How can you tell when a poem is finished?
I don’t believe art is ever “finished.” You stop where you must or where you can given all manner of variables like time and where you’re at in your life. There is the maxim I believe attributed to Paul Valery, “A poem is never finished, only abandoned.” I disagree with that semantically because the hope is that it is more “let go” than abandoned, certainly not forgotten. When I was in college I worked at an arts summer camp that I had attended as a teenager (Idyllwild Arts in Southern California) and one year I was able to go into town for the screening of the film students’ shorts. The teacher, Jared Billings (if memory serves), said, “Films are never finished, only released.” I liked that a lot, and I’ve thought about it many times since. As for me, I need a moment of silence for reflection to echo at the end of a poem. It doesn’t always have to be a heavy moment, it can be peaceful or abrupt! It should occupy the page in the blank space with the weight of additional lines. But I can tell my poems are finished enough if I can imagine a reader willing to sit with them for a moment before they turn the page (so to speak). Usually this means I have been successful in shaping the work to include every element I think belongs.