Further Reading

On Poetic Structure and Turns

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Addonizio, Kim, and Michael Theune.  Voltage Poetry.  An online anthology of poems with great turns in them reflections on those turns by some of today’s most interesting poets.

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Boland, Eavan.  “Discovering the Sonnet.”  The Making of a Sonnet: A Norton Anthology.  Edited by Eavan Boland and Edward Hirsch.  New York: W.W. Norton, 2008.  43-48.

Click here for more information.

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Ciardi, John.  “The Poem in Countermotion.”  How Does a Poem Mean?  Boston: Houghton Mifflin, 1959.

One of the great statements about the importance of turns in poems, and the only chapter of a poetry textbook to feature the turn–or, as Ciardi puts it, a poem’s countermotion.

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Dante, La Vita Nuova.

Click here for more information.

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Dennis, Carl.  “The Temporal Lyric.”  Poet’s Work, Poet’s Play.  Ed. Daniel Tobin and Pimone Triplett.  Ann Arbor: U of Michigan Press, 2008.  236-49.

Click here for more information.

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Dobyns, Stephen.  “Writing the Reader’s Life.”  Best Words, Best Order: Essays on Poetry.  New York: St. Martin’s, 1996.

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Eliot, T.S.  “Andrew Marvell.”  Selected Essays, 1917-1932.  New York: Harcourt, Brace and Company, 1932.

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Graham, Jorie.  “Something of Moment.”  Ploughshares 27. 4 (Winter 2001-02): 7-9.

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Hirshfield, Jane.  “Close Reading: Windows.”  The Writer’s Chronicle 43.4 (Feb. 2011): 22-30.

Click here for more information.

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—–.  “Poetry and Uncertainty.”  The American Poetry Review 34.6 (2005): 63-72.

Click here for more information.

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Hoagland, Tony.  “Altitudes, a Homemade Taxonomy.”  Real Sofistikashun Saint Paul, MN: Graywolf, 2006.  1-20.

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Hope, A.D.  “The Discursive Mode: Reflections on the Ecology of Poetry.”  The Cave and the Spring: Essays on Poetry. Chicago: University of Chicago, 1965.

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Jarrell, Randall.  “Levels and Opposites: Structure in Poetry.”  Georgia Review.  50.4 (1996): 697-713.

One of the early statements on the significance of poetic structure–and one of the fullest and most important discussions of poetic structure.  Vital reading.

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Kinzie, Mary.  “The Rhapsodic Fallacy.”  The Cure of Poetry in an Age of Prose: Moral Essays on the Poet’s Calling.  Chicago: University of Chicago, 1993.

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Lazer, Hank.  “Lyricism of the Swerve: The Poetry of Rae Armantrout.”  Lyric & Spirit: Selected Essays 1996-2008.  Richmond, CA: Omnidawn, 2008. 95-126; and American Women Poets in the 21st Century: Where Lyric Meets Language.  Edited by Claudia Rankine and Juliana Spahr.  Middletown, CT: Wesleyan, 2002.  27-51.

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Princeton Encyclopedia of Poetry and Poetics.  “Volta.”

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Pugh, Christina.  “On Sonnet Thought.”  Literary Imagination 12.3 (Nov. 2010): 356-64.

Click here for more information.

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Rosenthal, M.L.  The Poet’s Art.  New York: W. W. Norton, 1987.

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Sacks, Peter.  “‘You Only Guide Me by Surprise’: Poetry and the Dolphin’s Turn.  Berkeley, CA: The Bancroft Library at The University of California, Berkeley, 2007.

Click here for more information.

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Smith, Barbara Herrnstein.  Poetic Closure: A Study of How Poems End.  Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1968.

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Stillinger, Jack.  “Reading Keats’s Plots.”  Romantic Complexity: Keats, Coleridge, and Wordsworth.  Urbana: U of Illinois Press, 2009.  62-76.

Click here for more information.

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Theune, Michael.  “My Turn from Flow.”  A New Leaf (Houston’s Writers in the Schools newsletter) 9.3 (September 2006): 1 and 3.

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—–.  “The Non-Turning of Recent American Poetry.”  Pleiades 26.2 (2006): 141-49.

Available here.

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—–.  “Poetic Structure and Poetic Form: The Necessary Differentiation.”  American Poet: The Journal of the Academy of American Poets 32 (Spring 2007): 9-12.

Available here.

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—–.  “Resistance to The Resistance to Poetry.”  Pleiades 25.1 (2005): 120-29.

Available here.

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—–.  Structure & Surprise: Engaging Poetic Turns.  New York: Teachers & Writers, 2007.

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—–.  “Structure and Surprise: A New Paradigm for Teaching Poetry.”  Teachers and Writers Magazine 37.4 (March/April 2006): 13-14.

Available here.

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—–.  “Trust the Turn.”  Poets on Teaching.  Edited by Joshua Marie Wilkinson.  Iowa City, IA: University of Iowa Press, 2010.  151-2.

