Essaying the Lyric Stance

Published : Sunday, May 02, 2010

The National Library of Australia just hosted a wonderful symposium on the essay: Essaying. The event featured as its speakers all the winners to date of the Calibre Essay Prize, one of Australia’s most significant literary prizes, and announced this year’s winners, Lorna Hallahan and David Hansen.

I talked about what I called “the lyric stance”, stealing Ellen Voigt’s phrase to note the strongly anglophone music (diction) of most of our prose literature, including especially the essay, in Australia, part, I think, of a strong narrative bias in our culture. We use, and respect the use of, words largely to signify, not to sing. I briefly explored and advocated the lyric essay as a form that could help us make a robust Australian literature of fact, and also begin, in prose, to catch the lyrics of the Australian places as we have done in poetry, sometimes, and more often in music and the visual arts. I’ve written an essay of the same name on the subject (drawing on my book The Land’s Wild Music). With luck, it will be published soon, perhaps in ABR.

Thanks to CAL and ABR for the prize and their work in promoting the essay in Australia. And congratulations to this year’s winners.