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Thread: Flexible Working

  1. #1
    Registered User Hawkman's Avatar
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    Flexible Working

    He spends his time in music;
    endless exercise for fingers
    skilled in other crafts,
    walking unfamiliar paths
    along the neck, between the frets,
    on strings that vaguely stay in tune.
    His voice now lacks the range that once it had
    but still, within its limits,
    holds a certain sweetness to account.

    Plucked out in sympathetic harmony,
    the notes of folk-tunes on guitar
    sing their warm accompaniment,
    whereas the banjo merely quacks
    arpeggios in twanging runs,
    and the brittle accents of the mandolin
    form jigs and reels.
    This is how those zero hours are filled
    whilst waiting for the phone to ring.

  2. #2
    Card-carrying Medievalist Lokasenna's Avatar
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    A very evocative poem, Hawk! Some of the imagery here is gorgeous - in particular I love the strings 'that vaguely stay in tune' and the banjo that 'quacks arpeggios'. Those final two lines perfectly balance off all that as come before, and hint at a compelling narrative: the time outside of music implied in the opening words.
    "I should only believe in a God that would know how to dance. And when I saw my devil, I found him serious, thorough, profound, solemn: he was the spirit of gravity- through him all things fall. Not by wrath, but by laughter, do we slay. Come, let us slay the spirit of gravity!" - Nietzsche

  3. #3
    Registered User Hawkman's Avatar
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    Hi Loki, and thanks for reading. Glad you enjoyed the imagery I wouldn't wish a zero hour contract on anyone!

    Live and be well - H

  4. #4
    Registered User Delta40's Avatar
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    I have a brother just like this! Though I did think of Bob Dylan too....
    The Rotten Apple Injures its Neighbour

  5. #5
    Live. Be. Sing. symphony's Avatar
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    Ah it feels like in spite of all his efforts, the only music he wants to hear is that of the phone ringing.
    .
    ...the smell of flowers through metal labyrinths.

  6. #6
    Still, on a chalk plateau Bar22do's Avatar
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    Hey Hawk,

    As you know, my capacity to deliver a proper comment is limited. But I wanted to relate. So this is how I'd see your poem as more collected and better flowing (I think it's worth revising a bit). Perhaps it'll give you an idea or two of your own how to revise it. The end is too much of a clear statement imo, but between my questionable English and poor knowledge of poetry, only you can judge whether there is something to use here or not.

    Wishing you the best, Bar

    His fingers, skilled in other crafts,
    walk unfamiliar paths along the neck,
    between the frets, on strings
    that render a vague tune.
    Today, his voice lacks the range
    it once had, yet, within its limits,
    holds a certain sweetness to account.

    Plucked out in lenient harmony,
    on guitar, the notes of folk-tunes sing
    their warm accompaniment,
    while the banjo only quacks arpeggios
    in twanging runs, and the mandolin's
    brittle acccents form jigs and reels.

    Zero hours, waiting for the phone to ring.
    Last edited by Bar22do; 04-27-2015 at 06:42 AM.

  7. #7
    Registered User Hawkman's Avatar
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    Hi Delta: for a moment, there, I had a flashback to an old Stanley Holloway monologue; "Beat the Retreat on Thy Drum" Shades of Napoleon saying, "I've a mother like her..." to young Sam Dylan, eh?

    Thanks for reading and letting me know that you had

    Symphony: Hi and thank you, too, both for reading and commenting in such sympathetic harmony with the work (must be a music thing...).

    Sweet Bar: Though I'm always delighted to spot your handle juxtaposed against one of my thread titles, and your soothing blue font cools my habitual red rage, I can't help wondering if you might be missing something in your reading of the poem, as is implied by your stated desire to 'relate' and also by your reworking of the piece.

    The primary keys to interpretation lie in the poem's title and in the concept of the 'Zero Hour Contract." I wonder what you understood by these when you penned your suggested revision. If you are unfamiliar with these common english language expressions (and the context in which they are used) it goes some way towards explaining why your version concentrates purely on the music.

