How do you know when a poem is finished?
My attitude to this has changed over the years. My answer takes into account this notion of to the pace I work at, and the way I revise my poems too. Because I am a formalist, because I write with rhyme and metre at the front of my thoughts, I tend to write a line or two at a time, securing those rhymes like the footholds on a ladder I am climbing up (or down). Rather than completing a draft then reworking it through to its conclusion, I work on one phrase at a time until I am happy with it, then move on to the next grouping of words in an incremental fashion. Even so, I am likely to continue redrafting a poem after I have finished the first main draft. I used to rush this process more. This creative impatience, coupled with a less rigorous approach to formal discipline meant that the poems feel a bit more skittish in retrospect, the rhythms are not as secure or fluent. I’ve worked on rhythm a lot more over the last ten years. Now I also let the poems rest for longer. I revise the pieces to a greater extent. My quality threshold is higher. I read the poems out loud: if there are no bumps or blemishes in the aural quality of the work then I’m nearer to finishing the poem. I’m obviously going to ask myself: is this what I want to say? Am I happy with the texture, the feel of the piece? Is the sum of what I have written bigger than its parts? Some of this might seem a bit ineffable but it’s something I’ve learnt to divine through years of reading my own work. I am more patient with myself, with my quirks and limitations, now.