Archive for February, 2009

Blog Group A question 2

Posted in Uncategorized on February 9, 2009 by karlakelsey

In S &S, Mary Szybist conceeds that “poets do use concessions in strategic ways, but the best concessional poems don’t simply ‘spin’ the points they concede. The acknowledgements are genuine acknowledgements, and the poems embrace all the complexity they provoke” (52-53). Take a look at the supplementary poems in the Concessional Structure session and muse over one of these poems complexities. What complexity does the poet address? How is the concessional strucutre fundamental to addressing this complexity. In what way does the concession go beyond a simple strategic tactic?

Question beneath the Questioning?

Posted in Uncategorized on February 4, 2009 by stephroush

I am working through my own odd reasoning here, but I was also thinking along with Mary-Kate about the concept of questioning in The Cosmopolitan along with Donna Stonecipher’s claims about “(mostly) autonomous inlays” and just wondering what I could say about the general direction of the project. I attach to much of what Donna Stonecipher writes without understanding the “why.” I expect this has a lot to do with the questioning and incomplete response so that when I start to feel grounded I am suddenly in another place, the motion of traveling. This works structurally with the concept of place and “the cosmopolitan.” I see many turns in each Inlay. The more I think about questions the more I feel Donna Stonecipher’s structure is beneath the questioning, or perhaps the turn is beneath the questioning. Inlay 2 opens with “If only our troubles were” which introduces the “what if” questioning. The questioning and half-statements continue into the fourth section. Each sections links into the next as “tenacity” turns to “You keep doing it” and Cleopatra’s boat links to aristocratic scenes which in turn develops the idea of a profligate sky. After the fourth section, Stonecipher introduces “the voluntary exile:”

“The voluntary exile dreamed of the clouds that form over her native city.”

without the “if only” preface the other characters received. I feel now that the shift/turn occurs in the question we ask off the page. What if our problems were those of the voluntary exile?
The concept of a voluntary exile complicates the idea of “the cosmopolitan” and home, the “native city.” I don’t want to go too far off from the question of the turn, but this thread of location is challenging. The turn I see in the introduction of the “voluntary exile” is a complication of her overarching proposals of place—building, occupation, towns, class. Stonecipher seems to question the concept of home being multiple places with the narrative of the voluntary exile’s adopted city where she has no desire to know all the kinds of birds. That is how the poem concludes.

The direction of the poem after section five (the voluntary exile) focuses more on citizenship and volition. “I’d look like a Spaniard, fuck like a Serb, and make money hand over fist like an American” said the cosmopolitan sitting in Hong Kong drinking a caipirinha.” Develops the idea of choosing nationality or not choosing, do we have a choice? After this turn, stanzas are linked through the ideas of limitations necessities. Things we cannot accomplish: “the fact of more pleasure in the body cannot.” Things we need: “the citizens need the architect? Yes.” Donna Steoncipher continues this questioning on limitations to the end where the final image presents the “lost.” “The voluntary exile never learned the names of the birds in her adopted city. Each bird was a foreigner, flitting through the trees and singing a beautiful mysterious song she hadn’t the remotest desire to comprehend.”

The complication I see as her method is a great tool especially because there is an element of defiance that works well for extended arguments/discussions. The transformation of the line of questioning brings the poem to a different place, but is not a negation. I don’t know if I could use this tactic. I don’t think I understand the tool with enough clarity right now. I do like the idea of posing a shift as a question the reader is forced to ask, but not necessarily posed in print. I suppose I see it as a way to take something like a questioning structure or turn and push it one step further. I would like to use that method of digging/pushing beyond if not Stonecipher’s actual progression.

Short and Not so Sweet

Posted in Uncategorized on February 4, 2009 by superduder

I generally do not get much out of shorter poems, but Margaret Atwood’s poem, “You Fit into Me,” definitely deserves a deeper look. Although this poem is only four lines, there is a successful turn which is not only a complete turn in the opposite direction.

you fit into me

like a Hook into an eye

a fish hook

an open eye

When I first began reading this poem I did not think that there was much difference between the first two lines and the second two lines. I started out thinking about the sexual undertones of the first line because of the poem’s female writer. When I examined the second line I did not find much comfort in the idea of a hook into an eye which is why a fish hook in an open eye didn’t shock me, but after some googling I found out that there is something called a hook & eye clasp. This changed the meaning of the poem for me greatly because after seeing what a hook& eye clasp looked like I found comfort in it for one reason or another. I thought it looked elegant.

