Question-and-Answer Structure

Q. Is this structure really as self-explanatory as it seems?

A. Yes.

But this does not mean that poets have not used this structure to great effect.  Check some out:

“Western Wind,” by Anonymous

“The Lamb,” by William Blake

“Motto,” by Bertolt Brecht

“Odi et amo,” by Catullus (click on the English translation)

“Why Bother?,” by Sean Thomas Dougherty

“Harlem,” by Langston Hughes

“The Warden Said to Me the Other Day,” by Etheridge Knight

“An Astronomical Question,” by Hafiz, translated by Daniel Landinsky [scroll down]

“How Do I Listen?,” by Hafiz, translated by Daniel Landinsky

“An Old Musician,” by Hafiz, translated by Daniel Landinsky

“The Tender Mouth,” by Hafiz, translated by Daniel Landinsky (in The Gift (New York: Penguin Compass, 1999): 246).

“My God, where is that ancient heat towards Thee…,” by George Herbert

“Post-Coitum Tristesse: A Sonnet,” by Brad Leithauser

Sonnet 65 (“Since brass, nor stone, nor earth, nor boundless sea…”), by William Shakespeare

“Dramatis Personae,” by Christina Davis (in Forth a Raven (Farmington, Maine: Alice James Books, 2006): 41).

“Evolution,” by Eliza Griswold (in Wideawake Field (New York: Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 2007): 66).

“Spring and Fall,” by Gerard Manley Hopkins

“At Readings,” by Michael Palmer

“Altruism,” by Molly Peacock

“For ‘Our Lady of the Rocks,’ by Leonardo da Vinci,” by Dante Gabriel Rossetti

“The Mock Song,” by John Wilmot, Earl of Rochester

A helpful commentary on this poem by Barry Goldensohn can be found in Dark Horses: Poets on Overlooked Poems, edited by Joy Katz and Kevin Prufer (Urbana, IL: U of Illinois P, 2007): 198-200).

“The Big Screen,” by Alan Shapiro (in Song and Dance (New York: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 2004): 39-40).

“Goal Setting,” by Dan Smart

“Sonnet for Bonnie,” by Darren Wershler-Henry

“Expostulation and Reply,” by William Wordsworth

“Was It,” by Adam Zagajewski (in Eternal Enemies, translated by Clare Cavanagh (New York: FSG, 2008): 22).

Some variations on the question-and-answer structure:

Sometimes the question comes after the answer, as in

“Dark-Grained, Surprisingly Heavy,” by Jane Hirshfield (in Given Sugar, Given Salt: Poems (New York: HarperCollins, 2001): 30).

Sometimes a poem that contains only questions also includes its own answer (or answers), as in

“The Tyger,” by William Blake

One answer seems to come from the speaker of “The Tyger” when s/he realizes that the tiger’s creator also may (in a dualism so shocking as to be beyond the speaker’s ability to interrogate it) have created the lamb…

Sometimes the question is clearly implied, as in

“The Human Sheld,” by Don Paterson (in Rain (New York: FSG, 2009: 14).

2 responses

20 06 2017
30 05 2018
The Ink Dark Moon | Structure & Surprise

[…] Question-and-Answer Structure […]

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