Is a Poem Ever Finished?

Is a poem ever finished blog

This week I have been revisiting and reworking some old poetry. The poems are a collection written about 20 years ago, tucked away in a drawer and discovered during a clear out of the poetry den.

Reading old poems is a bit like looking at old photographs, a snap shot of a point in time, captured in words. They represent our thoughts and emotions in the moment and although we draft and mould them, are they ever finished?

If we revisit an old poem are we writing a new piece of poetry, reflecting new thoughts and new feelings, or are we just updating the poetry to mirror the place where we currently stand in our lives.? There are so many questions this process raises, I even wonder whether all we ever do through life is write one continuous poem.

Mr. S, the Go Dog Go Café patron, wrote the following piece, Bury, which brings to the fore even more thoughts on the question.

In my drawer, buried
Poems. Pompeians under
Ash, waiting, preserved,
Re-forged by fire. Open
My drawer with a pick
Like an archeologist
Discover how, why
What happened, happened
Maybe bury some
Again. Yes, please, bury
Again. Ash in my drawer.

Do you think a poem is ever finished? Why not grab a coffee and let’s sit down and have a chat.

28 thoughts on “Is a Poem Ever Finished?

  1. Old poems can be like a diary. Re reading them can open old wounds, or remind you of a happy memory. I love reading poems I wrote as a child , ones that I wrote family members for birthdays. The childish innocence makes me smile.

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  2. In September I’ll complete 12 years as a poet…sometimes when I look back at my old writings I get surprised often because some were ahead of my age…shared few before…will share more in coming future…

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  3. Interesting Davy, I’d say often not. Some are paused and I go back and add to them. Others I revisit, don’t feel it and so rewrite. Also I do companion pieces and other versions which amounts to the same thing. Brutal self criticism I guess !

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  4. A poem is never finished actually..especially in my case.
    .one time i came accross my old high school notebook with a high school type.of poem written in it..then for some weird reasons i wrote something in response to that..

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  5. Reading old poems is a bit like looking at old photographs, a snap shot of a point in time, captured in words.” -> I love this interpretation of poetry, and I agree wholeheartedly.

    As for whether a poem is ever finished, I don’t believe so. Poetry will grow and change with us. It’s like when an author revises their novel 1,000 times and after re-reading it for 1,001st time, they still find things to revise. Art is never finished. It’s fluid and it flows and changes and adapts.

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  6. When I look back at my early ‘work’, I am sometimes amazed at my perspicacity, but at other times I cringe at my banality and ingenuousness. It only confirms that I am not now what I was then. I don’t find re-working a worthwhile occupation, re-writing to re-capture the same mood and thoughts – yes, on occasion.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Interesting thoughts Roland. I think reworking a poem maybe brings another piece, so the new poem becomes a response or a reflection of that time.


  7. i have never revisited a poem and reworked it to change its original meaning, I may have changed a word for a better sounding one or that gave a better meaning. reading an old poem as some have said and I agree is like reading a page of our diary, tells us so much of ourselves at that moment in our lives, almost like a snapshot of our soul. but is a poem ever finished? i read somewhere, someone said and I quote that person whoever it was, I forget sorry, that a writer starts a story but a reader finishes it. A poem is finished once it settles in someone’s heart, that’s what I believe too. thank you Davy for this post and others like this where the heart and mind is challenged to connect and reveal hidden truths.

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    • Thank you for these insightful thoughts Gina. I agree, if we change a poem too much then it starts to become another poem. Basho also said that a poem should be left for a reader to finish and that is why we can put our own interpretations on the poetry we read.

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  8. I like what Gina said. Many of my poems are a diary of me at the time, and if I changed them, it would change that moment, that feeling, that emotion, and memory. Others that are not so personal I think may seem unfinished, or you can go back to them. Or like several have said, a response to them is somehow maybe trying to finish the unfinished. Interesting thoughts peeps!

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    • Thank you for adding your thoughts to the conversation MF. It is good to get different poets views on this. I wonder if our views on the question change over time?

      Liked by 1 person

  9. Pingback: Chasing After The Moment | Go Dog Go Café

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