Lyrical Enchantment

When novelist Orhan Pamuk was asked by The Paris Review whether he wrote poetry, Pamuk replied in the negative.

Pamuk then added, “…because poets hear voices from God”.

This is true especially of lyric poets. In ancient times, the poems of Homer, Aeschylus, Sophocles and Virgil were regarded as highly prophetic.

Swiss psychiatrist Carl Gustav Jung in his book The Psychological Types states that lyric poets mostly suffer from different types of psychosis. But which is not known in society because the illness is borderline.

During the psychosis period, the “voices” that Pamuk spoke of are experienced as auditory and visual hallucinations. Lyric poets are mostly introverted intuitive types, and employ the mechanism of reification. Jung explains reification as “treating ideas, images or insights as if they were real physical objects”.

The lyric poet is a very sensitive soul. And whatever external conflict he experiences is internalised. The lyric poet is like a faith healer. He suffers for all the wrongs in the world. He carries the burden and the weight of darkness in society.

Jung says that if the introverted intuitive type lyric poet breaks down, he becomes schizophrenic. What occurs in the mind of a schizophrenic is a strong feeling that he can hack into other people’s minds. This psychosis state, though, helps with writing as the lyric poet is thus able to pen impersonal poems and create fictional characters.

Experts say a lyric poet comes of age when experiencing love for the first time. As the stage of childhood is difficult for the lyric poet, love comes as a blessing in young adult years. This is the age when ancient poets like Homer, Sappho and Ovid penned many love lyrics.

Lyric poets, during young adulthood, are elevated to another consciousness. They employ the technique of reification to its fullest. The woman who comes to their life is worshipped as an oracle. The muse signifies inspiration. It is she who alters and evolves his psychological and emotional state. The case both of falling in love and out of love can have tremendous impact on a lyric poet.

Lyrics of Homer, Aeschylus, Sophocles and Virgil were meant to be sung to the accompaniment of a lyre. But contemporary lyric poets find inspiration from other music.

The improvisational techniques in jazz and the wrenching call-and-response pattern of blues inspire lyric poets like Jorge Luis Borges and Octavio Paz to free-associate and explore ideas and images. It is a free play.

Music is intrinsic to lyric poetry. In fact, it is the musical and lyrical qualities that lead the ideas and not vice versa. The subject or idea for lyric poems can be on anything under the sun. But lyric poets mostly prefer writing in the autobiographical-confessional mode.

For the fact that most lyric poets are introverted, the journey inwards is more beautiful than life outwards. Even if external reality is absorbed by the lyric poet, he perceives it to a deeper subjective level. Politics, war and violence like in the case of Pablo Neruda’s lyric poetry is inquired with intuition.

This is the same with Shillong Poets like Robin S.Ngangom, Almond Syiem and Desmond Kharmawphlang.

This article first appeared in Sunday Supplement of The Shillong Times April 29, 2018 (link:


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