Swivel toward a Stirring

19 06 2018

Courtesy photo Poet Donald Levering

So, this is pretty cool: at the 2018 New Mexico State Poetry Society Annual Meeting and State Convention, not only did Scott Wiggerman, a long-time good friend of the Structure & Surprise blog, present on the poetic turn, but so did Donald Levering. Check out this description of Levering’s workshop:

Workshop Information

Poems with a Turn:
The word “verse” derives from the Latin versus, meaning turning, where lines of poetry are likened to the turns at the ends of rows in plowing a field. And while line-break placement is important, sometimes the farmer swerves to plow a different field, or decides to sow potatoes instead of wheat, or turns to the sky to watch a flock of birds.

This workshop will look at shorter poems that take a sudden turn, poems that may find themselves in another season. The poem may surprise us, shift the argument or focus, move from real to surreal, intensify an emotion, or swing the tone from humorous to serious. Looking at several varied examples, we will examine where and how these poems make their turns, and inquire how the shift serves the poem. We will review the measured, rhetorical turn of Shakespearean sonnets, look at a famous Wordsworthian turn, and sample hinged poems by moderns and contemporaries. Time permitting, we will try our hand at writing turns to given poems and then compare to the author’s version.

This was a workshop that clearly acknowledged the structure / form distinction, and it clearly was focused on poetic structure (the volta, the rhetorical turn) rather than poetic form (line breaks, etc). Fantastic!

Levering is a poet who often engages the turn in his poems. Need proof? Check out his fine poem “Visitant” [scroll down], which swivels wonderfully, and frighteningly, at its conclusion. Glad he’s also teaching others about how to deploy this vital feature of poems!



2 responses

23 06 2018
Structure & Surprise Features Poems With a Turn Workshop | Donald Levering

[…] Michael Theune ‘s Structure & Surprise blog picked up on my Poems with a Turn Workshop pr… […]

25 06 2018
Mike Theune

I contacted Donald Levering to ask if he might share the poems he used to teach his workshop, and he was kind enough to do so. Here they are:

Shakespeare’s “Sonnet 29” (available at https://www.poetryfoundation.org/poems/45090/sonnet-29-when-in-disgrace-with-fortune-and-mens-eyes);
Barry Goldensohn’s “Post Mortem as Angels”;
Elizabeth Bishop’s “Filling Station” (available at https://www.poetryfoundation.org/poems/52193/filling-station;
Stanislaw Baranczak’s “If China” (available at https://spreadthewordtoall.blogspot.com/2009/01/thought-provoking-poem-from-polish.html);
Thomas Transtromer’s “Further In” (translated by Robert Bly) (available at http://johnbakersblog.co.uk/two-poems-from-tomas-transtromer/); and
Brigit Pegeen Kelly’s “Young Wife’s Lament” (available at https://www2.illinois.gov/sites/poetlaureate/Pages/kelly_young_wifes_lament.aspx).

I love this list! Some very familiar poems with great turns in them, but also plenty I was not familiar with. Always much to learn! My thanks to Donald Levering for his wonderfully surprising list!

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