Poetic Opacity

Poetic Opacity



‘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

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


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?


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

search-4  images

Pablo Picasso – Guernica                                                        Gustav Klimt – The Kiss

Scotland’s National Museum

Scotland’s National Museum
[Thoughts prompted by a recent visit]


Perhaps it is the ancient rivalry between Scotland’s two major cities
Or just some kind of inertia which has kept Glaswegians from visiting
The National Museum of Scotland – situated in the capital
But having discovered it recently, I assure you this is a treasure
Without equal – including the Kelvingrove compendium

In Edinburgh you will find the story of life from pre-historic times
Trace the evolution of creatures through to development of human societies
The origins of culture and art, the inventiveness of homo sapiens
In science, technology, engineering, communication, and space exploration
Man’s fight against disease, and his conquests against his fellow men

The whole realm of natural history is on display from primitive life
To Dolly the sheep and the latest revelations in genetics
And in the human sphere the history of fashion is traced in its glory and triviality
Then on a higher plane the world of ideas, of philosophy, religion and literature
Indeed this museum seeks to encapsulate the story of our world and beyond

But perhaps one of the most interesting things to consider is
The enormous contribution that native Scots (and others educated here)
Have made to the advancement of culture, health, physical science, human endeavour,
And the limitless quest for understanding. Thus we remember the names Stevenson,
Scott, Watt, Smith, Simpson, Livingston, Hume, Burns, Carlyle and so many others
Who sought to shed light and truth in each successive age

Ken Fisher




Divine Illumination

Divine Illumination

Stained Glass windows of Cologne Cathedral


Long before the age of computer graphics
Or even the gentle art of ‘lantern slides’
The stained glass windows of our great cathedrals
Shone their mellow light revealing God’s eternal truth

The stories of prophets and apostles
The deeds of patriarchs and Kings
The incarnation, life, death and resurrection
Of the Lord and Saviour of the world

Thus was revealed to simple souls
To whom the art of reading was yet unknown
The testimony contained within the Bible
From Pentateuch, through History and Poetry
The rebuke and chastisement of the prophets
As they sought to speak the truth to power

Then to the Gospels telling of the Nativity
The earthly pilgrimage of our Lord
His healing work and saving power
His trial and cruel death upon the cross
Towards the empty tomb
And His ascension from this world

Finally the writings of Paul, James, Peter and John
And then the Revelations

Each and all of these episodes in our Bible
Brought to life and given powerful impact
In the art and craft of stained glass
No more commanding testimony than this
As sunlight filters through projecting the Message
Not only to our eyes but piercing deep into our heart

Ken Fisher


Austrian Delights

Austrian Delights


Salzburg from the Hohensalzburg Fortress

As one who has never visited these parts before, Austria
provided an endless cascade of new images, new sensations,
new experiences, new stimulus to the eye, and for the ear.
Altogether a challenge to all the senses, a delight to the spirit

The nation nurtured the talents of Mozart and more than one Strauss
And two Gustavs each lived in a Viennese house
Mahler the composer and Klimt who painted ‘The Kiss’
Found in that city all they might wish

And we must not forget or sublimate to avoid
The great musings of psychoanalyst Sigmund Freud
The Emperor Franz Joseph was a significant figure
But the Viennese disliked being ruled with such rigour

Not withstanding the importance of this capital city
To neglect all the rest would be rather a pity
The banks of the Danube yield treasures in store
In the Wachau valley Melk and Krems will help the wine pour

Without doubt a visit to Salzburg will bring great delight
Mozart was born there, its baroque buildings a wonderful sight
Stroll through its Mirabell Gardens, or to its high fortress ascend
From every invasion its walls could defend

But there is so much more to enjoy in this magical land
The lyrics of ‘The Sound of Music’ are always at hand
In that enchanting tale which the world captivated
It seems the real charm of Austria is encapsulated

Ken Fisher


The Kiss – Gustav Klimt




Have you ever stopped for a moment to think
about all the Materials that we use in the modern world
Nowadays there is a lot of interest in the wonders
of the Natural World and the environment
and the preservation thereof

And sometimes the production and extraction
of materials is seen as the enemy of nature
But unless we all wish to revert to a primitive
lifestyle, with no manufactured artifacts
the use and development of materials is vital

I suppose our awareness of materials began
when humankind developed the use of tools
to till the soil, and build shelters to live in
The discovery of the wheel must have been
a major breakthrough in development of mobility

And so we began to look around at Materials that
might prove useful in what we now call rather grandly
The Built Environment!

So here is a reminder of a few of the Materials – the list could be almost endless


Thank goodness for timber not just for the fire
So many creations wood can inspire
From beams for our roofs and planks for our floors
And carvings to decorate ancient church doors

Thank goodness for steel which shows such great strength
Upholding our structures, making ships for defence
Thanks goodness for plastic so strong and so light
Framing our specs and making them bright!

Thank goodness for textiles to wrap us up warm
For carpets and curtains our rooms to transform
For shiny ceramics making plates that are durable
And, of course, the convenience of the public urinal!

Thank goodness for glass that lets in the light
And in our lenses to improve weakening sight
And then there is rubber abundant in tyres
And now glass-fibre in broadband’s sleek wires

Then there’s brick and stone and perennial slate
Essential to builders, despite their great weight
And for our roads, little use without coatings of tar
On bumpy highways we would never get far

Of course paper has been vital to our modern existence
Decorating walls, for letters, its uses persistent
And dare I mention its use in personal hygiene
The greatest invention there ever has been!

And all those other metals like copper and zinc
And aluminium in the shape of our kitchen sink
Iron and nickel and lead for our pipes
Even silver and gold used by much richer types

There are those modern materials invented by science
Acrylics, PVC, polystyrene – to pack each appliance
By chemical wizardry new substances  grown
Using methods which previously were quite unknown

No doubt in the future we’ll use matter from space
Undiscovered products will become commonplace
So let’s give thanks for materials of infinite range
Whose application has brought to us such a great gain

Ken Fisher