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?









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Thursday Thoughts

Why I write Poetry

One of the best thing things for me about blogging is the interaction and conversation taking place around the poems and poetry. On Inside the Mind of Davy D the favourite posts are those going beyond the poetry and getting to know the poet, what makes them tick; their thoughts, their motivations, their dreams.


As a development for the blog in 2018 I am going to have a Thursday Thoughts feature which will hopefully allow us to delve deeper into poetry and beyond the poems themselves. This will include thoughts I have as I research and read for the various projects I am involved with and links to information which may be useful to anyone working with poetry.


It will also showcase some of the amazing poetry and talent I encounter on WordPress on a day to day basis. Thursday Thoughts will include links to blogs firing the muse, poems that have moved me to think deeper about the words I encounter and anything else planting a seed for poetry; a piece of music, art, book, photograph.


If anyone has any ideas or inspiration that may create some conversation as a Thursday Thought then please let me know. Together we can make 2018 a great year for poetry.


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Poetic Motivations-66

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Image Credit: kromekz



Poetry in the Waiting Room


Earlier this week I was sat in the waiting room at my local doctor’s surgery when on a table, amongst the magazines, I saw several cards with the heading, Poems in the Waiting Room.

The cards contained a short collection of poetry designed for patients to read, while waiting to see their doctor. They were offered free of charge, with patients able to take the cards with them when finished at the surgery.

What a great way to use and promote poetry. I read the poems and, for a while, forgot about my aversion to anything in a white coat.

The Poems in the Waiting Room initiative is run by a small charity, based in the UK, and its purpose is to use poetry as part of providing a healing environment. Their website contains comments from patients, doctors and surgery staff as to the benefits of having poetry in waiting rooms, as well as links to research and other organisations who support the programme. They also accept submissions from poets.

If you want to know more about the charity, links to research around the subject, or would like to submit poetry for their publications, have a look at their website at www.poemsinthewaitingroom.org

Do you know of any similar initiatives where you are? It would be good to find out about them.