Knowing when you have completed your creative work is a concern encountered not only by poets but by artists, writers, composers, and chefs.
Take, for example, the now seldom fried chicken. Before the general awareness of cholesterol had seeped into our veins, a good cooker looked for a golden-brown hue, yes, and sniffed for that special yummy smell, yes, and felt with the touch of a fork or finger for a particular degree of softness, yes.
So, if you want to fry chicken in your kitchen today, those same traditional characteristics of a beautifully prepared bird will help you to know when the thing has cooked long enough.
But maybe you want more. Maybe you want a prize-winning recipe. Maybe you want deliciously fried chicken that you love and everyone else loves too.
If that’s what you want, you may need more than what you see, smell, touch, feel, or even taste, which often comes later anyway.
The unique identifier of tastefully fried chicken will usually arrive through your poetic ear. Since this may be subtle, listen carefully.
Listen for the sound of sizzle throughout the cooking process.
Get so familiar with that sound that you recognize it anywhere.
Then listen for subtle changes.
As you fry chicken, the sizzle stays about the same until the sound drops a decibel or two, and then you know it’s done.
Listen for that little sizzle of readiness in your poems. What does it sound like? A nicely done poem will sizzle with:
Hint of spice
Visually appealing presentation
Feel for reader interest
Tasty side-dishes with a sudden dash of insight
Thought-provoking layers of connotation in your word choices
Ear-pleasing sounds, echoes, and that little sizzle of readiness you will learn to recognize, yes, as you read each poem aloud
(c) 2011, Mary Harwell Sayler, all rights reserved.