Smart’s “Structure and Surprise”

12 02 2016

Structure and Surprise


If—the facts
are all

the plot, simply details,

and if
words are just hollow magic

tricks to make the wind more
reliable and appear more
solid than it really is,

and—what if?
even our bravest

to be totally

are shards?
of some shattered shared
soul of a soundless-in-vast-perpetuity universe,

which moves forever
toward frozen oblivion,
without ever really changing shape—

Then what?—what’s left? in the
landscape, I wonder,
to survey.

I see—only

architecture, yes,
but some

cool gargoyles leftover.


How could it be that I failed to share this?!

The above is a poem by friend and fellow student Dan Smart, who is publishing the products of his amazing, multi-year, poem/day project over at his blog, Rhythm Is the Instrument. “Structure and Surprise” is just one of (holy $#!+) over a thousand poems, and like so many of ’em, it, among many other things, loves and plays with turns. Enjoy! (And then do check out Dan’s blog for many, MANY more great poems and turns–)

Poetic Turns in the Lyric Essay

1 02 2016


Over at Assay: A Journal for Nonfiction Studies, Diana Wilson has published “Laces in the Corset: Structures of Poetry and Prose that Bind the Lyric Essay”, an essay that uses poetic structures to examine the movements in a number of lyric essays. Wilson uses the emblem structure to read Richard Selzer’s lyric essay “The Knife”; the retrospective-prospective structure to read Brian Doyle’s lyric essay “Leap”; the ironic structure for Robin Hemley’s “Twirl/Run”; and the elegiac structure for Lia Purpura’s “Autopsy Report.”

In her penultimate paragraph, Wilson notes:

I often think of the lyric essay as a mysterious sea creature, its structure hydrostatic, like a jellyfish that appears, to the casual observer, to be nonexistent.  The lyric essay, a subgenre of creative nonfiction, is a wild thing born of poetry and prose, the prose sentences appearing to wave and dance willy-nilly like tentacles of jellyfish while poetic elements flicker and flash through the sentences like neon luminescence. Only careful study reveals the muscular structure that propels the lyric essay forward.

I love this insight: that by carefully attending to structure’s turn we can see how the lovely, odd creature that is the lyric essay moves.

I love, too, that Wilson has begun to find broader application for thinking about and with the poetic turn. I’ve long thought that one of the turn’s attractions is the way in more closely connects poetry and prose–how completely appropriate, then, to employ the turn to examine and think more deeply about the lyric essay’s prose poetry.

According to her author’s note, “Laces in the Corset” is Diana Wilson’s first publication. My thanks, then, to Ms. Wilson for taking the time and effort at the start of her publishing career to consider so carefully, and use so creatively, the turn. I look forward to seeing how her thinking and writing continues to develop–develop and turn…!

Upcoming Workshop on the Turn

1 02 2016


In Denver on March 5? Want to learn more about and even try your hand at some poetic turns? Sign up for “Poetic Turns,” a day-long workshop led by Lynn Wagner.

Here’s the workshop description:

In this craft-centered class, we will explore ways to change direction using rhetorical moves and poetic structures. We’ll make lists with a twist, become ironic, switch it up halfway through and be concessional—not confessional. Inspired by Michael Theune’s Structure & Surprise: Engaging Poetic Turns, a book recommended by Kim Addonizio on her visit to Lighthouse, the craft shack is the perfect place to make and play—exercises, experiments, and mini workshops. Poets and prose writers both welcome. Get ready for a revolution.

Lynn Wagner is the right person to lead such a workshop. She’s expert with the turn–just check out her poem “Black Dog / White Snow.” And then read more of her work on her website.

Turn, turn, turn!


The Poetic Turn as Useful Metaphor

1 02 2016

“Now, everyday objects are borrowing the idioms of computing technology to bring about a poetic turn.”

…Awesome! Check out August de los Reyes’s “The poetic turn of everyday objects” to read about “the fourth stage of software experience,” a stage that’s bound to be as surprising as a great turn–