Monday, 22 August 2011

The final (interactive) line

11:58:00 Posted by Shaun , , , , , , 6 comments

I've always enjoyed having the last word. It gives me a challenge at work (where stubborn pensioners often fight back for it, I should add) and, obviously, something to wind people up with.

I can't help myself a lot of the time, it just sort of flows out.

"See you,"

"Yeah, Thank You,"

"Bye then"

"See you soon"

"Do you want the door open or closed?

"Open is fine thanks, bye,"

"Bye for now."

"Cheers... Bye."

I consider this a win. I don't know if the pensioners know about my little game, but these closing exchanges have gone on past the rather pushy 3 or 4 turns each before now. Like I said, I can't help myself.

With that useless little titbit about me safely stowed in your minds, I'll get on with this week's blog post. As ever, we're on a new week, new theme and it was my turn to pick it again. We're running with 'The Final Line' for a couple of reasons. Firstly, I find it the hardest line of a poem to ever write (despite regularly writing it mid-way through the idea). It must have poise, it must have punch, it must sound 'proper'. The other reason is that I was really struggling for both an idea and a guest blogger: Lara (girlfriend, Tuesday's blogger) bailed me out again with suggestions.

For me then, the final line can carry a poem. It can make that lasting impression on a reader and can shift the entire mood of a piece. As with a twist in a story, a twist in a poem is right up my street. Similarly with a good ending, something strong or in-keeping with the rest of the poem that still packs enough of a punch. Consider Kipling's 'If'. A hugely popular bit of back and forth that has had more essays written on it than I care to imagine. All of the critiques aside though, isn't it the final line that makes it? Can you even remember many more lines? I'm not going to pretend I know enough about the individual features of the poem to go into depth- go somewhere else for that but, as a point on how important endings are, I think it works.

This is something that I have been trying to work into my own poetry for the last couple of years. I like the shock factor as you already know. I particularly like closure. I like shifts in tone that knock you back a little. I like stupid half rhymes and quips. It may be my concentration but honestly, there is nothing doing for me in a waffling poem that goes on for three pages plus. I'd go as far as to say that if you aren't somebody I know in person, I'm never going to bother. I must have owned a copy of Howl for three years now- it is still too long for me to get into it. Something short though, say 'Digging' and you're talking my language. Strong throughout, evocative, powerful and tidy on a page- with a good final line- tick, tick, tick, tick, tick, I like...

On that note then, I'll leave you with a little task for this week. The power of a final line is not to be doubted. It moves poems full circle sometimes and can have a devastating effect. Naturally, I should follow this with a quiz about famous last lines and set you all off naming poems. I'm not online and I'm not at home though, so neither of these are going to happen (since my memory is shocking). Instead, you can have a few possibilities for a poem I'm going to write for the Blackpool book. How should I end it guys... Most votes by tomorrow, I'll go with it.

1. On the day we no longer need you.

2. Could all have something to do with it.

3. The bureaucracy, bitches and bling.

4. Goodnight Blackpool, sleep tight.

5. But you won't ride a donkey on Fridays.

P.S. Consider this a gentle reminder for submissions. Submission details are on the facebook page (available here) but you need them in by the end of this week!

Keep on writing,





Ashley R Lister said...


Your last word habit would seriously bug me. Seriously.

And I think my favourite line of the above is no. 4. Goodnight Blackpool, sleep tight. I don't know why but I find it appealing.


Jen said...

It sounds as if the gauntlet has been thrown down and knowing that you can talk the hind leg off a donkey I will stay on that theme and pick line 5. Nothing says Blackpool better than donkeys.

vicky ellis said...

I definitely agree with Jen. It's got to be number 5.

You do know we're all going to be playing that game with you at the next event don't you? I'm going to send a teenager over to play it because they are world class at having the last word.

I'm with you on the epic poem point. I read the Rhyme of the Ancient Mariner because enough people had mentioned it so that I felt I had to know its content. I'm highly unlikely to commit the effort into a modern epic. Good, short poems take enough time to decipher. I'm not sure very long poems should even be considered poems, but that's another debate for another week I feel.

Lindsay said...

DONKEYS, go with the donkeys. donkeys are great.

Ste said...

I concur - (sorry for tardyness) DONKEYS!!!

Lara Clayton said...

Ash: I can definitely say that Shaun's last word habit is rather annoying. Although I have discovered that a stubborn silence is brilliant for readdressing the balance :)

Shaun: as I've told you already (though you probably weren't listening, so I'll tell you again), I like no. 4.