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How do you know when a poem is done? Stories are generally easier, as most have an evident beginning, middle and end. Poems can have those things, but don’t always, at least not in the obvious way. If a story is a painting, a poem is a snapshot, a narrow view through a cylinder.

Chris said sometimes he would have to walk away from a painting, then return to it later as if he were looking at someone else’s work. If he saw the painting like this – objectively – and still was satisfied, then his work was complete. I am impressed with his ability to control his perspective to that degree. Save something and look it over later, that I can manage. Look at it as if someone else had written it? Not so much.

I keep toying with my poem. Earlier I was merely tweaking it, but now I sense I am toying with it, like a cat with a mouse. When is the game over? And if I continue to play, will the poem improve or start to deteriorate? We had a cat once who threw her (already dead) mouse so hard it landed on top of our television. Was the mouse better off for the game? Nope, still dead. Was the cat? No, she was just confused, wondering where the hell her mouse had gone.

How will I know when the poem is complete? I’m rarely entirely satisfied with anything I’ve written. It’s been so long since I’ve written a poem I feel more awkward than normal; I’m not sure I’d recognize success if I reached it. And post it, here, for everyone to see? Damn, you people are brave. If I post it, and no one likes it, then that means… what, exactly? I struggle with constructive criticism, either discounting it altogether or giving it so much weight I’m destroyed by it. If no one likes my poem, then I can’t be a writer… I must not be good enough. No happy mediums here.

I’ll look at it again tomorrow. Maybe I’ll have new insight, or will have become brave while I slept. Probably not, but it’s good to have dreams.

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