Cut the questions
Ending your poem on a question can be intriguing if it’s unexpected, but just like a gun in a play, questions at endings can almost be too easy. What would happen if you moved the question to the middle of the poem and ended the poem on a statement or a description?
End on a movement
Instead of ending on a narrative element, what if you ended on a movement? What if you ended on the speaker looking up? Take a hint from prose and see what you can do with your ending.
End on a non-ending
Take a hint from The Way to Keep Going in Antarctica, which ends on “If I suffered what else could I do.” And end in the same way you started. If you started with a question, end with one. If you started with a claim, end on a claim. See what happens to your poem.
End on a description
Let’s pretend to be Peter Gizzi who ended a poem on “window shade.” End on something the speaker can see, touch, taste, smell, or feel. End on a clear or concrete object.
End on an image
No matter what type of poem you’re writing, you can’t go wrong by ending on a powerful image.
End quieter than you started
What would happen if you ended quieter than you started? If you ended on a whisper, on a child’s finger dipping into a puddle of tea, on the speaker looking at the window and noticing the rain? Quiet doesn’t always have to involve lack of sound. Quiet can also be the space in between moments, the moment in between two noises, or the expression on someone’s face. Quiet can be in the pacing that you write with or the line breaks you use.
Examples of poems with amazing endings
It’s hard to find a poem with a beautiful ending that doesn’t also have a beautiful beginning. If a poem is well crafted, it should be right all the way through, but alas! We need some examples, so let’s look at some amazing last lines! These will be strange without context, but that will call on the muses!
- “riverdark with sound” — from [i count the morning] by Sonia Sanchez
- “and strangely happy with myself” — from “The Bagel” by David Ignatow
- “God bless you. Guilt is magical.” — from “Adultery” by James Dickey
- “I have been her kind.” –from “Her Kind” by Anne Sexton
- “her bleeding hole.” –from “The Dead Lady Canonized” by Imamu Amiri Baraka
“the bottle’s neck I pour a little out: I am fallen”–from “Let Me Handle My Business, Damn” by Morgan Parker
“Like creatures I made up or found in a book, then got to know a bit.–from “I am not a religious person but” by Chen Chen
- “Our names do not appear”–from “Diving into the Wreck” by Adrienne Rich
- “O golden child the world will kill and eat.”–from “Mary’s Song” by Sylvia Plath
- “How marvelous to be a thought entirely surrounded by brains!”–from “Shack Poem” by Robert Bly