How Cool Is This?!

2 06 2014

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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 turnthe turn’s literal place in sonnetsthe 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!

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The Turn in A Poet’s Craft

6 03 2012

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Annie Finch’s A Poet’s Craft: A Comprehensive Guide to Making and Sharing Your Poetry is now out.  It’s a big (almost 700-pages!) compendium that combines the genres of textbook, poetry guide, and guide to poetic forms.  It’s totally worth getting because it contains so much: great discussion, exercises, and poems.  It’s wide-ranging and insightful.

And I’m happy to report that Structure & Surprise makes a couple of appearances in it.  Structure & Surprise is included in “A Poet’s Bookshelf: For Further Reading,” the lone book listed under “Syntax and Rhetoric.”  Additionally, Structure & Surprise makes an appearance at the end of the chapter called “Syntax and Rhetorical Structure: Words in Order and Disorder,” in a section called “Rhetorical Structure and Strategy.”

In this section, Finch writes, “Every time you write a poem, and probably before you even begin, you make a myriad of even more fundamental choices about its rhetorical stance and structure.  Many of these choices are unconscious, based on ideas of ‘what a poem is’ that you have absorbed long before.  To make these choices conscious, at least once in a while, can be refreshing and even eye-opening.”  Finch then offers a list of questions to ask regarding a poem’s rhetorical structure and strategy, the last of which asks, “And finally, what are the rhetorical turns taken in the poem?  How does the poem shape itself so that, when one has finished reading, one feels the poem is over, that something has happened, that something has changed?”

And Finch continues:

“For example, Michael Theune’s book Structure and Surprise describes nine kinds of rhetorical turns, the most important of which are the ironic turn, the dialectical turn, and the descriptive turn.  In a poem using the ironic turn, the second part of the poem (which can be any length, from half the poem to just a line or two) undercuts or alters what has come before, like the punch line of a joke.  In a poem using the dialectical turn, the first part of the poem sets up one voice or attitude, and the second offers a very different tone of voice or perspective (the ‘turn’ in the sonnet is often of this type).  In a poem using the descriptive turn, the speaker describes a scene, object, or memory, and then turns to meditate on its meaning.”

I hope you’ll check out A Poet’s Craft.  And I hope that anyone reading A Poet’s Craft will look further into the possibilities of poetic structure by reading Structure & Surprise.  However, this blog also is a good place to start.  Check out the structures covered in Structure & Surprise here.  And check out nine additional structures here.

Happy reading!