Turn-to-Another Structure

In some poems, a major turn occurs when the poem’s speaker literally turns to talk to another person, an auditor often not announced at the beginning of the poem.

This kind of turn occurs in enough poems that it deserves to have its own structure named for it.  However, before listing some of these poems, it is important to note that, while many structures generally overlap (for example, many poems employing the retrospective-prospective structure also employ the list-with-a-twist structure) and while many structures can overlap and/or interact in any one poem, it is almost certain that poems employing the turn-to-another structure also will employ another structure and can (and perhaps should) be thought of as employing at least one other structure.

The reason for this is simple: detecting the fact that a poem’s speaker turns to another is significant, but it is only the start of really sorting out what the turn is and means–it is vital, of course, additionally to sort out the content and effect of the turn…that will have much to say additionally about what kind of turn the turn-to-another is.  For example, if in a particular poem the other completely agrees with the speaker, then it seems the turn is intended to offer a kind of confirmation of the poem.  However, if the other critiques the speaker, the turn very likely is ironic.

Here are some poems using (at least) the turn-to-another structure:

“Dover Beach,” by Matthew Arnold

“One Art,” by Elizabeth Bishop

“Caesarion,” by Constantine Cavafy

“The Eolian Harp,” by Samuel Taylor Coleridge  Sara, of course, is present at the outset of this poem; however, by the poem’s final stanza she has become a very different kind of Sara, a very different kind of other/listener: one who challenges the vision of the poem’s speaker.

“This Lime-Tree Bower My Prison,” by Samuel Taylor Coleridge

“Fragments,” by Stephen Dobyns

Ode 3.30, by Horace

“Street Fight,” by Wayne Miller

“An Equation for My Children,” by Wilmer Mills

“The Idea of Order at Key West,” by Wallace Stevens

“It is a beauteous evening, calm and free…,” by William Wordsworth

“Tintern Abbey,” by William Wordsworth

Because of the generic demand that it include mention of the poet’s name in its final stanza, the ghazal is a form that also often features a turn at poem’s end in which the poet (often the poem’s speaker up to that point) addresses her/himself as another.  Here are a few examples:

“There Are So Many Platos,” by Robert Bly  “There Are So Many Platos” and numerous additional poems employing the kind of turn described above can be found in Bly’s My Sentence Was a Thousand Years of Joy: Poems (New York: Harper Collins, 2005).

And here is a poem in which the speaker steadfastly determines not to turn to another, to not dispel a cherished illusion:

“The Shadow on the Stone,” by Thomas Hardy

2 responses

30 07 2011
The Refusal to Turn « Structure & Surprise

[…] of a poem.  In Thomas Hardy’s “The Shadow on the Stone,” a variation on the “turn-to-another structure,” the refusal to turn lies at the heart of the poem: the speaker in Hardy’s poem will not make […]

28 09 2015
Praise for Structure & Surprise | Structure & Surprise

[…] of the turn. Want proof? Check out her poem “Makeup,” and revel in the poem’s turn-to-another, its soulful, prayer-full, playful […]

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s




%d bloggers like this: