The ironic structure is a two-part structure which turns from making an assertion to undercutting that assertion, or pulling the rug out from underneath what (one had thought) had been established in the poem. The ironic structure is discussed in detail in Structure & Surprise by Christopher Bakken. Below are supplemental poems and discussion.
According to Bakken’s essay, Byron’s Don Juan exemplifies the use of this structure. For more stanzas of Byron’s Don Juan (from Canto 1), click here.
For a good example of how Byron employs the ironic structure not only in each stanza but among stanzas, read stanzas XC-XCIV (a selection culminating in a stanza included in Structure & Surprise). In these five stanzas, the young, love-sick Don Juan tries (unsuccessfully, but–at least for us readers–comically) to keep himself from fantasizing about his tutor Donna Julia by thinking about philosophy.
Here’s another poem which tries desperately (and ultimately unsuccessfully) to think about desire:
And some other good examples:
For more on Armantrout’s use of the ironic structure, see Hank Lazer’s “Lyricism of the Swerve: The Poetry of Rae Armantrout” (in Lyric & Spirit: Selected Essays 1996-2008 (Richmond, CA: Omnidawn, 2008), pp. 95-126; and American Women Poets in the 21st Century: Where Lyric Meets Language, edited by Claudia Rankine and Juliana Spahr (Middletown, CT: Wesleyan, 2002), pp. 27-51).
In a twist on the ironic structure, Brooke’s poem is so ironic that it goes beyond its irony to become hyper-ironic, or else (or is it that is?), naturalized, and not ironic.