When An Unfinished Poem Is Published…?

I have found myself in a bit of a pickle.

I sent the same draft of a poem to two poetry knowledge bases: my poetry workshop and Chrissy Montelli (Geneseo alum, poet, close friend).  See, I was hoping to get Chrissy’s comments before I submitted my poem for workshop, but Chrissy is neck-deep in “thesis land” for her MFA and couldn’t get notes to me in time.  Well, I edited my poem according to her notes and submitted it to MiNT Magazine (the magazine wanted more submissions, so I just sorta went for it).  However, after reading over my classmates’ notes for that same poem, I realize that the poem I submitted to MiNT is definitely not the final version of this poem!

Now, I’m not about to withdraw the poem from MiNT (because it’s not like I can submit the new version now).  However, it reminds me of something that somebody in the English department said (Rachel Hall? Jess Fenn?) about published work, how something can be published and still not be “done.”  Apparently, people change their published writing, and then publish it again!  That’s an option!  It’s so odd to me because I like to complete tasks before I show off my work to anyone, but I guess that’s just not how writing always works…If, by some chance, this poem makes it into MiNT without the edits from my class, I just have to be okay with it being there even though it doesn’t look like the finished product.  I mean, being published is not a bad problem to have, but my rigidity is not gonna take it well.

Have any of you found yourselves in this place?

2 Replies to “When An Unfinished Poem Is Published…?”

  1. Megan~
    I’ve never had this problem, but from what I know about the world of writing is that a piece is never, ever finished. This comes from my belief that writing is an extension of ourself and, because we as people are always changing, our writing both past and present is bound to be subject to change. Just because something is published doesn’t mean that it is finished. Being published simply means that in the submitted draft, the technical work is “complete” to the point where everything is cohesive, and fits in the realm defined in the world of the poem, or story, or article.

  2. Dill or Sweet?

    I can say that I have never had this issue, but I certainly understand the predicament. Martha Rhodes once said that her poems are constantly “artifacts” of where she is as a poet in that time. I tend to live by that. Because when a poem isn’t exactly where I want it to be, I don’t stress about it because it simply expresses who I am as a person, and where I stand in that moment as a poet. So even if this ‘unfinished poem’ was published, it’s just an artifact of where you are right now! Revisions are exciting though, good luck!


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