A lyric essay uses the techniques of poetry, including compression, sound play, white space, formal innovation, non-linear narrative, and juxtaposition to explore an idea or an experience in the writer’s life. Lyric essays may be structured as collage or mosaic, as braided or woven narratives, as “flash” snapshots, or wedged within the carapace of other forms such as instruction manuals, rejection letters, lists, or maps, and they may also make use of images. They often rely on research in addition to personal experience. Typically, they make greater demands on the reader than other types of creative nonfiction, so for some, they are an acquired taste—but those who love them can’t get enough!
A few examples
Brenda Miller: “36 Holes.”
Nicole Breit: “Spectrum.” (CNFC award winner!)
Eula Biss: “The Pain Scale.”
Judith Kitchen: “On the Farm.”
To learn more
The 2020 CNFC/Humber Literary Review creative nonfiction contest closes February 1. Submit today!