I want to write like Brian Doyle. I discovered him not too long after he died in 2017 at the age of 60 when I read His Last Game. Not only did it bring tears to my eyes but throughout my reading I felt a tightness in my chest and a longing that the story would end happily when I knew that it wouldn’t. The inevitable sad ending was never said in so many words. I was in awe of Doyle’s “style.”
His Last Game had been on my mind when I came across a definition of the lyric essay. Aha! I decided that His Last Game had to be a lyric essay. I’m not sure I wanted to write a lyric essay so much as I wanted to write like Brian Doyle. But if I followed the examples in Brenda Miller and Suzanne Paola’s book: Tell it Slant, I would have a set of rules to apply rather than trying to dissect Doyle’s style on my own.
So, I decided I would tackle writing a lyric essay.
The Lyric Essay:
The lyric essay is similar to the personal essay in that it also deals with a topic that affects the reader.
However, the lyric essay relies heavily on description and imagery. Lyrical suggests something poetic, musical, or flowing.
This type of piece uses a heavily descriptive flowing tone in order to tell a story.
I love poetry. I took one class in how to write poetry about ten years ago and I always read my stories out loud to listen to the sound of my words as they intermingle with each other. How hard can it be?
First, I read a lot more Brian Doyle, mostly with tears in my eyes and that familiar tightness in my chest. I finally completed my own short essay that I dubbed a lyric essay, aka, imitation of Brian Doyle.
I got feedback from the members of my writing group and two other writing friends I keep in touch with via email. Helpful. But the best advice I got was that I was not Brian Doyle. I should not try to write like Brian Doyle. I needed to be me and write what comes out of my essence. So that’s what I eventually did. I finished my so-called lyric essay—still about nursing—but with a different slant. The exercise of dissecting words, connecting meanings and showing another way to view the obvious was challenging.
Is my writing better? Maybe. Maybe not. But as I struggle through the telling, I have learned to use a greater variety of options.
I’m prepared to send my essay out for submission. Let you know what happens.