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The topic for this write off is: Exercise

A Simple Exercise in Ivory

While she waits, her nimble fingers
traverse the keys to keen
certain subtle sensitivities
she cannot weave with words

(imperfect language, brutal and crass, asks
her to phrase her feelings far too exactly…
and what is there to say? Aside from this reliving
of his cheek pressed against hers, his breath
on her ear as he whispered… such nothings...)

In lonely bars, certain living rooms
in practice spaces rented for an afternoon
she waits – so restless notes climb and tremble;
her impatience presses the treble pedal
before sentiment yearns for lilting delicacy…

(The moonlight glancing off his white cotton suit
his pant hems rolled to skim the waves
as they danced on the edge of a receding tide
her milk-pearl fingers resting on the tendrils, dark, spry
exposed by the widened v of his dress shirt, so just
beneath the thrashing of the surf, she felt his racing heart)

For the shot of bourbon she will not drink
the scratchy mist of bitter salt-spray and
warm memories of which she no longer thinks
her eyes close as, mutely, then
she lets her fingers speak

(Until the pour of music, once more
washes his ghost away
and opening her eyes she finds
no one there to implore
“Don’t, please -- stay”)

A perfect stranger requested, once
the name of her soul-haunting melody
With the slightest wry grin, her vision
still fixed on her hands, she replied
“Why, it’s nothing … just
a simple exercise in ivory”

"All the darkness in the world
cannot put out the light
of one candle"

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The following comments are for "A Simple Exercise in Ivory"
by hazelfaern

The nod goes to you
I liked the poem. It was an interesting take on "excercise". It flowed nicely, painting a vivid picture and bringing me nicely to the conclusion.

I felt this was the better of the two.

Good job.


( Posted by: Jeff [Member] On: January 31, 2005 )

Hazelfaern's Ivory
Your wonderful ability to bring your readers INTO this poem is a great writing strength that you own with this poem Hazelfaern.
I felt fulfilled after reading this, glad that I came to check both these poems out. Very glad I did.
Liquid smooth....well done, this is my favorite.


( Posted by: Dareva [Member] On: February 1, 2005 )

Ivories tickled
Clever poem. I liked the intercutting between the piano playing and the intimate lover's scene. At first I thought it was a seduction, but by the end it seemed like something more desperate. I'm going to re-read it a few times.

You use language the way an acrobat uses airspace -- twisting and turning and weaving nimbly through words. This is especially evident in the "piano" stanzas.

There was something that put me off, though: "such nothings". "Nothings" in that context is over-used, and I'm sure you could find something more creative (as the poem itself indicates!).

Excellent work.

( Posted by: Viper9 [Member] On: February 2, 2005 )

By the way
Ignore dao05. Obviously, he doesn't know what he's doing and he didn't even bother to explain himself.

( Posted by: Viper9 [Member] On: February 2, 2005 )

This is poetry.

( Posted by: Georgie [Member] On: February 2, 2005 )

A Woman and Her Song
Viper ~ I think you're probably more than right about "such nothings". Honestly, I'm bothered by both the first and second bracketted stanzas.

What I was trying to do, here, is to examine the idea of a woman who is haunted by a memory -- whose only expressive outlet for that memory is through her music. The bracketted stanzas are there to convey her internal experience of her song. I liked the idea of leaving out certain details -- what exactly is she waiting for? What happened to the man in her memory? -- because, I think, this is the way life is experienced, in fragments which may become oversaturated with meaning and power.

I'm not sure how to rephrase "such nothings". I want to succinctly convey the cusp of an ache, a longing which is both pleasant and painful, simultaneously, so it doesn't even have words, it's just a sigh.

This poem is a bit of a break from my usual style. There's a part of me which feels it comes perilously close to being bodice-ripper material. But then that thought intrigues me. Why make certain thoughts or ideas off limits?

As different as our two poems are, I get the feeling Idomis and I have one more thing in common between our two works than the simple subject of exercise. I think we both pushed to work an approach which might strike some individuals as unappealing -- in my case, I wanted to work with emotion, sentiment and the vague conjuring of something slightly erotic. I wanted to see if I could work with an almost Victorian level of passionate anguish, cross breed a character study with the thematic elements of a Harlequin romance novel, and see if I could pull it off.

If this doesn't work for you as a reader, I want to know why.

( Posted by: hazelfaern [Member] On: February 2, 2005 )

Striking chords
Very well done, as usual. I am going to agree with Viper for the second time today, I too stopped at the line "such nothings." Though "Please, don't...stay" is also a little overused, it didn't bother me at all. I thought it worked very well in this place.

