When does a poem become a poem?

When does a poem become a poem?

I have poems that I started ten or twelve years ago that I’m still working on.  Well, actually, I should say that I have one poem from that time in my life that has remained definitively unfinished, and a spattering of non-consequential unfinished poems.  With regard to the one though, I don’t think I’ve taken a stab at finishing it since I’ve been married.  Now, four kids later, my writing style has changed and I don’t know if I’ll ever finish it.

Does it matter if I finish it?   No.  Robert Frost comes to mind and just as way leads on to way, poem leads on to poem and I can’t see as I’ll ever make it back to that one.  So what is it?  What is this thing that’s hanging out in my journal from ten years ago?   It’s not a poem, but I refer to it as a poem that’s not finished.  Maybe it’s a pre-poem, or a potential poem.  Or maybe just an unfinished poem.

Now, what about a poem that I start right this instant, it takes me an hour to write and then it’s finished.  At what point in the duration of the hour does it become a poem? What’s the moment that it transforms from poetic lines to an actual poem.

If two weeks from now, I decide to edit the poem I write tonight.  The poem is at one point fixed as a poem, and then changes are thrust upon it.  The fact that I change it two weeks from now doesn’t make it less of a poem now.

“what you doing?” someone might ask me.

“Writing a poem,” I answer.  Which might not be true if the lines of verse that I’m scribbling never become a finished poem.  Is a finished poem different than an unfinished poem?  Something poetic isn’t necessarily a poem.

I do know that when I’m writing a poem, there’s a point where I stop writing and look at the poem and know that it’s a poem.  Not only do I realize that it’s a poem, It’s a poem that I created.

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