On “Finishing Up” by A. R. Ammons

Click here to read the poem.

In the poem “Finishing Up” by A.R Ammons, the narrator wonders if he has lived his life to the fullest. Throughout the work, the narrator gives examples of whether he has done everything that he wanted to do. Through his process of questioning, the narrator shifts his focus from believing that he is separate and needed to see more from the world, to realizing that he is one with the world.

The poem begins with the narrator asking a question to himself. He asks “I wonder if I know enough to know what it’s really like to have been here,” showing that he is uncertain if he has witnessed the small details around him during his lifetime. The narrator gives an example of how many details he has missed when he talks about the October clouds in the sky and how ordinary they look, but he then notices types of clouds that he has never seen before, commenting that “…white clouds shade other white ones gray”. He may be expressing annoyance at himself for not spending his time wisely when he asks, “have I seen sights enough to give seeing over”. At this point in the poem the we do not know where this questioning will lead him and if his judgement will bring him harm or help him live out the rest of his life in peace.

The poem changes when the narrator is able to find the answer to his question. He comes to the conclusion, “I suppose I haven’t done and seen enough yet to go”. He realizes that he has not seen enough by using descriptive and intricate language. For example when he talks about love, he says, “I’m sure many of love’s kinds absolve and heal, but were they passing rapids or welling stirs”. His way of figuring out that he has missed the fine points of life is by actually showing us these details by using descriptive language, which is ironic because he has to see them to convince himself that he missed them.

After answering his question, he is able to grasp the idea that he is one with the world. He realizes that “it may be way on on the way before one picks up the track of the sufficient.” This thought shows him that it is impossible for one person to see everything in the world. He is able to see past his petty questions and comprehend that everything is one with itself by thinking, “not just mind answering itself but mind and things apprehended at once as one.” This shows a maturity, he was being selfish in thinking he had to notice everything, and has matured in thinking that we are all part of a greater essence. He finds peace, “not a scrap of question holding back,” which sets him free from his worried mind.

During the poem, the narrator asks himself a question. His choice will affect his life greatly and determine whether or not he will find peace or always be on the hunt for completion. His decision is made when the narrator thinks beyond his negligible thoughts and considers his part of the world and how he connects to it. He finds peace, and is able to be free from his life and his harsh thoughts.


I chose this poem because I enjoyed the way it flowed from one stanza to the next. The story was also very interesting the detail was immense. The story is also very helpful to know, especially when you begin to doubt yourself. I had trouble understanding the deep detail and story about the poem, but after I met with my teacher is was clear. After that I made an outline and then the paper. After finishing the paper I figured out that the man in the story is telling us that it is fine if you don’t see the whole world. The conclusion matters because it is a helpful lesson that not everybody has heard.

Works Cited

Ammons, A. R. “Finishing Up by A. R. Ammons.” Poetry Foundation , Poetry Foundation, www.poetryfoundation.org/poetrymagazine/poems/143951/finishing-up .

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