The Change in my interpretation allowed me to see the turn more clearly. While the first two lines are comforting, the third line introduces a horrific idea. A main reason I found the second two lines interesting was because a fish hook is barbed and is much easier to get in than out. I thought that this did apply to the first two lines. If the speaker in the poem is addressing a lover, and the relationship is over, it might be harder to forget about than it was to begin.

Before the turn this poem was warm and comforting, something that my grandmother could have kept from when my grandfather was courting her. When the turn came it jumped to a place that seemed somewhat hostile and angry. I do not think I would ever say something close in meaning of the last two lines to someone I knew. The typical way that I would make a turn in a poem like this would be something along the lines of:

you fit into me

like a Hook into an eye

but our love can never be

and that’s just lame 😦

I think that the way the second stanza opposes the first, while somewhat negating the feelings the reader received after reading the beginning of the poem is unique. I would like to be able to create a unique turn like the one in this poem, but I would also like to explore the meaning of words. I find it frightening that I may have thought all four lines in this poem were somewhat negative if I didn’t use Google and find the hook & eye clasp. It is amazing how jewelry can further my understanding of poetry. I guess it goes to show that inspiration and help with interpretation can be found anywhere.

-Donny Morgan

Structural Turns in “Inlay 7 (Franz Kafka)”

Posted in Uncategorized on February 4, 2009 by kcwall10

Although a turn toward the opposite of what the poem was previously stating is a common form, structural turns can happen in many other ways.  One such way is by examining an idea from a different angle, indeed turning it, so that the reader’s “view” is changed.  Donna Stonecipher uses this very tool in her poem “Inlay 7 (Franz Kafka).”  The specific concept she uses is location and language, and the affect of change on both.

Stonecipher begins working with the concept of changing location in the first part of her piece.  Part 1 (I am hesitant to call them stanzas although they may be as such) describes a man who has travelled to different parts of the world expecting to see something very indicative of that location’s culture.  In Japan, he expects geishas, in Kenya, giraffes.  The part ends with the hotel pool swallowing him “like a square blue mouth swallowing a sleeping pill” (Stonecipher 33).  It is clear because of its inclusion that this man’s frustration with not finding what he expected somehow lead to his drowning.  Stonecipher uses this section to show the reader one angle on locational change and its affect on an individual.

In the Part 3, the speaker describes people studying the language of a neighboring nation more powerful than their own.  This part in and of itself (not relating to the rest of the poem) has something of an ironic turn.  It is only two sentences in length.  The first reads, “Young people from the less powerful country came over to study the language of the more powerful neighboring country” (Stonecipher 33).  This seems forthright, until the reader reaches the second sentences, which reads, “The questionnaire found that, within a small margin of error, such-and-such percentage of women perfer to be on their knees while performing such-and-such sexual acts” (Stonecipher 33).  It seems at first as if the two are unrelated, but the reader soon sees that she is comparing the young people studying the language of a country capable of overtaking with women performing fellatio in a compromised position.

The young people come up again in a later part. This is how Stonecipher employs turn.  During the first mention, they are innocent, even disenfranchised.  The second mention of them, however, is more sinister.  Part 8 reads, “The young people from the less powerful country did not stop to admire the complicated beauty of their new language’s intricate grammar. They made neat vocabulary lists in cheap notebooks, and in their own language made fun of the professor’s hair, accent, glasses, clothing, shoes, and laugh” (Stonecipher 35).  Now, instead of admiring the language of a more powerful nation, instead of, indeed kneeling to its culture, the young people undercut it.  They are dismissive, and they hold on to their original language in order to form a bond and a division: us and them.  This is a very different way of seeing the young people.

