Etch A Sketch

Etch A Sketch

[On Etch A Sketch Day 12 July 2018]

 

I am sure if you recall your childhood days
One favourite toy with which to play
Was the Etch A Sketch tablet, a clever device
And parents were sure it was well worth the price

Because this novel invention could ‘wipe the slate clean’
And then begin to trace out a new magical scene
Using the two knobs to control the direction
We could bring our ideas into graphic perfection

The mechanical workings of the cunning machine
Allowed lines to be drawn thus creating a scene
One knob directs a line on the horizontal plane
The other one, vertical, but just the same

Thus by deft movement and manipulation
We can represent virtually any situation
Landscapes and portraits can all be displayed
And no budding artist will e’er be dismayed

So on this Etch A Sketch Day we fondly recall
Of the times when computers could not do it all
Giving thanks for the joy of this quirky possession
Unlike smart-phone usage – not inducing addiction

Ken Fisher

A Broader Mind?

A Broader Mind?

Mark Twain wrote: “Travel is fatal to prejudice, bigotry, and narrow-mindedness, and many of our people need it sorely on these accounts. Broad, wholesome, charitable views of men and things cannot be acquired by vegetating in one little corner of the earth all one’s lifetime.”

 

Having just returned from a mini version of the Grand Tour
Travelling by train and coach and occasionally by boat
Through parts of northern Europe with much allure
New vistas are to a parochial view a strong antidote

In the passage through towns and cities unfamiliar
Observing the lives of others lived out in far-flung places
Noting phenomena sometimes appearing quite peculiar
We see likenesses and differences in peoples’ faces

The architecture of Churches, civic buildings and habitations
Demonstrate patterns developed over historic time-scales
Piazzas, market squares, and hostelries distinctive of each nation
And many structures reflect the ideology which there prevails

But perhaps it is in meeting with the denizens of each location
That we may challenge our thinking and our attitudes
If only we could overcome our linguistic limitations
We can break the bonds of our insular solitude

And no matter that our sojourn in unfamiliar lands
Is bound to be limited ‘less time and distance be reconciled
There can be little doubt that our horizons will expand
Prejudice is challenged as by foreign lands we are beguiled

Ken Fisher

Cactus

Cactus

I don’t know what you think of these prickly plants
Their spines or spikes are seen at first glance
Their stems have chambers to help them conserve
The water they need, their life to preserve

Originally most cacti grew in dry habitats
Where all other plant life would simply collapse
And their thorny exterior would soon scare away
Any desert snake that might chance come their way

Cactus plants come in every shape and size
The number of species is quite a surprise
They don’t have conventional leaves as such
But some do have flowers, but you better not touch

Some cacti are tall, pointing up to the sky
Others quite low and shaped like a pie
Some are multi-coloured, some monochrome
Some, like a temple complete with a dome

There are tiny cactus plants ever so small
And others whose height is really quite tall
Some seem to have large internal tanks
Holding water like our saved money in banks

Anyway whatever you think of these succulents
Many  aficionados appraise their excellence
As decorations arranged in a classic display
Which can easily compete with a floral bouquet

Ken Fisher

Poetry & Poetics

Poetry & Poetics

It seems that there is no limit to what can be said
‘Though the contents of this tome might rarely be read
I am nonetheless grateful to have received this gift
Whose scholarly content one should not resist

Within the compass of a mere 1639 pages!
The editors encapsulate the wisdom of ages
Thus reviewing the realm of poetry and of poetics
An encyclopedic panorama of art and aesthetics

This mammoth collection of sophisticated writings
Should satisfy any reader in quest of its findings
Thus it encompasses the entries in five categories
Surely enough for the most esoteric of enquiries

In analyzing the nature of poetry and poetics
Its offers a response to the sternest of critics
For it embraces every facet of this literary form
As it seek students to enlighten and inform

So this compendium highlights all the major themes
Terminology, periods, movements and genres
Societal influences, history and schools
And the complex mechanics of versifying rules

The range of poetic writing extends without limit
Culture, nationality, racial variation fail to inhibit
Gender and class, hierarchy, form and structure
Fail to enforce insurmountable strictures

Now I embark on this voyage of poetic exploration
Across undulating waves of this titanic publication
As on the distant horizon I strain my weary eyes
Hoping new insights and learning will be my prize

Ken Fisher

Poetic Opacity

Poetic Opacity

 

Quote:

‘Opacity is an intrinsic characteristic of some poetry.
It simultaneously enables and complicates reception’
‘As much as we might have enjoyed reading (and writing) poetry when we were children, in school we are taught that poetry is inherently “difficult,” and that by its very nature it somehow makes meaning by hiding meaning.’    Matthew Zapruder (2017)

I wonder if a poem can only be a poem if it’s meaning is opaque?
Anything which is more straightforward is something of a fake
I don’t wish this comment to appear anti-intellectual
Perhaps my simple verses are really somewhat ineffectual

The use of English language, plain,  uncomplicated
Where each word and line of every verse is quite clearly stated
With a minimal use of tropes, metaphor or simile
Helps to convey the meaning with very little difficulty

