How do you know when a poem is finished?
The only poem I’m certain is finished is the long one encompassed in my book A Number of Stunning Attacks. It is the result of an assortment of lyric poems I began writing nearly fifteen years ago. These were drastically expanded in order to become my Master’s thesis. Though the process of writing that creative thesis was hugely enriching, I was dissatisfied with the final product and spent nearly a decade un-weaving and re-weaving the poems therein. (I hope my next book won’t be fifteen years in the making.)
I recently had the experience of releasing another suite of poems as an online chapbook: Ravishing the Sex into the Hold (Model Press). I had thought they were finished until the publisher, Ryan Fitzpatrick, showed me the horizontal layout he was considering. Thrilled by the landscape available to my already long lines, I immediately reshaped the poems to luxuriate in the length of the page. So, I guess, given the opportunity, I’ll remake the poem to fit the occasion. Ultimately, I do not know when a poem is finished, but I do know I’m willing to finish it differently at different points in time.