As Prageeta Sharma and I discuss in the essay “Substructure” in Structure & Surprise: Engaging Poetic Turns, substructure is the often subtle, underlying structure that helps to pattern a poem.  Below are some supplemental poems and discussion.

“[morning broke on my cabin inverted. tempest in my forehead],” by D. A. Powell

The speaker of Powell’s poem tells the story of finding out he is HIV-positive and working to survive his illness’s many challenges.  To tell this story, he employs parts of the narrative of The Poseidon Adventure, a disaster movie about surviving an upside-down, sinking ship.

Perhaps because of the double meaning of “climax” (narrative and sexual), some poets have used the climactic orgasm as a major turn in their poems.  Here are two examples:

i like my body when it is with your,” by e.e. cummings

“Coming,” by Heather McHugh (in Hinge & Sign)

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20 07 2022
Lucy Alford’s *Structures* of Poetic Attention | Structure & Surprise

[…] time–his notion of sottonarrativa, or sub-narrative, was the inspiration behind the chapter on “Substructure” in Structure and Surprise. However, I don’t think his stillness registered for me–this insight […]

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