I am reading Michael Theune's Structure & Surprise: Engaging Poetic Turns (Teachers & Writers Collaborative, 2007). The book is a collection of essays--Theune contributes one himself and co-writes another with Prageeta Sharma. Mary Szybist, Mark Yakich, Corey Marks and others also have work in the collection.
Theune writes in his Introduction:
Poetic structure is, simply, the pattern of a poem's turning. As such, poetic structure identifies a vital feature of poems: the best poems often include convincing, surprising turns. T.S. Eliot calls the poems turn "one of the most important means of poetic effect since Homer," and in a lecture called "Levels and Opposites: Structure in Poetry," Randall Jarrell claims that "a successful poem starts from one position and ends at a very different one; yet there has been no break in the unity of the poem." More than any other aspect of poetry, it is structure that reveals how poems remain whole and unified even as they move, leap, turn.
First Impressions: This is an intriguing book. I must say that after flipping through it last night I am far more interested in how the writers dissect the poems than I am convinced of Theune's thesis. It will be difficult to persuade me, for example, that "the pattern of the poetic turn" is a complete (or even, a very satisfactory) explanation of the "poetic structure" in Brigit Pegeen Kelly's "The White Rider: Old Pilgrim Cemetery," or a host of other contemporary poems which feature multiple narratives arrayed across extended lyric forms. One might as well argue that the structure of a Ferrari can best be understood by remarking upon the pattern of its turning radius. It seems to me that the coach work, the chassis, the red paint, the fuel injection ports, the sticky tires and the 12-cylinder engine have something rather more to do with not only our sense, but also our understanding of what a Ferrari is.