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Breathless (cliché exercise)

by Xenny 

Posted: 26 February 2006
Word Count: 76
Summary: This is a bit of a rushed, out of the blue response to the exercise, but posting it as it is for now.

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She used to lash out at him in her temper
he always tried to catch her hands
- his tolerance amazed her

she had so much to say
they sat up talking till four in the morning
for three years

she wanted to do it all
- nothing was enough for her
he was more cautious

but she remembers one night when he held her gaze
and with his hands around her neck
left her breathless

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Comments by other Members

Nell at 19:38 on 26 February 2006  Report this post
Hi Xenny,

I like the ambiguity of this, the daring enjambment of stanzas 2 & 3, wondering/imagining what's happening at the end. I think perhaps this is a poem that could do without capital letters and punctuation, as at the moment it doesn't seem quite sure. You could lose 'in her temper', as it's understood, and maybe 'carefully' too, but the jury's still out on that. I like the way that second stanza relates to 'breathless' at the end - could you make just a little more of that? Eg: She had so much to say/they sat up talking till four in the morning... Then that last stanza would bring the separate strands of the hands and her breath together.

Just tiny things, and only suggestions - see what you think.

I did like this, you have a subtle touch/voice that's difficult to achieve.


joanie at 19:46 on 26 February 2006  Report this post
Xenny, I did enjoy this. I like the form and the fact that I wasn't expecting the ending. I am a bit unsure about the punctuation - capitals and full stops. Perhaps, as Nell suggests, it would be better without any at all.

when he held her gaze
becomes very scary when the reader reads on......!

worth a few more reads, I think!


Xenny at 20:49 on 26 February 2006  Report this post
Nell and Joanie

Yes you're right about the capitalisation I think, thankyou. 'Carefully' was in there because I wanted it fairly clear he wasn't trying to kill her, and wasn't acting against her will. Though a little bit of ambiguity is maybe a good thing.

I'm really sleepy so I'll come back tomorrow to make the changes and think more about your other comments.



Jekyll&Hyde at 22:18 on 26 February 2006  Report this post
Hi Xenny,

This reminds me of a girl I used to go out with, so you've captured emotion that readers can bring as they read it.

I enjoyed it immensely and think it's just the right length, and the final line is perfect.


Nell at 06:07 on 27 February 2006  Report this post
Xenny, it's interesting how the subtext comes through without anything explicit or even suggestive being said. It could be read on a number of levels.


paul53 [for I am he] at 06:22 on 27 February 2006  Report this post
quite a clever piece in a subtle way
sat up talking till four in the morning
for three years
oodles of description in so few words

Shika at 11:26 on 27 February 2006  Report this post
I liked this. There's an entire story in here. S

DJC at 13:53 on 27 February 2006  Report this post
Xenny - this is great - the simplicity belies a real emotional depth. I hope you're sending some of this stuff away!

Just one small thing - punctuation in some places but not others. I'd put it in throughout, personally, but I know you like to use line breaks. Either/or, I think.


Mac AM at 14:00 on 27 February 2006  Report this post
Thirteen lines to capture a relationship.

I am wondering whether there is a perspective issue though. If the she in the poem is strangled, unless she survives, it will be difficult for her to remember. Just a small point.

The breathless ending is quite a suprise and very interesting.


Xenny at 14:48 on 27 February 2006  Report this post
Mac, Darren, Shika, Paul, S.M., Thankyou so much for your comments.

Mac - I wasn't really trying to imply a strangling! (I think the term is 'erotic asphyxiation' but that really seems to move away from the mood of the poem! Maybe it's better left a little blurry). I wanted the idea that she was always pushing the boundaries, whilst he was a lot more grounded and content to enjoy the relationship etc peacefully, but in the last stanza for it to be clear how tuned-in he was to her and able to get carried away by her too. To sometimes abandon his groundedness.

Maybe I didn't quite capture it in the 13 lines ;)

Nell, Joanie, Darren. I've lost the capitals. I wasn't sure if it was right to take them off the first lines but I think it's better. Darren I think I prefer line breaks because I'm so uncertain with punctuation (this must horrify you I know).

Nell I loved your suggestion with the second stanza - it actually feels more right as well.