But lack of figurative language, leaving all things quite literal
Ignores deep emotions, which ‘true’ poetry renders visceral
Thus the absence of oxymoron, hyperbole and allusion
For which bland literalism is no good substitution

But some might claim this is simply all far too transparent
Demands nothing of the reader to plumb its depths inherent
A true poem should stretch the questing mind
To open the eyes which otherwise stay blind

So poems where at first the meaning seems opaque
Where we must wrestle hard thus the hidden code to break
When we are challenged by obscure ideas and expressions
In the end the aesthetic reward is seemingly more precious

I suppose I do not wish to argue the validity of the case
In favour of poetic opacity, which doggerel might debase
But simple words conveying ideas quite transparent
I am still convinced might your close attention warrant

Ken Fisher

 

See also: In Praise of Poetry    Anatomy of Poetry

If Typists Were Poets

Artwork That Claims No Meaning!

Artwork That Claims No Meaning

 

Does an artwork always have to have a meaning?
Does a picture always need to make some sense?
Must every sculpture stimulate our feelings?
Must the artist conspire in this pretence?

Perhaps it is the observer who is conspiring
And is unwilling to admit no understanding
As he falsely claims the work is so inspiring
Fearful others regard it as outstanding

Of course the appreciation of art is quite subjective
What I admire, you simply may despise
It may depend on personal perspective
What you find distasteful I might highly prize

It was however quite refreshing to discover
That the creator of a public work of art
Did not leave the viewers full of wonder
Declaring it has  ‘NO MEANING WHATSOEVER TO IMPART’

Ken Fisher

[Note the painting above this poem is not the artwork to which I refer.
The artwork was a wall mural (in brick, stone and metal) at the Glasgow
Kelvingrove Art Gallery and Museum Cafe]

The Bible – A Guide to Life?

The Bible – A Guide to Life?

[A sonnet]

 

What is this tome revered from ancient days?
The story of mankind from Eden’s primal dawn
Law given to the tribes to guide them in their ways
God’s presence near at hand, at times withdrawn
Lives of Kings and patriots, prophets even slaves
Warfare, division and internecine strife
Trials by famine, pestilence and plague
Under God’s burning sun they lived out life
Tales of heroes, giant killers, suffering servants
We discover all that reflects humanity’s condition
Flawed leaders, faithful women, righteous peasants
God’s provision, eternal love, abiding protection
In testaments old and new His dealings are revealed
Breach between creator and created is thus healed

Ken Fisher

Who Needs Archives?

Who Needs Archives?

At first sight a rather uninviting prospect
Endless shelves, perhaps victims of neglect
Yet contained in these dusty annals there is life
The tales of love and hate, of peace and strife

Such archive records built up from earliest times
Ensure the past no longer can the facts confine
And enquirers into life in earlier days
Expose past events to the sun’s bright rays

Do archives matter, what value do they bring?
Of what great treasure the wellspring
A moment’s thought might bring realization
Here lies the history of all civilization

In compilation of the Holy Scriptures
The ancient fragments helped form the picture
Which shaped the foundation of the faith
Exposing roots to doctrines in their time and place

Historical records reveal the pattern of existence
From Doomsday Book, Great Survey of subsistence
Through decades of censuses our life enumerated
Population, land holdings, tithes and how wealth was created

Archives provide the basis for future planning
The facts derived from records past years spanning
Indicate trends and thus strategies formed for future days
Sound guidance learned from past errors in our ways

The scope of archiving is now almost universal
The use of such databases sometimes controversial
But no field of knowledge seems to remain untouched
The stories of noble endeavours, even some corrupt

Archiving for some is a prestigious project
Proudly demonstrating claims to which few can object
Enterprises large and small demonstrating from their records
The value added, the promotion of goodwill and accord

From ancient scripts, objets d’art, and artifacts
The archived collections reveal the facts
In modern days, in addition to items original
Much detailed information is now rendered digital

Photographic records, plans, maps and illustrations
Of many records provide the visual foundation
And other archives hold a cache of original paintings
Often so far undisplayed masterpieces lie waiting

Archiving is a many splendoured thing lacking appreciation
Perhaps academics only those who give acclamation
To the boundless value of this treasure trove
Hidden from view in some crypt-like alcove

In recent years access to stored archives
Has been a boon to those who earnestly strive
To trace their ancestry through family history
Thus genealogy showcases their life story

So time has come to declare the archive’s worthy cause
To claim for it the population’s loud applause
Because without awareness of our past we cannot fully comprehend the present
And if we discover the past there may be no need it to re-invent!

