The lyric self has never been quite what it seems as even those in on its early days knew. "I am not I," warned Sidney: "pitie the tale of me." Four hundred years later, do we? Or is our focus on process leading us to invest in the poet what we ought to invest in the poem?

If we have exhausted the idea of a lyric self, might we return to what lay before—the epic and the ballad? We could become rhapsodists or troubadours, singing each other's songs, borrowing freely and altering to fit. Or we could tell new stories through old stories. So nothing new exactly, except perhaps for the notion of the poem not belonging to the poet. Are we ready for that?

Originally Published: April 18th, 2012

Lavinia Greenlaw has published three books of poems, most recently Minsk. Her two novels are Mary George of Allnorthover and An Irresponsible Age and she has also published a memoir, The Importance of Music to Girls. Her work for BBC radio includes programs about the Arctic, the Baltic, the solstices...