Poetic Opacity (National Poetry Day 2019)

Poetic Opacity

A second airing of this poem for National Poetry Day 2019
The theme of National Poetry Day 2019 is TRUTH
I hope the sentiments in this poem reflect TRUTH
however opaque that might be!

 

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

Bathroom Fittings

Bathroom Fittings

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The world of bathrooms and toilets has been truly transformed
The endless array of fittings would boggle your mind
From the old outside ‘privy’ completely reformed
To a shiny new palace of the ablutionary kind

When you enter the showroom you are quickly confronted
By gleaming examples of baths of all shapes and sizes
Toilet pans and bidets of any design you wanted
With slow-closing lids avoiding noisy surprises

The modern shower units encased in bright glass
With their temperature control and powerful jets
Incorporate features not seen in the past
A hydraulic solution to wash away stress

Then of course the showroom displays all sorts of taps
And wall heaters and mirrors in which you reflect
While luxuriating in steam you will surely relax
As if you are being subjected to the greenhouse effect

Without being too philosophical I have always believed
The yardstick of civilization is the gurgling water closet
If in hygienic surroundings you can be duly relieved
And even better still if you can find two shiny faucets

The Romans showed how this may be achieved
The bathhouse not just for cleanliness but for contemplation
Thus the rigours of life they could there relieve
The basilica the pride of that noble nation

So the message is this, buy some new bathroom fittings
The smallest room in the house deserves some attention
So don’t delay any longer, just make the decision
And now flush away all prevarication

Ken Fisher

 

Fridge Magnet Memorabilia

Fridge Magnet Memorabilia

Some people collect stamps or quaint comic books
For others it’s coins or treasured old spoons
All sorts of odd objects and strange paraphernalia
For me, I prefer Fridge Magnet Memorabilia

Collection is too big for the fridge door to hold
So I simply had to take some action quite bold
On the bathroom tiles these icons stuck firm
Testimony to worldwide visits these can confirm

European cities are well represented
Almost enough to get us disoriented
But each little icon brings into focus
The time when that place had been our locus

Some of our tribe went to far destinations
Across the wide oceans, exotic nations
Returning to base with memories filled
With stories which left the home birds quite thrilled

It’s amazing how a fridge magnet vignette
Of towering mountains or a beach at sunset
Can transport us in our mind’s inward eye
A gift that fond memories can thus supply

So this collection of magnets held on tiles with blu-tac
Provides every day a welcome feed back
The pictures and symbols and miniature maps
Keep images fresh when much time has elapsed

Ken Fisher

Election Fuddle

Election Fuddle

Does anyone know how I ought to vote?
Hold on while I quickly take a note
Confusion abounds causing me such trouble
Who will release me from this gigantic fuddle?

Our esteemed politicians have not helped one bit
‘For purpose’ they clearly are quite unfit
At one time we thought they might provide a lead
But sadly in that duty they have failed to succeed

Every media debate seems to end in a fight
And the last thing that happens is increasing light
On the issues that concern the whole population
We only feel ever-mounting frustration

For we cannot see a clear road ahead
And conflict and division is so widespread
The prospect of uniting in one common view
The political classes certainly seem to  eschew

If only we could come to any kind of consensus
Some basic core ideas, nothing pretentious
Then we might be able to see the way forward
By which our future affairs may then be ordered

At the heart of it all is that one basic question
If answered we might clear the congestion
Do we leave or stay on in the European Union?
Do we hang on in there or opt for exclusion

The half-way house seems to please very few
Demanding compromise which would surely ensue
So perhaps someone will show how we get out of this bind
And tell us it’s time that we all made up our mind!

So as you come to vote in the impending election
When you finally have to mark your selection
Try to make it clear to the powers that be
Thus from fuddle and fog we might at last be free!

Ken Fisher

 

 

The Cumbernauld Clock

The Cumbernauld Clock

I remember well this iconic clock
When strolling past on a lunch-time walk
In the centre of town in Cumbernauld
Whose architecture some critics appalled

I was teaching there in the shiny new college
Hoping to increase the residents’ knowledge
At that time the clock became the locus
On which much attention would then focus

Gregory’s Girl provided worldwide renown
And in Jubilee Year the Queen came to town
The clock features in both these events
As of course did many proud residents

Cumbernauld in the beginning tried to ensure
That pedestrains from traffic were kept quite secure
Converging paths from suburbs approached the top
To then pay homage to that venerable clock

Now the clock is the subject of a tug of war
Twixt the townies and others who would it restore
And move it away to a quite different location
To keep time in newly renovated Queen Street Station

So whatever the fate of this worthy time piece
Of horology no doubt a great masterpiece
I hope it will continue to tick quietly away
As it measures the passing of each welcome new day

Ken Fisher

The Great British Beach Hut

The Great British Beach Hut

During this great summer of exceptional heat
While languishing on a fine east coast beach
I rediscovered this classic wooden structure
A credit to the practitioners of our architecture

I refer of course to the beach hut or cabin
A seaside feature you may long have forgotten
Indeed these bijou gems are by no means extinct
Resplendent in colours from blue through to pink

Apparently these tiny buildings are still much sought after
And despite being the butt of much ignorant laughter
They survive to provide many convenient features
To assist the regiments of sun-seeking creatures

For although the facilities in them are basic
They offer the users a handy oasis
From the trials of getting undressed on the sand
Where our nudity is not something we should grandstand

The owners have employed much ingenuity
Making the maximum use of all opportunity
The internal space to greatly enhance
Thus their convenience they truly advance

The way in which the space has been utilized
Would be to many, quite a surprise
Each nook and cranny is called into service
A function is found for every shelf and surface

In the bright summer days they give ready shade
And when rain arrives we can quickly evade
The hazards that threaten to disturb our peace
As we try to relax and be quietly at ease

One interesting fact is that huts cost quite a lot
And over the years prices don’t seem to drop
Whether you simply pay rent or take steps to own
Make sure you get value from this temporary ‘home’

So whether you are seated outside in your chair
Or inside to keep the rain off you hair
You will reflect on the merit of such private space
The British Beach Hut – the pride of our race!

Ken Fisher

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]