Praise for Structure & Surprise

12 02 2013


Over at Iambic Admonit, there is a terrific interview with poet Ned Balbo.  Among the smart, insightful comments Balbo makes, he includes this generous appraisal of Structure & Surprise:

“This might be the time to mention the critical anthology Structure & Surprise: Engaging Poetic Turns, edited by Michael Theune, which examines poetic structure through turns of thought or unfolding ideas rather than through rhythm or meter. Particularly incisive are essays by D. A. Powell (‘The Elegy’s Structures’) and Jerry Harp (‘The Mid-Course Turn’). It’s a great place to start moving beyond the tired ‘meter vs. free verse’ controversies.”

This is incredibly kind, and, if I may, perceptive.  One of the aims of Structure & Surprise is to emphasize a way of talking about what poems are and do that cuts across poetic types and aesthetics.  In “Notes on the New Formalism” (reprinted in Can Poetry Matter? (1992)), Dana Gioia observes,

“I suspect that ten years from now the real debate among poets and concerned critics will not be about poetic form in the narrow technical sense of metrical versus nonmetrical verse.  That is already a tired argument, and only the uninformed or biased can fail to recognize that genuine poetry can be created in both modes.  How obvious it should be that no technique precludes poetic achievement, just as none automatically assures it (though admittedly some techniques may be more difficult to use at certain moments in history).  Soon, I believe, the central debate will focus on form in the wider, more elusive sense of poetic structure.  How does a poet best shape words, images, and ideas into meaning?  How much compression is needed to transform versified lines–be they metrical or free–into genuine poetry?  The important arguments will not be about technique in isolation but about the fundamental aesthetic assumptions of writing and judging poetry.”

Structure & Surprise tries to move this debate–or, perhaps, ongoing discussion–along. Thanks to Ned Balbo for sensing / seeing this connection.  Check out one of Mr. Balbo’s own excellent poems (a sonnet, so expect turns!) here.



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