How Do You Know When A Poem Is Finished?

Is a poem ever finished blog

I really enjoyed last weeks conversations about How Do You Read a Poem? and was interested to learn all the different ways and methods a poem can be read; especially the thoughts around how poems can appear different when they are written to being spoken. The conversation sparked this week’s Thursday Thought and got me thinking, how do you know when a poem is finished? Are the poems we read the finished article? and how do poets know when the end is reached?

Sometimes when I have written a poem on paper and completed a few drafts I let it sit, thinking the work is done. When I come back to it and read it aloud I realise there are things missing and rhythms not flowing in the words. This can happen with poems written many years ago. There always seems to be words or stanzas that don’t fit, and the poem is redrafted to suit the new moment.

The French poet and essayist, Paul Valery, claimed a poem is never finished, only abandoned, and most of the time it does seem he is right.  There have been many occasions when I have pondered and drafted a poem to such an extent that it has become a different poem and it has been left, as the excitement of a new idea or poem has taken precedent.

Maybe a poem is complete once it has left your head and hits the paper? Japanese Haiku Master, Basho, alluded to the fact the first thoughts of a poem are the purest and said, “when you are composing a verse, let there not be a hair’s breadth separating your mind from what you write. Quickly say what is in your mind; never hesitate a moment.”  Is the drafting and working of a poem  something habitual and what we are taught to do to seek perfection that can never be found?

Sir John Betjeman was ruthless in how he ended a poem, writing out the completed draft only five or six times before being contented with it. Once he finished the process he was no longer interested in the verse. Clinical although this may seem, Betjeman’s poetry is testament to the fact applying logic and process may be the only way to get a poem to the finish line.

Preparing today’s Thursday Thoughts has left me more confused than when I started, and I am thinking many of my poems have been finished out of boredom and frustration.  With some there is more to write, others – things to be taken away.

I need some help with this. How do you know when your poem is finished?










Copy of Poetry



Poetic Motivations:80

Poetic Motivations_80

The Mersey Sound

Poetic Beats

Welcome to this week’s episode of Poetic Beats with Howard Bond and Davy D, recorded on the 12th of February 2018 on Red Kite Radio.

Continuing February’s theme of Love, Davy D reads his poem Love Is, a poem for Valentine’s Day inspired by Adrian Henri’s poem of the same name. Adrian Henri’s Love Is first appeared in the poetry anthology, The Mersey Sound, published in 1967. The Mersey Sound revolutionised poetry, taking it off the shelf and onto the street and has sold over 500,000 copies. Along with Henri, the anthology contains poems from Roger McGough and Brian Patten and went on to inspire a new generation of poets as well as many musicians.

If you have difficulty listening to the programme please visit this link, Love Is, where the poem featured earlier this week on Inside the Mind of Davy D.

To hear this week’s Poetic Beats please press the arrow to the left of the sound bar below.


How Do You Read A Poem?


In 1972 my parents bought me my first poetry book, The Golden Treasury Of Poetry, edited by Louis Untermeyer. For a nine-year-old this was like being given a piece of treasure. Many an evening was spent under the bed clothes reading the many poems by torchlight and being held by the magic of Walt Whitman’s Miracles, becoming the baddie in Alfred Noyes’, The Highwayman, and floating in the madness of Edward Lear’s, The Courtship of the Yonghy-Bonghy-Bo. The innocence of childhood allowed me to get lost and become part of the poem.

Forty-five years on, my reading and understanding of poetry has become a little more difficult. Reading glasses come provided with filters of life experience, value and belief systems, norms of culture and society, as well as the pressures and pace of modern day living. The art of reading a poem is very different.

The question of how to read a poem has challenged poets and readers for centuries. Going back nearly two hundred years, poet and literary critic Samuel Taylor Coleridge divided readers into four types.

  1. Moghul Diamonds – the best type and someone who profits by what they read and enables others to profit by it too.
  2. Sandglasses – remember nothing of what they read and just go through a book to get through time.
  3. Strainbags – remember merely the dregs of what they read.
  4. Sponges- absorb all they read and return it in nearly the same state, only a little dirtier.