Available here.

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—–.  “Writing Degree ∞ (on Recent Haiku).”  Pleiades 28.1 (2008): 137-58.

Available here.

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Ullman, Leslie.  “A ‘Dark Star’ Passes through It.”  Numéro Cinq.

Available here.

In this essay, Ullman meditates on the poem’s “center,” that is, “a line or group of lines, which reveal the heart of the poem but should not be confused with theme or content. Rather, they are lines with a particular sort of energy, almost always a heightened energy, and one way to identify them is to imagine that when the writer drafted these particular lines, she could feel the force and trajectory of the finished poem even if many details still needed to be worked out—that the poem from that time forward held mystery and  potential completeness for the writer and would indeed be worth finishing.”  While a poem’s center does not necessarily have to be its major turn, very often, it seems, it is.  As Ullman notes, though “[t]he center can occur anywhere in the poem…[and] can be a phrase or a stanza,” the center “also may reveal its energy in the gap between stanzas” (a space where many turns take place).  Ullman also states that the center “can be a moment where the poem’s tension is most palpably enacted, where the poem’s time frames or layers interact simultaneously, where the texture of the poem undergoes significant variation, where the poem contradicts itself, or where the poem seems to quicken and gather itself into a passage that acts as a kind of net.”  This certainly sounds like a turn, and the link between center and turn is quickly solidified when Ullman notes that the center “nearly always…contains a pivot or surprise that gives the whole poem simultaneous light and darkness, hence considerable range.”

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—–.  “A Spiral Walk through the Golden Mean: A Foray into the Structure of Thought and Invention.”  The Writer’s Chronicle 46.2 (Oct/Nov 2013): 28-36.

The central subject of “A Spiral Walk” is the application of the Golden Mean to poetry.  However, a key part of this discussion is an extended meditation on the sonnet’s volta, and especially the Petrarchan turn from octave to sestet, a place that Ullman, citing Phillis Levin’s introduction to The Penguin Book of the Sonnet, refers to as “a Golden Mean-related divide.”  Ullman’s analysis includes a discussion of William Stafford’s sonnet “Time,” a poem that includes some radical turning.

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Vendler, Helen.  Poems, Poets, Poetry: An Introduction and Anthology.  Boston: Bedford/St. Martin’s, 2002.

Though Vendler does not specifically name the turn as a key feature of poems, the turn is everywhere in this book.  See, especially, chapter 4, “Describing Poems,” and, in that chapter, the discussion of “Inner Structural Form” (pp. 119-20).

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Voigt, Ellen Bryant.  “The Flexible Lyric.” The Flexible Lyric.  Athens, GA: University of Georgia, 1999.

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Williams, William Carlos.  Foreword to Merrill Moore’s Sonnets from New Directions.  Norfolk, CT: New Directions, 1938.  5-6.

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Cliche and Critique Structure

Theune, Michael.  “The Quarrelsome Poem.”  Mentor and Muse: Essays from Poets to Poets.  Edited by Blas Falconer, Beth Martinelli, and Helena Mesa.  Carbondale, IL: Southern Illinois University Press, 2010.  133-44.

The main essay on this structure.

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Emblem Structure 

 

Miller, Ruth.  The Poetry of Emily Dickinson.  Middletown, CT: Wesleyan UP, 1968.

Miller argues that Dickinson was a poet who often argued against the ideas of other thinkers, and prominent among those whom Dickinson challenged were those who interpreted the world as a book (the book of Nature) written by God, including Thomas Browne (in Religio Medici and Christian Morals) and Francis Quarles (in Emblems, Divine and Moral).

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List-with-a-Twist Structure

Phillips, Carl.  “Association in Poetry.”  Coin of the Realm: Essays on the Life and Art of Poetry (Saint Paul, MN: Graywolf Press, 2004): 93-112.

While Phillips’s essay is not precisely on the list-with-a-twist structure, it contains many poems that employ this structure, poems included in this blog though sometimes featured in the discussions of some other structures.  (As I note on the List-with-a-Twist Structure page, this structure is quite common, and often overlaps with other structures.)  Among other poems, Phillips discusses George Herbert’s “Prayer,” James Wright’s “Lying in a Hammock at William Duffy’s Farm in Pine Island, Minnesota” (which is included on this blog with “Epiphanic Structure” poems), and Frank O’Hara’s “The Day Lady Died” (included on this blog in “Voltage!”).  Phillips often mentions the “leaps” in these poems, maneuvers in the poems that also could be called turns.

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Question-and-Answer Structure

Two essays from John Hollander’s Melodious Guile: Fictive Pattern in Poetic Language might be of interest for those interested in the question-and-answer structure: Chapter 2, “Questions of Poetry”; and Chapter 3, “Poetic Answers.”  Hollander discusses a number of the poems included under the rubric of this structure. 

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