"I Stop Writing the Poem" is written as if Tess Gallagher were talking to herself in an attempt to console the pain she is feeling at the loss of her husband, Raymond Carver, the famed short story 1992 author. The poem is as much about their relationship as it is about Gallagher's sense of loss. In fact, the entire collection in which this poem is included, Moon Crossing Bridge (an American Library Association Notable Book in poetry, 1993), is about the life and love of Gallagher and Carver, as seen through Gallagher's mourning.
Gallagher wrote an essay in 1984, which she called "The Poem as a Reservoir for Grief." In the essay, she refers to her belief that poems are the best way to confront grief. The essay was written several years before Carver died and before Gallagher began writing her way through her sorrow. However, in an interview with Katie Bolick for the Atlantic Monthly, Gallagher says, "although I didn't know it at the time, much of what I was writing in that essay was preparatory to those poems" in Moon Crossing Bridge. In the same Atlantic Monthly article, she continues, "that book was written partly in order to sustain the grieving process long enough for me to absorb the loss." She says she realized through writing her poems for this collection, "all the different inflections in the process of grieving." She further describes the process of writing this group of poems as "discovering a form" that she could use to "move with the experience."
In a review of Moon Crossing Bridge in Publishers Weekly, some of the poems in this collection are described as affecting the reader "more because of what lies behind them than because of what shows through." This sentiment sums up "I Stop Writing the Poem," in which Gallagher writes about continuing the mundane chores of life while the reader feels the grief behind the ordinariness of these activities.