I can identify as being all of these during my life.  A few years ago, I realised there was a need to get back to the Moghul Diamond stage as the quantity of poetry I was reading had superseded the quality, hence the blog and journey further into the heart of poetry.

Now the reading of a poem goes much deeper than the words and rhyming pattern. It is about the life and background of the poet, the story and emotion behind the poem and spending more time with the poem; living and breathing it to become part of what the writer intended.

In his recent book, The Poetry Pharmacy, William Sieghart gives some good advice about how to read a poem. He suggests not reading the poem like a newspaper and novel, but more like a prayer. Speak it aloud to yourself so you can hear it properly. Take it to bed with you and read it night after night, for at least five nights, remembering that no poem deserves only a single visit.

Just as I was putting together these Thursday Thoughts two of my favourite poets have combined to give me some poetry to test Sieghart’s theories. Roland Keld at Roland’s Ragbag has written an excellent poem, The Meaning of Life, which just lends itself to spending more time with and appreciating the full meaning.

Nigel Smith at Voices of a Hidden Self, has produced an audio version of him reading Roland’s, The Meaning of Life and listening to it brings more depth and meaning to the poem; hearing it read aloud as Sieghart suggests. I will be having more time out this week reading and listening to the  poem and both versions are well worth the time if you can spare it.

What are your thoughts on how a poem should be read? Do you have any tips or habits you use to get more meaning from the poems you read? Please jump in and share them in the comments section. I’d love to read them.

Love Is

Love Is

Love is

Seeing your face in a fresh morning light

A bowl and two spoons with Angel Delight

Knowing there’s days when we kiss and don’t fight.

Love is


Love is

Carving our names in the heart of the oak

You adjusting my tie, so I don’t choke

Sprinting like Usain through bonfire smoke

Love is


Love is

Holding hands under dim lit gazebos

With our last fiver, dining Al Fresco

At a school dance, the Pogo not Disco

Love is


Love is

Snoring together in front of the telly

Handling my socks, despite them being smelly

On the A40,  giving it welly

Love is


Love is

Albums and photos, we’ve still yet to see

Pebbles at Brighton, tide up to our knees

Fish and chip headlines, for you and for me

Love is

© Davy D 2018

Dedicated to my beautiful wife Sarah (Mrs.D). Without her love and support, the pen just wouldn’t flow.


First Love

First Love

Poetic Motivations:79

Poetic Motivations_79

Shakespeare’s Sonnet 18

Poetic Beats

Welcome to this week’s Poetic Beats with Howard Bond and Davy D, recorded on the 5th of February 2018 on Red Kite Radio.

The theme for February is love and what better way to start than with the poem regarded as one of the greatest love poems of all time, William Shakespeare’s Sonnet 18. Four hundred years later Shakespeare’s sonnets are still surrounded by mystery and intrigue and maybe Shakespeare presented them to the world as puzzles which were never meant to be solved.

Apologies, in advance, but due to gremlins in the studio equipment the sound quality of the recording is lower than usual. Hopefully this will be rectified by next week.

If you have problems listening to the programme, a text version of Sonnet 18 is included after the sound bar.

To hear this week’s Poetic Beats please press the arrow to the left of the sound bar below.



Sonnet 18.

Shall I compare thee to a summer’s day?

Thou art more lovely and more temperate:

Rough winds do shake the darling buds of May,

And summer’s lease hath all too short a date:

Sometime too hot the eye of heaven shines,

And often is his gold complexion dimm’d;

And every fair from fair sometime declines,

By chance, or nature’s changing course, untrimm’d;

But thy eternal summer shall not fade

Nor lose possession of that fair thou ow’st;

Nor shall Death brag thou wander’st in his shade,

When in eternal lines to time thou grow’st;

So long as men can breathe or eyes can see,

So long lives this, and this gives life to thee.


William Shakespeare.