Molly Peacock will teach a master class called “The Art of the Turn: Techniques for Change in Sonnets and Villanelles”…I love it! This increased emphasis on the turn in poetry is very heartening. (N.B.: I’m not claiming any responsibility for it–I’m just glad to see it taking place…!)
So, if you’re interested in the turn, get to West Chester University in two days. There, you can discuss the turn with Molly Peacock, and hopefully with a number of other conference participants who have done work on/with the turn. (Critical/scholarly work, that is…it’s hard to imagine any strong poet who has not worked with the turn in their poetry…) For example, craft workshop leader Annie Finch and poetry consultants Ned Balbo and Jehanne Dubrow all are contributors to Voltage Poetry. (Read Annie’s reflection here; Ned’s here; and Jehanne’s here.) Additionally, poetry consultant Kate Light has written a sonnet, “And Then There Is That Incredible Moment,” that I take to be one of the great poetic statements of the turn’s power to surprise.
If you can’t make it to the conference, explore this site and the Voltage Poetry site. Here, there’s evidence of how the turn can be used productively to help students make significant new work: Scott Wiggerman discusses a workshop that he led on the turn (and offers some great examples of student work), and I discuss a lesson using the metaphor-to-meaning structure (and offer some excellent student writing that came from it) here. Additionally, there’s plenty of reflection on the place of the turn in the sonnet, including some thinking about the importance of the turn, the turn’s literal place in sonnets, the volta and, as Christina Pugh calls it, “sonnet thought,” and how to use the turn to “raise the net” on the sonnet. Over at Voltage Poetry there are a host of reflections on the thrilling turns in sonnets, but there also is a terrific reflection, called “Two Villanelle Voltas,” by Beth Gylys, on the turns in Dylan Thomas’s “Do Not Go Gentle into That Good Night” and Elizabeth Bishop’s “One Art.”
Turn, turn, turn!