As Prageeta Sharma and I discuss in the essay “Substructure” in Structure & Surprise: Engaging Poetic Turns, substructure is the often subtle, underlying structure that helps to pattern a poem. Below are some supplemental poems and discussion.
The speaker of Powell’s poem tells the story of finding out he is HIV-positive and working to survive his illness’s many challenges. To tell this story, he employs parts of the narrative of The Poseidon Adventure, a disaster movie about surviving an upside-down, sinking ship.
Perhaps because of the double meaning of “climax” (narrative and sexual), some poets have used the climactic orgasm as a major turn in their poems. Here are two examples:
“Coming,” by Heather McHugh (in Hinge & Sign)