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"I knew my poems were well-crafted and ready to be shared. Several others in the group felt there might be a bit of room for improvement"--Jon
"When do you know that you have finished a poem?" My typical response to this question is something like, "I'm not dead yet, so it isn't finished." A better question would be, "When is a poem ready to meet its audience?" A practical answer to that query is quite a bit more complicated. Most writers have their own guidelines a work must meet before it is subjected to the harsh world of criticism. I can only share with you how I conclude that a poem is 'ready.'
I repeatedly go over a freshly penned piece to remove anything not essential and to ensure each word is the exact one to best convey my message. I read it aloud to determine whether phrasing and emphasis are working. It may be left dormant for days or months, allowing me to see and hear it afresh. When I feel it is as close to delivering the images and emotions I wish to share as is possible, it is time for vetting of the work by my peers. I cannot place enough emphasis on this and the critical benefits gained by participating in writers' groups. Often the poem is well received by some while others will not understand nor grasp the meaning, indication there is work to be done. The range of fields covered in comments from other writers is extensive and may include grammar, punctuation, syntax, and imagery. Being part of nurturing groups provides me with invaluable feedback, which I may use or discard as I feel is to my benefit. After yet more editing, correcting, and occasionally a complete rewrite, the process begins again. Eventually I arrive at a point where the comments are no longer forthcoming and my message is strong for all. Now it is time to submit, go to readings and share my work while I am satisfied with this temporary plateau of finality. Temporary, until I begin to think, "I could say that line better."
In my last column I suggested you look at the commonplace, the unnoticed, the small details, as sources for inspiration. I was pleasantly surprised at the number of responses and delightful short poems I received. There were far too many to share them all but I did wish to include one. A decision was not easy. After much thought I felt this lovely, Zen-like little poem by Christine Brink (used with her permission) is a fine ambassador of my message.
Read the best of what you wish to write and ever, keep writing.
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