Wednesday, May 28, 2008

A Response from Michael Theune



The Constant Reader will recall that on May 10, 2008, I made a comment on S@4A.M. about Michael Thuene's new book
Structure & Surprise: Engaging Poetic Turns (Teachers & Writers Collaborative, 2007). My original comment is here. I strongly recommend this book; it is an important contribution to contemporary thinking about poetic form and structure.

I just noticed that Michael responded* to my blog post, and I didn't want his words to go unnoticed. He writes:

Hi, Greg,

Thanks so much for taking some time with S&S, and for posting on it. Very cool!

A quick clarification: in my intro to S&S, I do not in any way intend to suggest that structure is the single or core essence of poetry. Image, form, syntax, etc, are all vital elements of poems.

What I do mean to do is to advocate strongly for greater attention to poetic structure, which, as you note, S&S defines as the pattern of a poem's turning.

Such advocacy is necessary because, on the one hand, the turn is a vital aspect of poetry (as my intro makes clear: all kinds of poems, and not just sonnets, employ turns), and, on the other hand, the turn has received (prior to the publication of S&S) almost no significant attention in contemporary poetry writing pedagogy.

I'm very glad you're enjoying the readings of the poems in S&S, Greg. The book has great contributors. I hope, though, that you're also intrigued by the book's other main offering: the [new] taxonomy of poetry that it provides, its whole new way of classifying (and thus conceptualizing, and thus, perhaps, considering the crafting of) poems.

My folks tell me that western MI is lovely right now. I hope and trust you're enjoying it!

All best,
Mike Theune

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NOTE: Michael Theune is from Spring Lake, Michigan (just over the "little bridge" from where I live), and I have known him for many years. His father recently retired as a pastor at Christ Community Church in Spring Lake. Mike attended Hope College, Oxford University as a Marshall Fellow, the Iowa Writers' Workshop (MFA), and received his Ph.D in Literature and Creative Writing at the University of Houston.

He teaches at Illinois Wesleyan University.

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