Endings feel so incredibly important--the climax of a poem, and getting them exactly right feels like so much of the work of a poem. I learned early on from poets like Charles Simic, James Wright, and Jane Kenyon that endings can absolutely make or break a poem.
What I love about his quote is that it describes the exact feeling a reader gets at the ending, when we realize the writer has gotten it exactly right. It feels like what we've been heading toward, or what we intuitively felt ourselves about something but hadn't yet articulated. And then the surprise. The surprise wakes us up to ourselves and our world in a fresh way. It avoids any sense of the cliched or overworked and manages to open us up even before we realized we needed to open up. I think few poems can truly do both, and when they do it gives us such a rush.
I think if I had to choose one thing to love most about poetry (at least today) it would be that rush--both as a reader when I read a poem that does that--and as a writer, when I sometimes (not often enough) manage to create the sweet, addictive rush myself.
So here's a sweet little Simic poem. Thanks Charles.
|Eyes Fastened With Pins|
|by Charles Simic|
How much death works, No one knows what a long Day he puts in. The little Wife always alone Ironing death's laundry. The beautiful daughters Setting death's supper table. The neighbors playing Pinochle in the backyard Or just sitting on the steps Drinking beer. Death, Meanwhile, in a strange Part of town looking for Someone with a bad cough, But the address somehow wrong, Even death can't figure it out Among all the locked doors... And the rain beginning to fall. Long windy night ahead. Death with not even a newspaper To cover his head, not even A dime to call the one pining away, Undressing slowly, sleepily, And stretching naked On death's side of the bed.
The NYT article: http://www.nybooks.com/blogs/nyrblog/2012/may/15/why-i-still-write-poetry/
Photo Credit: Haggard & Halloo Publications
Poem Citation: http://www.poets.org/viewmedia.php/prmMID/15259