and this gives life to thee.

Our Editor’s Take

“Many of us probably read this sonnet in a high school English class at one point. One of Shakespeare’s most well-known sonnets, one can feel the emotion of this piece. Using first-person language and the sonnet form, the reader gets to enjoy a wonderful and memorable piece for the ages.” – R. R. Noall

How to Write Lyric Poetry

Now that you know the elements of lyric poetry, let’s discuss how to write it on your own.

“Rules” of Lyric Poetry:

  • Keep it short
  • Use first-person
  • The piece should have some type of musical quality. This can implemented using a defined meter or can be as simple as unique wordplay.

When trying out any new form of poetry, I always recommend folding in something you know. This makes a new form more accessible.

For example, pick a topic you know a lot about – if it’s heartbreak, so be it (also, I’m sorry). If it’s taking train rides, consider writing a lyrical poem on the nostalgia of a train ride through gorgeous countryside. See what I’m getting at?

Lyrical Poetry vs Other Types of Poetry

Lyrical vs. Narrative 

The main difference between lyrical and narrative poetry forms is the intention behind them. Narrative poetry is focused on telling a story while lyric poetry is focused on expressing the emotions of the writer/narrator.

Lyrical vs. Free Verse Poetry

Free verse poems are not “topically limited” to expressing the narrator’s emotions, whereas that is the main focus of lyrical poems. This gives a writer more room to play. Additionally, lyrical poetry has that song quality, whereas free verse poetry can either adopt or ignore that quality. Free verse can literally be thought of as being free from rules or restraints.

Ready to Try Writing Lyric Poetry?

Start slow and have some fun when writing lyric poetry for the first time. If you write something you’re proud of, consider submitting it for publication at From Whispers to Roars.

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