Stonecipher comments on locational change at least once more in her piece. In Part 9, she writes, “In Paris the American girl speaking French begam almost impercitably to bat her eyelashes.  In St. Paul the German boy speaking English had the urge to fill silences almost before they began.  One of the most marvelous memories of her life, she said, was of having deja vu of having had deja vu” (Stonecipher 35).  This section once again focuses on changing language, but instead of making the person experiencing the change a victim or a villian, she comments simply on the possibility of change in a person caused by location.  Speaking French in a French city makes the girl flirtatious.  Speaking English in an American city makes the boy boistrous.  How does this comment on the cultures of those individual nations, and how does language illustrate this?

The turns in “The Cosmopolitan” are constantly surprising the reader.  Whether or not it is something I am capable of employing remains to be seen.  I think it’s a very complicated direction, and also somewhat manipulative of the reader.  Stonecipher’s ability to write about the same action or event in an entirely new light is exemplary.  I would hope that reading her work would have some impact on mine.

Structure that fits into irony

Posted in Uncategorized on February 4, 2009 by exclamate

The poem that most struck me most in the ironic poems section of Structure and Surprise was the Margaret Atwood poem “you fit into me”

you fit into me

like a hook into an eye

a fish hook

an open eye

I thought this use of turn was extremely interesting. Instead of turning from one side of the coin to another (black/white, up/down, you get the idea), Atwood rearranges the images so that they mean something new. The first stanza is very sexual and even favorable. The idea of fitting into someone like a hook-and-eye clasp is comfortable, safe, and strong. However, by specifying what kind of hook and eye in the second stanza, the reader is shocked, horrified. The safe image is demolished by one of an unprotected eye in a battle with a barbed, sharp fish hook in which it is obvious that the eye will not be the victor. While the turn is still sort of from safe to unsafe, the images do not flip, but instead morph and evolve.

This idea of rearrangement is especially interesting to me. I was one of the people that voiced a frustration about not know how to turn my poems. The idea of moving concepts from one place to another, of working with alternate definitions, is very appealing to me. The wit/wordplay involved is one of my favorite parts of poetry. In order to use this use of ironic structure, one needs to be aware of the different definitions and connotations of words. I think that this is something I could personally accomplish, however, I think the use of this structure would come more in the revision of the poem than in the original writing of it. This seems as though if one were to try and consciously right a poem about this way, it might come out very forced. I wonder if this is the nature of the structure and the specificity of what is needed, or if structure is something that needs to be applied to a poem after its first written, more as a something to stream line it. Either way, Atwood’s poem and morphing of images was what most captured my attention in the irony chapter.


A Cosmopolitan, A Bit of Irony, and Ohio

Posted in Uncategorized on February 3, 2009 by Mary-Kate

One poem that I think is the easiest one to look at for the structural change that doesn’t necesarily follow a large turn, or even having to do with an emblem, is the poem ohio by m loncar. It is a short and sweet simple poem that gets across, not only the irony, but the shift in voice without making a huge dramatic turn.

“besides spilling the better half, as well as the steamier half,

of mcdonald’s  best try at a cup of coffee on my crotch,

the ride out of ohio passed without incident. (pg 23)”

I really like how simple this poem is in creating the shift/turn. The speaker seems clearly bitter about the ‘coffee in my crotch’, but he tries to end the poem with a happy thought, in a way, by telling the reader that the ‘ride out of ohio passes without incident’. I think I like this poem a lot becuase I feel like most people tellingan account of a trip where something bad happened would probably tell it like this. So not only was this poem giving me an easier way to approach the turn/shift aspect of structure, but it also gave me a look into how the shift can be an everyday normal human behavior that is tended to be looked over.

Another thing that I’ve noticed has been within The Cosmopolitan by Donna Stonecipher. She tends to take the turns in her poems as questions and sometimes doesn’t even fully answer them with the same speaker. For example, in Inlay 2 ( Elaine Scarry) #4 on page 15, she states as her very first line:

“Which would you rather your head be full of, facts or ideas? (Clouds, riposted the


She starts off the poem with a questions and then directly doesn’t answer it but links it to images and ideas. I took this as another interesting turn that I could probably use later on in my own work. It would be really interesting to try to run a question/questions through a poem and not answer them but ponder them with images and then possibly come back to them later like she does in the next line by having another speaker address the question:

“Facts are finate, said the dreamer. Ideas reproduce exponentially, said the monkey.”

