Poetic Turns and the Shape of the Poem

Writers are always talking about form and content, but in between those two is a critical third element: structure. Poems are verbal artifacts (even when we read them silently they propagate a voice in the mind) but no matter what kind of piece it is, one truth always holds: something happens over the course of a poem, some change (in us, in the language) between point A and point Z. How do we map these changes? How do we understand how a poem moves?

This lab is for anyone who has ever looked at a poem and not known how to say anything about what’s going on (therefore, everyone). We’ll consider the idea of the turn in a poem’s rhetoric as it originates in the sonnet (where it’s known as a volta), then look to build a taxonomy of turns so we can recognize larger structures within different kinds of poems. We’ll read poems together and practice dismantling a variety of lyrics to better understand how they work. And we’ll write together, crafting new pieces out of our understanding of how other poems work. By the end of the afternoon, participants will have developed their vocabulary for poetic turns and will have the tools to identify rhetorical moves in their own poems and those that they read.

Craft Lab Details

Jay DeshpandeJay Deshpande is the author of Love the Stranger (YesYes Books, 2015), named one of the top debuts of 2015 by Poets & Writers, and the chapbooks The Rest of the Body (YesYes Books, 2017) and The Umbrian Sonnets (PANK Books, 2020). A 2018–20 Stegner Fellow at Stanford University and the winner of the Scotti Merrill Memorial Award and Narrative‘s Annual Poetry Contest, he has also received fellowships from Kundiman, Civitella Ranieri, and the Constance Saltonstall Foundation for the Arts. His poems have appeared in the American Poetry Review, New Republic and New England Review, among many other places. He is an advisory editor for Northwest Review and writes criticism for Guernica, Pleiades, Kenyon Review and Boston Review. He holds a BA in English from Harvard and an MFA in creative writing from Columbia University and has taught workshops for Poets House, the Academy of American Poets and Columbia’s MFA program. Deshpande started teaching for Brooklyn Poets in 2017, quickly becoming one of our most popular teachers and selling out all fourteen of his workshops and mentorship courses since that time. He is our most sought-after mentor on the Bridge and the leader of our Mentorship Program.