Follow Harriet on Twitter
Matthew Zapruder in conversation
Here Zapruder speaks to ending poems and the greatest difficulty he faces as a writer:
Are you sick of being asked, “How do you know when a poem is finished?” I’ll ask anyway. How do you know when you’ve finished revising a poem? How do you know when a word is adding its bit of magic or just getting in the way?
I wish there was a liquid or something we could dip the end of our poems into that would turn a certain color if we had exactly the right ending. Maybe there is a poet out there with a scientific background who can get to work on that. All I can say, and this isn’t particularly helpful, is that if the poem doesn’t yet have the right ending, I just have a nagging feeling that the poem is not yet finished, or maybe finished in a way that is a little false. I listen to that feeling. It’s easy to write an acceptable ending, and a lot harder to find the one that really feels as if it simultaneously opens and closes the poem in just the right way. Usually if I don’t get it right away, I have to let things sit, keep coming back to it over and over again, until I know I’ve gotten it.
What is your greatest difficulty as a writer and how do you deal with it?
I am very, very, very distractible. Sometimes I deal with it well, by setting up schedules and situations that isolate me (literally and/or figuratively) in a space of writing. But more often than not I find myself looking back on a day, or week, or month, with great frustration, because I can see how much time I have wasted.
Much more after the jump.