January 10th baby, it’s cold outside
People sometimes often ask me how I know when a play is done.
I ask Kenneth Koch. He wrote a poem about it (The Art of Poetry).
I swear by the first rule:
ask 1) Is it astonishing?
If you can answer that, you probably don’t need all the other questions, but they are good too.
7) Is there any unwanted awkwardness, cheap effects, asking illegitimately for attention,
Show-offiness, cuteness, pseudo-profundity, old hat checks,
Unassimilated dream fragments, or other “literary,” “kiss-me-I’m-poetical” junk?
Is my poem free of this? 8) Does it move smoothly and swiftly
From excitement to dream and then come flooding reason
With purity and soundness and joy? 9) Is this the kind of poem
I would envy in another if he could write? 10)
Would I be happy to go to Heaven with this pinned on to my
Angelic jacket as an entrance show? Oh, would I?
If you are thinking, don’t you have to sort through more analytical stuff about your play, too?
The answer is yes, but I only do a good job of it when I’m feeling like a poet.