The turn is highlighted and discussed not only in criticism but also in poems. Many poems not only incorporate turns but also point to those turns with the word, or derivations of the word, “turn.” The naming of and pointing to the turn often occurs right at the turn, or else–especially in sonnets, a kind of poem in which one expects turns–before or after the turn, to announce and anticipate the turn, or else to comment on an accomplished turn.
Here is the beginning of a list of poems that include such self-conscious reference to turning–please feel free to suggest others.
“Sonnet,” by Billy Collins is a completely (self-)referential poem, and so it is no wonder that it contains a self-conscious indication of its turning.
“And Then I Saw,” by Alfred Corn Notice how the speaker takes his “turn” at poem’s end.
“Current,” by Chip Corwin Check out that ending: the Earth, turning like a sonnet…!
“Absconscion,” by Ken Edwards (in eight + six). “(the / Turn)”…enough said.
“The Vantage Point,” by Robert Frost In a number of poems, including “The Vantage Point,” the turn is a literal turn (toward or away from something).
“The Red Hat,” by Rachel Hadas The turn occurs right after the stanza break, with the line, “The mornings we turn back to are no more…”
“Cement Truck,” by Tony Hoagland A self-reflexive Metaphor-to-Meaning poem; the turn occurs at “–And I think at this point it would have been a terrible mistake / to turn the truck / into a metaphor or symbol for something else….”
“90 North,” by Randall Jarrell The speaker’s inevitable “turn” south from the North Pole is a prelude to the poem’s turn to its stark, necessary, painful moral.
“To Sleep,” by John Keats The “[t]urn of the key” seals not only the Soul’s “hushed Casket” but also the poem itself.
“Sonnet,” by Bernadette Mayer Hilarious reference to turning in the final couplet of this extended sonnet!
“The Different Stars,” by W. S. Merwin (in The Carrier of Ladders, collected in The Second Four Books of Poems, pp. 136-7). A major turn occurs at the lines, “what is it / they say can turn even this into wisdom”.
“Pity me not becuase the light of day…,” by Edna St. Vincent Millay The final word of this poem is “turn,” but the turns it refers to occur everywhere in the speaker’s experience, and in the poem itself.
“Because You Asked about the Line between Poetry and Prose,” by Howard Nemerov. The drizzle turning to snow forecasts the poem’s major turn.
#16, by Alice Notley (in 165 Meeting House Lane (New York: “C” Press, 1971)). “…It turned surprising…”
“The Art of the Sonnet,” by Ron Padgett (in How to Be Perfect, p. 42). The turn occurs when the figuring “turns.”
“Face to Face,” by Robin Robertson–a version of a poem by Tomas Transtromer
“Remember,” by Christina Rossetti “…I half turn to go yet turning stay.” This statement, made in the poem’s fourth line, anticipates nicely the kind of turn that takes place in this poem between the octave and the sestet: though couched in distinct language (“Yet”), the turn does not really mark any sort of decisive moment in the poem–it is more of the mix of forgetting and remembering (the going and staying, the turning and not-turning) that weave their way through the whole of the poem.
Sonnet 1 from “Another Session” (“You opened with the rules….”), by Mary Jo Salter (in Open Shutters (New York: Knopf, 2003)) The major turn in Salter’s poem occurs when the speaker realizes that she had “left a fault / unturned…”
“Married Love,” by Sherod Santos (included in Phyllis Levin’s The Penguin Book of the Sonnet (New York: Penguin, 2001): 306). The “turning away” the lovers do in this poem is matched by the poem’s own turn.
“The Idea of Order at Key West,” by Wallace Stevens Here, the turn is doubly self-reflexive: the first turn is the implied turn to speak to another; the second is the pair’s turn to the town: “Ramon Fernandez, tell me, if you know, / Why, when the singing ended and we turned / Toward the town…”
“Surprised by joy…,” by William Wordsworth, features the action of a literal, unconscious turn, and a painful meditation on the significance of that action. Although it occurs almost right away in the poem (strange, for a sonnet, where turns tend to occur either after the octave or prior to the final couplet), this self-conscious turn is one of most vital turns in Wordsworth’s sonnet.
In the first line of the first sonnet of A Crown of Sonnets Dedicated to Love, “In this strange labyrinth, how shall I turn?,” Lady Mary Wroth announces the fact that it will be difficult to find a way out of the predicament her situation–and her poem!–have gotten her into. Thus, one needs to read the poem to figure out if, in fact, there is a way out.