The emblem structure is a two-part structure that turns from an organized description of an object to a meditation on, a consideration of, the meaning of that object. I discuss the emblem structure more fully in Structure & Surprise: Engaging Poetic Turns. Below are supplemental poems and discussion.
“Stone,” by Peter Campion (in Other People (Chicago: U of Chicago P, 2005), p. 59).
“A Display of Mackerel,” by Mark Doty This poem is included as a supplemental poem in Structure & Surprise. I’ve linked to it here because this link also contains a terrific reflection on the composition of the poem. Of special note is the thrill Doty expresses when he discovers in his compositional process what become the poem’s major turns.
One of the poems discussed in the chapter on the emblem poem in Structure & Surprise is Oliver Wendell Holmes’s “The Chambered Nautilus.” Gilman’s poem offers a very different take on the “meaning” of a chambered nautilus.
“Grace,” by Nadine Meyer (in Literary Imagination 13.2 (2011), p. 187).
Meyer’s poem moves from the emblem to what the emblem in fact stands for (the dying mother) to what the emblem means, or conveying the emblem’s further resonance. The image that inspired Meyer’s poem can be found here.
Watch and listen to Perry read “Wintering” here.
“The Tree,” by James Reaney (in The Tree (Toronto: Coach House, 1969).
“The Waiting,” by Mary Szybist (in Granted (Farmington, Maine: Alice James Books, 2003): 45-6).
To see some early emblem poems which involve visual representations, check out:
For more emblem poems (though no visual representations), you might also read some more poems by Coleridge. According to Richard Holmes, the editor of Coleridge’s Selected Poems from Penguin Classics, “Some of [Coleridge’s] most powerful and disturbing fragments are ’emblem’ poems, where there is a strong sense of menacing or forbidding meanings. Here again the small or tell-tale image mysteriously implies some much larger concept.” Holmes includes in his list of Coleridge’s emblematic fragments “A Sunset,” “A Dark Sky,” “The Tropic Tree,” “Psyche,” and “The World That Spidery Witch.
The following three poems are intentionally unsuccessful emblem poems. This is clear in Fried’s poem. Plath’s poem does not progress toward knowledge and the ease such knowing can provide, and it, in fact, states, finally, that it cannot progress in such a way. The reflection at the end of Blake’s poem is intentionally about as careless as the action which gives rise to it.
“Noa-Noa,” by Michael Fried (in The Next Bend in the Road, p. 37).
Knowing about poetic structures, the patterns of turns in poems, does not only help one better understand (and perhaps appreciate) poems that clearly are written within a particular structural tradition, but it also helps one to engage more deeply poems that reference particular structural traditions. Such is the case with the following poems, which refer significantly to the emblem structure without employing the emblem’s turn from observation to reflection.
(For commentary on how knowing about the emblem structure informs a reading of Wunderlich’s poem, click here, and check out the post “Emblem, with Mange.”)
“Reconstruction: An Emblem,” by Christina Pugh (in Restoration: Poems (Evanston, Illinois: TriQuarterly Books/Northwestern University Press, 2008): 15).