I would love to use this kind of turn that Stonecipher uses as well as m loncar. I think by using the simplist techniques such as human behavior and even answering questions with images and different speakers I could really try to come across perfecting my own turns/shifts in my poetry.

inside there is a structure, which is inside another structure, which is inside another structure, which depends on a map.

Posted in Uncategorized on February 3, 2009 by tadros

Somewhat in awe of Donna Stonecipher’s ability to use subtle repetition, simultaneous simplicity/complexity, and what I’m going to call structures-within-structures, for lack of a better label, I’ve decided to look at her “Inlay 9 (Azar Nafisi)” (page 39) from The Cosmopolitan to address this idea of a layered turn not grounded in negation.

            While the whole of the inlay is part of a larger structure that houses the smaller structures and structural turns I want to look at, I’m just going to focus on four of the numbered sections of the poem to map a few turns:



She passed a store full of blue, yellow, and red messenger bags printed with the letters DDR.  It was 2006, and she saw a girl inside the store lay her hand on a bag abstractedly, as if imagining herself here and there wearing the bag announcing the name of a country that no longer exists.


The hungover tourist happily bought the red T-shirt printed with the letters CCCP, though he couldn’t say for sure what the letters stood for. She told us with a little frown that she had grown up on the Stalinallee, and then the Karl-Marx-Allee, and then again the Stalinallee (in her mind).

“It is said that the personal is political.  That is not true, of course.”


That night the girl with the DDR bag met the boy with the CCCP T-shirt in a bar.  History does not record what followed—the fatal attraction, the hero worship, the erection of monuments, the pacts and breaking of pacts, the inevitable bitter dissolution once again into sovereign states.


How marvelous, they thought, that it was possible to have been born in Chemnitz, spend your life in Karl-Marx-Stadt, and then die in Chemnitz, all without ever leaving your hometown.  How marvelous to have been born in a country that no longer exists—though you do, you still exist.”


I see crucial turns in this poem occurring in the following places:


* in part 8, when Stonecipher writes, “That night the girl with the DDR bag met the boy with the CCP T-shirt in a bar.”  Perhaps this, though a kind of turn, would more appropriately be described as an “arrival.”  This seems to tie in to the conversation we had in class today regarding whether or not there is any rhyme or reason to the extensive cast of characters running through The Cosmopolitan.  Here two of them clearly meet, almost turning the poem in on itself. 


* The poem turns in this section again: “History does not record what followed…the inevitable bitter dissolution once again into sovereign states.”  Here, Stonecipher seems to effect a turn by using not negation, but double entendre.  This dissolution into sovereign states seems to refer both to a bitter parting of the girl with the DDR bag and the boy with the CCP T-shirt after their suggested one-night stand, and to the dissolution of “the country that no longer exists” in part 1 (the DDR) and of the CCCP, represented in part 4.  The double meaning turn takes place both in a sort of narrative about these one-time lovers who meet in a bar and in a larger collage of narratives defined by the meetings/intersections and the dissolution/separations of its constituent parts.  This turn, ironically, ties loose ends together at the same time that it is establishing ideas of separation.  But it is much more complex than merely negating what has previously been stated.


* Stonecipher does something similar in part 11, turning both in this individual section and in the larger structure of the inlay.  This turn is realized in the last line: “How marvelous to have been born in a country that no longer exists—though you do, you still exist.”  This is definitely an ironic turn, but not in the “classic” sense, if we can call it that.  Stonecipher’s ironic turn does not just resonate with the “they” in the previous line of section 11, but also with the girl with the DDR bag, the boy with the CCP T-shirt.  Even if these characters are represented by the “they,” Stonecipher is structuring a turn that has meaning not only in its respective section, part 11, but that resonates retroactively through the previous ten sections.  This is structure within a larger structure, a turn that impacts not only the smaller sub-structure, but the larger whole of the poem.


* I would also like to draw attention to the “dropped-in” line Stonecipher used in this inlay: “It is said that the personal is political.  That is not true, of course.”  Whether or not the choice of this line was truly haphazard, its consequent significance is strong.  This line resonates especially with part 8, in which the sort of narrative of the prose poem, the bar hook-up, represents both the personal and the political. 


