2 minutes reading time (354 words)

THE END OF THE POEM

Some people are good at endings. Some people are rubbish. This blog will tell you how to end poems in the right way.

Except of course it won’t. Because though it’s true that lots of poems go on too long, and a few not long enough, no formula or wise advice will help.

I blame Wordsworth. I bet you can remember the last two lines of ‘I wandered lonely as a cloud’ (also known as ‘Daffodils’)?

And then my heart with pleasure fills  
And dances with the daffodils.

That lovely uplift — the neat rhyme that ties up the poem-parcel, after a nicely planned bit of reflection – how we love to end in a way that’s aesthetically and psychologically satisfying! Ah, to end on an ‘up’, on a true insight.

But it’s not Wordsworth’s fault really. Shakespeare’s influence underpins everything. It’s all to do with those Elizabethan sonnets, their neat concluding couplets:

So long as men can breathe or eyes can see,
So long lives this, and this gives life to thee.

So long... So long... Oh YES – that repetition is a clincher. Or the big cue — here comes the end — in a well-placed ‘Therefore’:

Therefore I lie with her and she with me
And in our faults by lies we flattered be.

But we of the disillusioned twenty-first century — we of the age of Donald Trump — can’t settle for the ‘right’ ending. We're suspicious of easy answers. We prefer, if anything, to end on a question.

Rhyme still regularly pops up (even in unrhymed poems) in the last two lines, but these days it’s unlikely to sum up a major ‘truth’. More probably it will cock a snook or undermine an assumption. 

So what can be said about how to end?

Poem endings can’t be planned in advance. Like the work itself, the good ones surprise you. They take you (and your reader) somewhere you never anticipated.

All the practising poet can work on is the art of recognition: noticing when the words are done with you.

Which may — in art as in life — be sooner than you thought.

Full colour photo of wood absolutely full of bluebells

HOW TO BAKE A POETRY PAMPHLET
HOT CROSS PAMPHLETS
 

Comments 9

Guest - Nell on Sunday, 30 April 2017 22:15

I don't want to say the last word on this. It might seem like a kind of an ending.

I don't want to say the last word on this. It might seem like a kind of an ending.
Guest - hmmmm on Sunday, 24 June 2018 15:29

this site didn't even tell me HOW to end a poem, it just had a dig at Shakespeare. *Clapping Emoji*

this site didn't even tell me HOW to end a poem, it just had a dig at Shakespeare. *Clapping Emoji*
Helena Nelson on Sunday, 24 June 2018 16:40

Dear Hmmmm

This Site (or rather its author) had no intention of telling you how to end a poem, as it points out in paragraph two.

You are the only person who can know how to end your own poem.

But you already knew that. ;-)

Dear Hmmmm This Site (or rather its author) had no intention of telling you how to end a poem, as it points out in paragraph two. You are the only person who can know how to end your own poem. But you already knew that. ;-)
Guest - Alexis Pena on Thursday, 28 March 2019 19:34

I'm writing a Poem for My high school English class and I'm having a hard time figuring out a simple yet amazing ending to one of my short poems, a poem that is based off of a Leonid Afremov oil pastel painting.

I'm writing a Poem for My high school English class and I'm having a hard time figuring out a simple yet amazing ending to one of my short poems, a poem that is based off of a Leonid Afremov oil pastel painting.
Guest - Alexis on Thursday, 28 March 2019 19:35

I agree this SITE WAS NOT HELPFUL TO ME @ ALL!

I agree this SITE WAS NOT HELPFUL TO ME @ ALL!
Helena Nelson on Thursday, 28 March 2019 19:52

Dear Alexis, perhaps you should just go for simple and forget all about 'amazing'. You might find that's the answer.

Dear Alexis, perhaps you should just go for simple and forget all about 'amazing'. You might find that's the answer.
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Monday, 26 August 2019