The turn stars in three of my recent print publications. Here they are…
“Raising the Net” appears in Spoon River Poetry Review 36.2 (Summer/Fall 2011). “Raising the Net” is a review-essay that uses Christina Pugh’s ideas about “sonnet thought” to consider the fate of the turn in some contemporary books of sonnets, including The Reality Street Book of Sonnets (a glorious mixed bag), Iteration Nets (in terms of turns: there are none), Nick Demske (interesting, and problematic), and Severance Songs (pretty great).
I state in “Raising the Net” that “I revise Robert Frost’s idea that writing free verse is like ‘playing tennis with the net down.’ Writing formal sonnets, it turns out, is not too difficult; it’s the writing of sonnets without great turns that’s akin to a netless game. In contrast, crafting sonnets with an eye toward their turns as well as a critical approach that can account for them not only raises the net but also raises the bar on what we expect from sonnets.”
“The Shadow of Sirius: A Critical Conversation” appears in Until Everything Is Continuous Again: American Poets on the Recent Work of W. S. Merwin, edited by Jonathan Weinert and Kevin Prufer (Seattle, WA: WordFarm, 2012). “The Shadow of Sirius: A Critical Conversation” is an essay I co-authored with poet-critic Mark Halliday in which Mark and I debate the merit of Merwin’s latest book of poems–Mark: generally against; me, strongly for.
As I prepared to write my portion of the essay, it became clear to me that Merwin was a great poet of the surprising turn. Though, of course, I make my case for this claim more fully in the published essay, a preview of my argument can be found here.
“Other Arrangements: The Vital Turn in Poetry Writing Pedagogy” appears in Beyond the Workshop. “Other Arrangements” is, in large part, a friendly amendment to Tom C. Hunley’s excellent Teaching Poetry Writing: A Five-Canon Approach. In his book, Hunley argues 1) that we need to get beyond the workshop as a core pedagogical method for teaching poetry writing, and 2) that one way to do this is to orient teaching toward the five canons of rhetoric: invention, arrangement, style, memory, and delivery.
I contribute to Hunley’s argument by arguing that strong consideration of the turn should be a key part of the discussion of the second canon, arrangement. I wrote a little on this here, though, again, the published essay is much more complete.
It feels good to get more thought about the vital turn out into the world. My thanks to my insightful and generous editors–Kirstin Hotelling Zona, Jonathan Weinert, Kevin Prufer, and Paul Perry–for allowing me the opportunity share my ideas, and for helping to make my writing and thinking on behalf of these ideas as strong as possible.