Tuesday 10 December 2019

Estlin McPhee : part two

How do you know when a poem is finished?

What I’m really familiar with is the intangible sense that a poem is not yet finished and has instead reached a standstill. But usually I try to ignore that little voice of certainty and I say the poem is done when I want it to be done—when often the poem is still percolating or changing form (and it might need to do that for years to come, which is just very slow). So when that sense shifts and solidifies into a different feeling, then I know a poem is finished. I’ve only written a couple of poems that found their final forms quickly; I am mostly slow.

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