    My poem is essentially an ascerbic social comment on the iniquity of "Flexible Working" and "Zero Hour" contracts, which demonstrate an employer's lack of commitment to, and undervaluation of, their workforce by not guaranteeing them sufficient work hours to pay a living wage—whereas the employee is expected to be constantly available, at short notice, working any hours, day or night, which suit the employer (assuming that the employer requires them to work at all...). "Flexible Working" is little more than a euphemism for a kind of slavery.

    So why do I go on (at some length) about someone practicing the playing of music on a variety of instruments?

    As well as being literal, it is also figurative. The "endless exercise" (which you omit) speaks of restless energy, dedication and the pursuit of excellence, whilst the different instruments indicate that he is versatile and multi-skilled. The fingers "walking unfamiliar paths" demonstrate both the willingness and ability to continue learning new skills, neither of which is valued by his employer.

    Where I say, "He spends his time in music" you have qualified the statement with "much of," which considerably weakens it. Whereas the implication in my poem is that all his time is spent in music, i.e. not working, your vision suggests a far more relaxed and recreational activity. This brings us to the conclusion. Where I say he is actively waiting for the phone to ring in those zero hours, i.e. the hours not working, what you have supplied actually implies the exact opposite. "Zero hours, waiting for the phone to ring." In other words, he (the subject) is lost in some kind of musical revery and doesn't care whether the phone rings or not, although the comma does lend an element of ambiguity.

    Now let's take a look at your word substitutions. Where I say "strings that vaguely stay in tune" I'm actually talking about the quality (and qualities) of the instruments he plays. Banjos are awkward creatures at the best of times and often sound out of tune even when they're not! As for mandolin, the fact that they have eight strings in pairs means that if one stretches a bit or goes sharp in cold weather, the resulting sound can be quite horrible. The cheaper the instrument the more prone they are to loosing their tuning. By saying the strings "render a vague tune" you imply a lack of precision and ability in the instrumentalist, or alternatively, it suggests someone idly improvising a jazz riff in a sort of dreamy reverie—not my intention at all.

    "Today, his voice lacks the range
    it once had, yet, within its limits,"

    This reads conversationally, but feels just a little bland to me. What I wrote was a line of iambic pentameter, which has a much more affecting rhythm and flow.

    Where I wrote, "sympathetic harmony" you have substituted "lenient" as the modifier. I'm not sure why you felt this was necessary or desirable. Did you, perhaps, consider sympathetic harmony to be tautologous? If so, superficially, at least, I can see why the change was applied, although it might have been better just to omit "sympathetic." However, "lenient" is not appropriate here. Leniency has connotations of authoritarian censorship or punishment. A judge might be lenient in sentencing, or a mother giving a child a slap on the wrist (rather than delivering a hard smack to backside or leg) might merit the word. The sense in which I was using it was more along the lines of, 'with feeling for the music.' If I felt the need to change the word for a three syllable substitute, I might use "empathic".

    You wrote:

    "while the banjo only quacks arpeggios
    in twanging runs, and the mandolin's
    brittle acccents form jigs and reels."

    Again, I'm not sure why you felt the need to replace "merely" with "only." "Merely is nuanced with deprecation and was chosen for this reason. Secondly, having two 'o's in such close proximity, "banjo only" means that the two vowels elide together rather uncomfortably. One is reminded a bit of the tongue-twister, "old oily otto oils old oily autos". The vowel followed by a consonant makes for more precise diction when reading aloud and just sounds better. Also, by making mandolin possessive, the sibilants head into overload. You have seven to my five, and the way I wrote this passage spreads them out more.

    One thing I did like about your original posting was the stanza arrangement. Yes I saw it when you put it up, but having only just come home from a twelve hour night shift (at a mere three hours notice) I'm afraid I couldn't really bring myself to respond at the time. I hope you can forgive me x

    Thanks again to all who've read and commented.

    Live and be well - H
    Last edited by Hawkman; 04-29-2015 at 01:14 PM.

  8. #8
    Registered User miyako73's Avatar
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    wonderful poem, Mr. Hawkman.