I would try to re-word, or re-work the such nothings part, but just my opinion. I agree with Windchime, this piece flowed very well to become what you were describing. I also think you worked the parenthetical memory portion very well. Sometimes that type of writing is distracting, but you have mastered it. Great job. If you couldn't tell, I'm giving you the high score : )

( Posted by: everybodyelsesgirl [Member] On: February 2, 2005 )

The pianist
An interesting format you've chosen here. There's a lot going on, and it takes several readings to catch everything, but it's worth the effort, because it's got a suprising depth to it.

The topic for this write off ("Excersise") is a word with much broader definitions and contexts than most, and I think the divergence between the two poems reflects that. They're completely different in both style and content, and that also makes it much harder to decide on a winner. However, I have picked this one, on the grounds that it just seems to have more depth to it.

They were both, though, very good write off entries, so thank you for posting it, and well done. :)

( Posted by: Spudley [Member] On: February 3, 2005 )

I pictured Italy by day and fine liquors in the cabinet. Grand piece. It reminded me of the Pixies song actually something from Doolittle not Trompe de la Monde, but great all the same.Stylish.

( Posted by: Xinerama [Member] On: February 4, 2005 )

Victorian, yes... but Beat, too
You know how much I love the subtle meter and the internal rhyme, so you know I'm gonna give you high marks for that stuff. Mmm, mmm, good. Goes down with a nice burn, just like the bourbon. No plinkity-plink, but mmm-shhhh-mmm-mmmm.... OK. I now officially have no idea what I'm talking about.

Anyway. This had a beat-poet feel at points, which was neat, since we've got a kind of bar setting for some of it. Great from a synesthesia point of view.

The meter of the first stanza is perfect. And then the second stanza is so bloody well not perfect, and the content is about imperfection, and that's great. Nice.

I'm going to echo Viper's comment, and your agreement, though. And then some; you've got two kinds of language fighting each other in this poem [Note to self; must rewrite lyrics of "Everybody Was Kung-Fu Fighting" into "Everybody was Haiku Fighting."].

1. Great, original language. "Pour of music," "rolled to skim the waves," "milk-pearl fingers," and the wonderful out-of-context use of "pefect stranger." I loved that.

2. Strangely quaint, almost cliched language. The "nothings," "racing heart," "bitter salt spray." Etc.

I do sense what you're trying to do. It *is* an exercise, and an exercise within and exercise about an exercise. So that's a triple self-referential inversion. And the reason for my score of 9 (that plus the meter and the internal rhyme, which is handled deftly).

I think you either need to make the contrast between the two types of word choices more apparent -- either by stacking them in the two alternating stanzas -- or by making it so blimey obvious that it's clearly two different narrators, or the same narrator in different frames of mind, or something like that. As it stands, she comes across as a bit schizophrenic, which isn't attractive or interesting, just a bit distracting.

This is a minor issue that can be resolved. Terrific poem.

( Posted by: andyhavens [Member] On: February 4, 2005 )

I have to agree with so many positive comments here. However, I did not find any of the aforementioned "distractions" valid to my ear.

This was a very smooth, delicious poem. I did not feel the "cleched language" the least bit out of place, in your face, obvious or annoying in any way. These fit this piece.

Yes, people may get sick of love poems - but only if they are not touched by them in a way that brings them back to that place (or perhaps for some, makes them wish they had been there at some time in the first place.)

I felt that melancholy, slow, mindless creative surge that comes from those moments when you just let your thoughts go where they may - even if it hurts, when I read this. I was at the ivories. Thank you for taking me there.

Felicia Stone

( Posted by: feliciastone [Member] On: February 5, 2005 )

simple exercise
I love the title and it caught my imagination before I even read the piece. A deceptive title, since nothing was simple in this poem. The best has been said by others, so I will just say I truly loved this one and go and rate. warm regards huni.

( Posted by: Huni [Member] On: February 5, 2005 )

rating jess
I don't know why, but in the last write off, I rated both but later when I was catching up on comments, I noticed my rating on one poem was gone. It was there earlier (I simply rated it again, but it may have been late) just wondering if this is happening for others this time. regards huni.

( Posted by: Huni [Member] On: February 5, 2005 )

I’d like to extend my warmest congratulations to Jennifer for this subtle, well-crafted piece! You can feel the expounded narrative of this “simple exercise in ivory.” Without doubt, this poem has attracted rave comments for her fine delivery. The scores say it all, undeniably.

Thank you for sharing us your sharp and nifty observations. Again, this has been a worthy Exercise for the mind and the über-mind.

Best regards,

( Posted by: idomis [Member] On: February 6, 2005 )

Exercise Write Off
I liked the musical approach to exercise. I am a musical amateur myself. I was distracted by the man references later. I appreciated the choice of words and their juxteposition in order to make the reader follow the varied levels of meaning in the writing and if musical to feel the familiarity of your terrain.

( Posted by: EchoMarm [Member] On: September 14, 2006 )

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