How to end a poem. A story. A conversation. A song. A good life. A bad life.
How to simply end a day.
These are struggles of varying degrees we meet along the way if we're engaged in a certain "in the moment" awareness. That awareness can be a constant challenge in our creative lives. It can never cross our minds until "The End." It can be a sort of panic, a voice asking, "How can I manage this in some graceful, sensible way that brings a little satisfaction?" We might be falling asleep on the couch as the day draws to a close and wonder how we spent our hours.
Or, such a question might never bother us, this "how are things wrapping up" tug many of us feel. That might be because a person just can't bring themselves to struggle with the question. It might not matter to them, in that existential "not buying it" sort of way. Perhaps an artful "out" isn't required.
Ever wonder about all this when trying to end a poem or some other piece of writing? I do.
Some writers struggle with beginnings, or with the fleshing out of the body of a work, or with characters, or with the great question of place. I tend to have a hard time letting go. I think that's due to my sometimes thinking too much for the reader, wondering if what I'm seeing in my head is too foggy on the page, and that if I wrap it up too quickly or too ambiguously they'll end up confused or disengaged or even angry.
Yet there are plenty of successful pieces of writing out in the world that seem as if they have more to say, that hold back, but wrap up anyway. In the hands of a skilled writer this is quite intentional. Used as an obvious emergency release when you've hit a dead end, it's a sophomoric move. There's a difference between a walking trail running up to, rather than off a cliff with a pretty vista.
Especially when dealing with the frequent emotional flash of poetry, we sometimes deal in fragments of thought, rather than in the fully concrete details longer prose can offer. Poetry often relies on a trust of the reader and a confidence of the writer for a satisfaction to come about.
A clear ending, with absolute closure, offering an easy narrative explanation, can be one goal, of course. But poem endings can also be open-ended, yet finished. We have to be alright with both writing and reading that when it happens. And when it happens well, it's lovely.
The end of a life can be like this. We can have plenty of time for the build up, lots of planning, even too much knowledge of the event question. It can also be sudden, but instantly meaningful. Sudden, but full of lingering questions.