    Is there an intent why whilst is used?

    Miyako
    Last edited by miyako73; 04-28-2015 at 02:42 PM.
    "You laugh at me because I'm different, I laugh at you because you're all the same."

    --Jonathan Davis

  9. #9
    Registered User Hawkman's Avatar
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    Thanks for reading, miyako. Glad you enjoyed it.

    In answer to your query: depending on the quality (and date) of your dictionary 'while' may be defined as; "a space of time; time and trouble spent" whereas 'whilst' is defined as:
    "during the time that; as long as; whereas; although; notwithstanding..." From this, you should be able to see why I used whilst. However, modern usage is sloppy and the two have become interchangeable, leading to ambiguity of meaning and accusations of bad grammar from grammar nazis like me but if you restrict your usage to the above definitions you won't be wrong.

    Live and be well - H

  10. #10
    Still, on a chalk plateau Bar22do's Avatar
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    If I often find it difficult to explain (lack of specialized vocabulary in the field) what/why I suggest such or other changes, I still got the meaning of your poem, which I found to be of value; hence my will to comment.
    I maintain the first line is superfluous because we understand from the second and following that the poem's protagonist fills his/her time with music as diligently as possible, that he/she is definitely gifted and skilled etc., while bound to waiting for an agency's phone call throwing a poor offer of a piece, of a few hours work.
    I also still believe the last two lines somehow show the poet doesn't trust the reader, whio already knows that "this is how those zero hours are filled"... This is the reason why I'd shrink them to something more laconic.
    When in prehistory I scribbled this or that of, I agree, discutble value, I did it unaware of yambs and penta... just never learned enough about poetry (may that come in my next reincarnation!), so forgive me for not noticing yours... As for my suggestions, they are only that: suggestions. Take or leave. It was only my guts feeling (which I should have explained, not "rewrite," of course, but the last was faster and I always run after time), but you know, my guts, as much as I care for them... In short, in the future I'll be more disciplined and will limit myself to a general impression re your art, without suggesting. Hope that will be less intrudong.

    Best of all,

    Bar

  11. #11
    Registered User Hawkman's Avatar
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    Sweet Bar: No harm, no foul. I think you probably took longer to rewrite the poem than simply raising your queries would have done in a simple comment. I don't think you'd need to worry about technical terms, you need only point out what is bothering you, and simply say why.

    I know my eyesight isn't what it was, and I confess I took my time when writing, but looking at the time and date of your edit to your revision, and that of my reply... Well! I didn't think I'd taken that long over it! I could have sworn I checked it as I went. Anyway, never mind. So you chopped a bit more off it I'm afraid we'll have to agree to differ over the first two lines of my poem. As a description of a musician at work I feel your excision would read well enough, but in the poem as a whole, as a critique of flexible working and zero hour contracts, it feels out of balance to me.

    I hear what you are saying vis my last two lines, there is something not quite right here. The volta is abrupt, so the problem lies in the transition. The trouble is that anything less is not enough and any more would be too much. However, there is, perhaps, room in L7 S2 to mitigate the abruptness with a more fluid lead in. I will ponder this at my leisure...

    I still think your poetic instincts are sound. There is a flaw in the piece, but writing a revision, which included unnecessary changes, rather camouflaged the valid point you were making. You should get back into writing your own unique offerings. I, for one, would like to read them, and the practice will sharpen your focus.

    Take good care of yourself. Live and be well - H

  12. #12
    Still, on a chalk plateau Bar22do's Avatar
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    , Don't want to feed this words' river further, so just to end: it took me a minute or two to rewrite (and suggest, without imposing, through doing so, sparing time) - while commenting would have taken me much more. I'm permanently busy and catching up with something. So here I do what I can. As it turns, however, hurried kindness can definitely fall prey to misuse, especially if the ground is propicious. I will certainly avoid that in the future. By the way, the sharpness of my focus is OK, thanks for your concern. And, am I mistaken our forum is not particularly the place for evaluation of such or other personal capacities?

    Best from,


    Bar

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