Poems Inspired by M.C. Escher
Escher and his Curious Work
I first came across Escher and his curious drawings when I was living in London. A dutch visitor to the hostel I was working in gave me a postcard with a pencil drawing of two hands. Both hands were in the process of drawing each other! I thought I was seeing things but on closer inspection I could see that the artist had cleverly arranged the hands (complete with shirt cuffs) to try to fool the observer.
Escher does this constantly in his work, turning the world inside out, creating intense illusions in his own inimitable fashion.
A great draughtsman, he could also create fantastic design and design fantastical pictures. A master of the trompe l'oeuil. They inspired me to write poems.
Maurits Cornelis Escher was born in Leeuwarden, Friesland, Netherlands in 1898 and died in the same country in 1972. The son of an engineer he struggled with his early studies but was encouraged to study architecture by his father as he showed a talent for drawing. A chance meeting with a graphics teacher, impressed with Escher's designs, convinced the family that he should put his energies into this more creative field.
Escher began his long career as an artist, traveling to Spain and Italy in the early 1920s. A visit to the Moorish Alhambra in Granada, a palace full of inventive and exotic designs had a great influence on Escher. He was to visit it again in 1936 and declared it :
'the richest source of inspiration I have ever tapped'....
He met his wife to be in Italy, marrying her in 1924 and settling down in Frascati just outside Rome. They stayed 11 years before fleeing the rise of Fascism. With their 3 children they made their way back to northern Europe, Escher making a living from selling prints and designs and trading his work for travel.
Over the years he became a household name. His creative output was based more and more on mathematical patterns and his prints and designs grew in world popularity. In his latter years he lived a quiet but busy life, lecturing in different countries and always producing fresh work. In 1972 following several years of ill health he died.
These birds emerging into night
are mirrored by the birds of day
and echoes backwards into light
come forward out of darkest grey.
The land jigsaws into the birds
and shapes their flight away from mind
as sound is captured by the words
to pattern sense for humankind.
But order out of chaos seems
an impossibility. These
birds emerge out of their own dreams,
achieve perfection with such ease.
The fish swim up
towards the light
of my eye
into a shoal
hole. Their synch
of their circular plight.
Staring, hoping to escape
their shape he clones them
lizards in a square mess
of legs and tails
at the edge of time.
Repeat reptiles join faces
for a beautiful life,
your collective fate
on a mathematical
Waterfall - Absurd Architecture
Escher had this obsession with the cyclic nature of things in some of his work. Here you see water flowing in these structured channels, turning at abrupt angles before dropping off the end in a continual waterfall. Where does the waterfall go? Down into the same channel! It replenishes itself, then starts to flow upwards, defying gravity. Inside the walls, the man is under the water's spell but the woman is oblivious, going about her daily business, making use of the precious water to clean her clothes! You can enter the mind of the man or the woman and create an endless stream of stories.
Leaning on the shaded wall
he contemplates the waterfall
how it turns the wooden wheel,
grinds all time, makes things real.
Transfixed by the ancestral flow
the man has nowhere else to go
and happy though the flow may be
through self created gravity
there swim no fish, no children play
in the cooling shallow grey.
A serious woman hangs her whites.
She loves the days, hates the nights
so full of crashing noise.
Given the glimpse of choice
she'd be living in the citrus groves
outside, free, like a golden oriole.
Peel me like an orange.
Unravel my skin.
I can see
inside your world
through you to me.
Am I transparent enough
Are my thoughts
inside your DNA?
We journey through
an imagined cosmos.
The planets cannot
hold the timelessness
of our ideas.
Whichever way you look at it
you're either going up
to an ideal breakfast
or down to join that man
from room 101, that faceless
guy who claims he never
knows if he's coming or going.
This creation seems to be a bit of a nightmare at first glance but once the eyes settle down some order creeps out of this odd structure. Escher always challenges our thinking on normality - this scene is like a fantastic theatre or stage set with great contrast between interior and exterior. Inside there are curious humanoids going up and down and also waiting, looking, perhaps hoping that one day they too will be able to go outside, out into the freedom of the garden where the sun never stops shining.
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© 2012 Andrew Spacey