Please can someone explain enjambment? I've realised I've no idea what it means and it seems a popular word!

Darren, I'd not thought of sending anything off but it's what I'm working towards eventually. Just waiting till I've written the perfect poem first, y'know ;)
Thankyou so much for the vote of confidence.


Nell at 15:06 on 27 February 2006  Report this post
Xenny, enjambment is the carrying over of a sentence from one line or stanza to the next, as in: ...they sat up talking till four in the morning / for three years / she wanted to do it all...

In your poem it's created ambiguity. Did they sit up talking till four in the morning for three years or did she want to do it all for three years? It really doesn't matter whether the reader knows - it's good to wonder.

I did get the erotic ref. (she wanted to do it all...), but if you wanted to make it clearer (not too clear) you could alter the first lines very slightly to suggest passion rather than temper. ('She used to use her nails on him', or something similar. )Perhaps 'temper' is slightly misleading and sets the reader on the wrong track.


Xenny at 15:15 on 27 February 2006  Report this post
Thanks for the explanation - yes I see very well now.

Oh, the 'do it all' was meant more generally really as well. And I definitely wanted the first stanza to suggest a sort of emotional immaturity rather than passion. It's difficult isn't it?! - once you start trying to manipulate a poem to make it read just as you hear it. I know it's impossible, but it's hard to resist trying.

When I wrote it the last stanza just sort of snuck up on me - the focus was definitely more general (relationship, life) up till that point.

Nell at 15:26 on 27 February 2006  Report this post
Xenny, I think this is where re-writing comes in. The poem starts in one way, with some general idea of where it's going, but then takes off on its own. Sometimes it needs a little help to fly as high as it can. The 'do it all' line is one I referred to earlier in the thread about nothing being suggestive or explicit, being nicely ambiguous. And there's no harm in re-writing as long as you save all your drafts!


Paul Isthmus at 00:06 on 28 February 2006  Report this post
Hi Xenny,

I think all the advice you've been given is pretty good, so haven't that much to add..

it's funny - I get the erotic asphyxiation and sexual references, which, admirably, you treat subtly, and allow other shades of meaning room to breathe (pun unintended) - but there is something sinister about the word carefully, which for me suggests overtly that he has snapped and strangled her, rather than it being her own wishes. I think this is actually a very important point to look at if you want to make the poem work.

.. just had a re-read. I think what gives it that reading over the one which you perhaps intend (and which I think is more delicate) is the line

but she remembers one night when he held her gaze

Now, who is in control here? He is. The fact that HE held HER gaze (and a gaze is a very powerful thing - gaze is a powerful word) indicates he was in control... he is not joining in with her, but having power over her... he's asphyxiating her gaze, which is intimately linked with her desire... he is overpowering her, which is the erotic kick - logically it works - she's remembering and so she's still alive.. but for me, the fact that he was the one holding her gaze overpowered that syntax... it is immaterial that she remembers.. she could be remembering as a ghost.. there is something in a gaze that is more powerful than the fact of death.. it remains and is steady, and is remembered as an event by an impersonal universe, which is the perspective of a reader of poetry (in a way).

I'm digressing... what I think is that they should probably share the gaze rather than him holding hers.. which would indicate that he is choosing to join in with her way of looking ... carefully... but he's still joining, becoming an active part in a single experience. This would make it seem more shared and wipe out the possibilities of him killing her by strangulation, which, although unpleasant, are not nearly as deep and complex an observation on sexual relations as the ramifications of sharing in an almost death, at the edge of life, something disturbingly erotic, merging with a single desire...

Thanks Xenny, enjoyed it very much!

Paul I

Xenny at 12:49 on 01 March 2006  Report this post
Paul, thanks. I think I agree with you about the gaze. I see what you mean when you say logically it works as it is, but it definitely wasn't quite what I was after. I was after more of an idea of sharing. And definitely not murder!

I'm not sure what to put instead at the moment so I'll leave it and maybe come back to it sometime, but I'm going to take out the 'carefully' - you and Nell both mentioned that, and I only put it in as an afterthought because I thought it helped dispell the murder idea. And it seems it doesn't.

Thanks again

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