Modern lyric writing is an informal form of modern poetry that expresses feelings or personal sentiments, usually written in the third person. As the name implies, lyric writing generally describes the written word rather than the melody or rhythm of a song. Lyric poetry has some distinguished characteristics that set it apart from other forms of poetry. For one thing, it has the tendency to use simple figurative language, sometimes in contrast with the rhyme scheme of most verse forms. It also tends to use familiar figures of speech and is frequently descriptive rather than analytical.
Lyric poetry differs from ballad and narrative poetry in that each poem begins with a stanza, the basic unit of verse in any poem. Unlike poems that follow a prescribed rhyme scheme, the basic unit in lyric is often a simple narrative (sometimes called a lyric piece) told through the voice of the narrator. Lyric poems can have a single, central character, but more commonly the narrator will play the role of several characters. For example, in Mary E. Frye’s The Ballad of Silent Man the narrator tells the story of Silent Man’s search for enlightenment, then switches to another character, Josephine, who tries to help the Silent Man and then finally brings him to his own story, that of Mary.
Because the primary focus of lyric verse is the words and their meanings rather than the melody of a song, a lyric poem differs somewhat from a ballad or a drama in that a lyric poem generally has no underlying music. Themes and concerns in a lyric poem may be different than those found in a ballad, although themes can overlap between the two. Ballads deal mainly with individual character’s thoughts and emotions as they move from moment to moment in their story. Themes found in lyrics to a song, on the other hand, are usually topical and relate to life in general. This is evident in many popular songs, for example, songs focusing on the death of a child, love, marriage, separation, etc.