Stonecipher is effectively creating structural turns that not only pack a punch in their respective sections, but create turns in the meaning of the poem as a whole of many parts.  She is creating structures within larger structures, turns that depend/build on previous turns, turns that work both in individual sections and in the context of these sections as parts of a larger whole. 


It would be interesting to try to map the turns within the parts of each inlay, within the inlays, and within The Cosmopolitan as a whole.  This would be a daunting task, if possible at all, but much like the image of someone reading a book within which someone is reading a book, etc., keeps coming up in Stonecipher’s inlays, she seems to have crafted an overarching structure in which there is an overarching structure, in which there is an overarching structure, etc.


She is turning by utilizing smaller, tools – double entendre, irony – but largely by connecting the dots of a map of turns.  I think the repetition in The Cosmopolitan aids her in this task, making some of these connections-between-dots more apparent to us in trying to follow her structure.


I would love to find myself skilled enough to employ this tactic in my own writing.  In some ways it seems very connected to what G.C. Waldrep was doing in One Way, No Exit, this structuring founded on repetition and the connections drawn from it.  I wonder if this tactic could be employed in a shorter work, or if it would take the span of a book-length work for the map of structures within structures to be fully realized. 


I think the most important thing to take from this realization is that, though we may isolate a turn to examine it, a turn only exists in context.  We may be turned off by the idea of a turn by negation as a cheap trick, as a dry poetic tool, but even this simple idea of turn-and-reverse only works because of what comes before or what happens at large. 


Ironic Structure and the Not-So-Funny

Posted in Uncategorized on February 2, 2009 by erinl09

Gerald Stern’s turn in “The Dancing” took me by such surprise–I had admired previous poems for their humor, but his shocked me for its morbid comparison of joyous versus horrific moments. I am a sucker for Holocaust literature (although, oddly enough, not for 9/11 literature–) and will always be open to a new Holocaust poem. If any of you share my weird fascination, I would recommend Edward Hirsch’s poem “Two Suitcases of Children’s Drawings from Terezin, 1942-1944.”

Anyway, I don’t consider this turn to be one of opposition or negation because upon reflection, there was something coming. This turn was preceded by evidence that not all was right and good, so the turn was one of surprise, yes, but it was more of a forceful snap-to. The rhythm had been becoming more furious, more imposing, like a bass drum that crescendos to overcome the orchestra. The buildup of present participle verbs creates a constant stream of image that eventually seems hysterical. The voice’s

knives all flashing, my hair all streaming,
my mother red with laughter, my father cupping
his left hand under his armpit, doing the dance
of old Ukraine, the sound of his skin half drum,
half fart, the world at last a meadow,
the three of us whirling and singing, the three of us
screaming and falling, as if we were dying,
as if we could never stop–

suggest that something is wrong all along, that there is a madness and hysteria present the entire time. The turn, then, to

the other dancing–in Poland and Germany–
oh God of mercy, oh wild God

is earned, not a negation, and not an opposition. It was there, all along, but the poem plays with human tendency toward the veneer.

How does Stern do this? I think what makes an ironic structure successful and powerful is that it has earned the turn, that it has teased you with the latent and arrives by pushing your face below the water.

Am I capable of this? I sure hope so. There is something so powerful about playing with giddiness and horror, something so memorable. I think the best way of creating such a “perfect” ironic turn is the set-up, which must be careful-yet-present. If you push the image too much, the reader will predict the turn, but if it isn’t present enough, the reader will feel tricked. It sounds so simple, appears simple enough, but is deceptively crafty.

New Post (Blog Group B)

Posted in Uncategorized on February 2, 2009 by karlakelsey

In several of your exercise packets you have articulated a frustration with the idea of the structural turn because it is difficult to think of ways of turning that are not only/just movement in the opposite direction from what has come before. In light of this, please look at the poems in “The Ironic Structure” and in The Cosmopolitan. Select a poem that you think successfully employs a turn that is not grounded in a negation of what came before. Tell us where the turn arrives (give us the lines that turn, letting us know where the poem is “going” before the turn, and where it heads after). Let us know how you see the turn happening: if the poem doesn’t work via opposition or negation, how does it work? What does the poet do in order to make his/her turn differ from a turn of opposition? Do you think you could use this tactic? How and why?