Ken Fisher

Objet D’art

Objet D’art

You may have seen some of these in the Antiques Road Show
An ornament, a painting, jewellery, or an old faded photo
Indeed any kind of decorative or artistic object
Quite collectible, even if no longer seen as perfect

Some of us, less cultured, perhaps inclined to debunk
Regard many such items us dust-gathering junk
Perhaps we have an underdeveloped awareness of art
Aesthetic appreciation has not yet touched the heart

But the fact that the public appears these items to hoard
In quantities in their loft on shelves or a concealed cupboard
Seems to imply that for them they have quite strong affection
So that over the years they build up a treasured collection

Yet I wonder if the chance to make a convenient disposal
Would result in a quick response to an overt proposal
So at the Road Show, or even a lowly car boot sale
A good price would ensure that reason prevails

And so to the treasured objet d’art they wave their goodbye
Parting is sweet sorrow but won’t induce them to  cry
And perhaps they will indulge some self-congratulation
As the original price paid has swelled through inflation!

Ken Fisher

The Singer Clock

The Singer Clock

 

Singer is a name you won’t easily forget
For decades this brand ruled supreme in
the world of sewing machine production
from treadle power to sophisticated control

Even today you will find Singer machines
in Asian sweatshops and chic fashion houses
But in Clydebank, Singer was also renowned
for its massive factory clock on a tower

For miles around, this monstrosity could be seen
Signifying industrial power and market domination
But like so much of Scottish industry it met with decline
And even the clock gave its final tick in March 1963

When the clock first appeared in 1885 in Clydebank,
then the European headquarters of this early multi-national
It signified the wealth and importance of the enterprise
And its enormous timepiece was a symbolic crown on success

Unfortunately this chronometer probably hung like
an albatross around the neck of the business
It was powered by massive cast iron weights
driving the mechanism that required twice weekly winding

Over the years of the 20th century several changes
were made to the clock. The dials and numerals
were redesigned and various forms of illumination
were employed, inside by gas, outside by spotlights

None of these was very successful, being too dim
or casting unwanted shadows from the internal machinery
In 1928 a total of 145 lamps were attached to the hands!
Then World War II snuffed out illumination and almost Clydebank

After the war, when some normality was restored
The clock came back into service with new enamelled
“Singer” signs re-lit for all to see from far away
But the fate of the clock was on the horizon

In 1963 the clock was finally ceremonially stopped
“As part of area reorganisation in the interests of
production with a smaller labour force”
The aluminium hands were made into souvenir ashtrays!

This was before smoking (and domestic sewing machines) became much less fashionable!

Ken Fisher

Background material from International Sewing Machine Collectors’ Society website.

Photograph Albums

Photograph Albums

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The digital age has brought new tricks and techniques
But one thing from the past which is fairly unique
Was the photo album into which we could slide
Our old printed pictures of suitable size

In those earlier days the pace was much slower
To pursue the hobby demanded some rigour
First on film we needed the image to capture
And thus a selection of shots we would gather

Then the film had to be developed and printed
A complex process not done in an instant
Through a chemical mist the images emerged
Up from the fixer where they’d been submerged

Most of us passed on our films to the chemist
Or a processing wizard who could handle them best
Days later back came our prints all shiny or matt
Colour or mono from their magician’s hat

We always hoped that there had been no disaster
Of photography we had proved we were no master
Yet lots of striking images were often portrayed
To pop into the album to augment our display

Of course modern photography is instantaneous
Image capture and output are just as spontaneous
With Wi-Fi we transmit the result of our clicks
Any problems, with Photoshop we can easily fix

But perhaps these modern techniques have come at a cost
Despite electronic wizardry something surely is lost
The leisurely thumbing through those albums quite classic
Brings back such fond memories and emotions nostalgic

Ken Fisher

What is Art For?

What is Art For?

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Leonardo Da Vinci – Mona Lisa

More people than ever are discovering art
Hoping that somehow it might speak to their heart
They flock to the galleries and exhibitions
Showing concern for these human creations

I suppose art echoes the world that we see
Landscape painting reflects sward, field and tree
Wide vistas captured in one broad frame
Garden, loch, hill and valley laid plain

In portraits persons are the artist’s subject
Perhaps embellished for greater effect
The visage sometimes quite benign
Yet in others so severe and stern

No doubt some paintings are commissioned
By those wishing to project a vision
Of war or conquest, power and might
Or seeking compassion for their plight

Many paintings tell their story
Of ignominy or of glory
Battle scenes of blood and thunder
Ruthless slaughter shameful plunder

Of religion, art has been handmaiden
Faith thus promoted and awakened
To thousands not yet literate
Images, belief might inculcate

Painters help to promote a message
Of politics they can be expressive
Massacres, riots and protest marches
The downtrodden emerging from the darkness

The style which the artists have adopted
The means by which subjects are recorded
Evolved o’er many generations
Each era found its own expression

Colour and symbol played their part
Rendering meaning to the art
And by these signs hidden or overt
We comprehend a work of art

In successive generations
Art movements brought forth new creations
Impressionism, Expressionism, and Modernism
And in their day, Art Deco, Gothic and even Anti-realism

But does any of this answer the question posed
What is Art For? The motion I propose
Perhaps that phrase Art for Art’s Sake
The justification one might make

Art has survived for centuries untold
Tenaciously it still takes hold
Of hearts and minds and imagination
Existing for mankind’s salvation?

Ken Fisher

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Pablo Picasso – Guernica                                                        Gustav Klimt – The Kiss