Sometimes, I think writing poetry is both a blessing and a curse. Only poets would spend hours wrestling over a word or a supposedly simple sentence. We must be crazy.
After agonizing for days, weeks, maybe even months, are we satisfied? No, because we’re not sure we’re finished. We’re not even sure that the poems we get published are finished. We look at them after they come out or, maybe, a year or two later, and see something we want to change.
Even the “greats” experience this. I once read a poem by Eavan Boland in the New Yorker and, later, in her latest collection of poems. I’d saved the New Yorker version and even knew where I’d put it. When I compared it to the version in the book, I saw that she’d made changes. So reassuring. If Eavan Boland isn’t satisfied with a version of her poem in the New Yorker, then the rest of us have permission to tinker forever.
At some point, however, poets have to say “enough,” bite the bullet, and send out some version of their work. If it’s accepted, it’s fixed in that moment in time. Happily, with Eavan Boland as our inspiration, we can always change it later.