Description: I've revised the ending, following a number of complaints about the style clash of the last line of the initial version.
Thanks again for all the comments,
The following is only for those who are interested in sharing in the creative process that led to the poem below. If not interested, just skip to the poem, which is the only thing that really counts, to my mind. But Dale and Glen have convinced me that this place is really a collective workshop, and that we can learn from sharing in each others' experiences.
The germ for writing this piece was the striking contrast between the "you" of the poem in ordinary life and at the piano. The bird metaphors (startled starlings, gliding swans) were there from the beginning, as well as the idea that the face became a window to the soul and the idea of my being privileged to witness this. I had initially thought that it would come out as a sonnet in pentameter, but I realized that 14 lines would not be enough to say what I wanted to say, and also that I didn't have a final couplet that worked. At one point in the process, I had the rhymes "slow", "below", "lips" and "slips", and it suddenly occurred to me that I might try "terza rima", which is a rhyme pattern where you have 3 line stanzas rhyming in ABA BCB CDC, etc, so that the middle line of each stanza gives the 1st and last line rhymes of the following stanza. A posteriori, I think this was a good choice, because it links the stanzas together and makes the whole thing flow, a bit like music does (I did not realize this when I made the choice, only after it was finished). So this led to "eclipse" and from there, I was pushed on by the rhyme scheme, which is, in a way, like a motor running on its own power.
I had also decided from the beginning that I wanted the word "piano" in rhyming position towards the end of the poem.
I was faced with the problem that I couldn't find words that would rhyme with "piano" keeping the "a" vowel, which meant I was going to have to stray pretty far away (window and scherzo) and be rhyming only on the last, unstressed syllable
I ended up deciding to keep window/piano/scherzo in rhyming position, because they seemed to me to be important words in the poem, and because they echo back to the rhymes of "slow" and "below" in the first stanza, creating a certain circularity (but notice that in the first stanza they are the final stressed syllables in their line, they are not extrametrical, so that the parallelism is not complete).
Joachim transfigured at the piano -------------------------------------------
Joachim transfigured at the piano
A shroud of awkward shyness makes you slow
to share. Old walls of modesty eclipse
the blazing skies of sentiment below.
Beneath my touch your skin is cold, your lips
are artless, fearing barriers not yet passed;
my body soothes you till resistance slips.
But at the keyboard, skill and grace recast
your ev'ry movement: fingers, arms a-flight
like maddened starlings when the music's fast,
hands leap and bound, notes rush on in delight.
Then stirred by introspective euphony,
they glide like swans o'er ripples black and white
that flow in agile rhythmic harmony,
reflected in your open face — a window
through which I see, now joy, now agony.
So priv'leged hearing you at the piano,
your soul laid bare for me alone to hold.
Now wrap my feath'ry yearnings in a scherzo,
and let the strains of chiming skin unfold.
this is really a nothing comment and for that i apologize. i can tell you have thought a lot about word placement and form etc but the problem is... i know nothing about such things.
but i do know what moves me.
this piece moves me.
the way you have captured the fluidity of movement and grace in this piece is beautiful. i like the idea of a transfiguration at a piano and i understand the idea wholly having watched the way people disappear when they begin to play
i adre the way you set the stage... the way you exposed joachim... the effort it took him [?] to get up there and to actually play something... the timidity of the first few notes even though this piece is known intimately by his fingers, by his whole being...
At first take, I just like the story. It has a logical flow that satisfies.
On the second take, I like the way you have played on words, using the science of metrics to punctuate and convey a mood, first fast, then slow.
The third take, and this is only because I note you are a Professor, english is your second language, and you have a passion for metrics; I have the following untrained, but intuitive view: 1. 'Skies' and 'below' are a paradoxial pairing of a noun and adjective 2. The second and last stanzas indicate a conjugation, however the first, third, fourth and fifth stanzas serve to build to the sexual culmunation (satisfied by the last line) 3. The entire poem is romantic. The words selected weave castles in the sky, but for the first half of the last line: 'now play my body'. It seems almost crude in the context of lyrical fantasy that has set the benchmark in the preceding lines?
These three points halted the flow of the poem for me, though only because my thought processes are structured in such a way that is inconsistent with these images. I found that I faltered and needed to re-route cerebral circuitry to compensate. This may have been your intent?
To me this is cute, my first thought (given because of the enjambment) when reading this line is the boy seems slow witted; then you hit us with (to share) One other thing the enjambment does is take some of the effectiveness from the [slow, below] rhyme. But this seems apropos in context with things beginning slowly and a little awkward
to share. Old walls of modesty eclipse the blazing skies of sentiment below.
Beneath my touch, your skin is cold, your lips
I don't like the apostrophe after touch I read it as a pause and I like the sound more without a pause until cold. However I can see these pauses as fingers stoking in that respect its ok, however I still like the melody more with one smooth stoke up to cold. For me this would make it a long artful caress.
are artless, fearing barriers not yet passed, my body soothes you till resistance slips.
But at the keyboard, skill and grace recast your ev'ry movement; fingers, arms a-flight
[like mAdde/ned stAr/lings when the mUsic's fast,] There is nothing specific wrong with this line But you might consider:
[like maddened starlings flush when music's fast,]
If we insert flush here, the word itself lends a lushness of sound as well as augmenting the idea of passion with its connotations. Then of course it plays on rush which comes later.
hands leap and bound, notes rush on in delight. I think this line works well the spondaic emphasis adds that perfect touch like birds taking flight.
Then stirred by introspective euphony, they glide like swans o'er ripples black and white
(that)to flow in agile rhythmic harmony, just the at sound of (that) seems out of place. I like to for its sonics
reflected in your open face — a window
through which/I see, /now joy/, now ag/o.ny.
I see it this way making agony a three syllable word.
So priv'leged hearing you at the piano, your soul laid bare for me alone to hold.
Now play my body, let [it] sing a scherzo.
I suggest [us] instead of [it] us is softer but a more important word than it, also [us] is more indicative of harmony. or [as we sing a scherzo] would be my second choice. Dale.
Sorry, I don't really have any of the comments you requested for. I just like your style of writing. It's really just a paragraph poetically broken apart- I like those lately. I especially enjoyed the parts about the swans... that was beautiful. It really enforced the black and white idea... and introduced a theme oftentimes associated with swans: love. I'm favoriting it.