Buckle your seatbelts and stow your tray tables; it’s time to shift gears and read another photo poem.
Photography + Poetry = Photopoetry
People who interweave poetry and photography are apparently creating photopoetry, an art form blending literary and visual sensibilities. The two media are beautifully complementary: poetry conjures images in the mind of the reader, whereas photography conjures images in the eye of the observer. The more skilful the poet, the more vivid the mental image; the more skilful the photographer, the more evocative the visual image.
Step one in composing a photo poem is the selection of a subject worthy of this hybrid medium. Obviously, it should be a subject lending itself to both versification and photographic representation — perhaps nature, architecture, or landscape.
Being a nerd, I chose those virtuosi of the mechanical world: the humble but supremely versatile gears.
The world of gears is huge. Engineers define them as toothed mechanical transmission elements used to transmit motion and power between machine components. Operating as corresponding pairs, the teeth of one gear enmesh with those of the other. This prevents slippage as they rotate, especially when significant power is being applied.
They are usually attached to shafts, the driving shaft supplying and the driven shaft receiving the power. Depending upon their design, gears can change the direction or rotation of the motion supplied by the driving shaft.
Gears are usually circular, providing a constant transmission ratio for both speed and torque, but non-circular versions can be used for specialized tasks. For example, linear gear racks can translate circular into linear motion.
The arrangement of gear teeth has a significant effect on their performance. Thus, spur gears employ straight-cut teeth running at ninety degrees to the plane of the gear’s circular face. Helical gears employ teeth which twist at an angle to the gear face. These are more expensive to manufacture but can handle higher loads and are quieter than spur gears.
We all enjoy the benefits of gears in daily life since they are integral to motorcars, bikes, washing machines, and lawnmowers. If you own a mechanical watch with a see-through sapphire crystal back plate, you can watch tiny gears in motion as you wind the mainspring.
As someone has said, gears truly make the modern world go round.
Pass the pantoum
I composed the poem in a traditional Malay form called a pantoum. It employs a four-line stanza, the second and fourth lines of which become the first and third lines of the next stanza. The result is a rolling, rhythmic pattern of repeated phrases. In principle, the number of stanzas is unlimited. I have used five, the final stanza repeating lines one and three from the first, in reverse order.
The endlessly repetitive pantoum seemed an ideal literary device for describing the relentless, circular whirring of gears. I think of them as synchronized swimmers in lubricant. Written using nine syllables per line, I tried to echo the uniform, systematic meshing of cogs with cogs. As a final repetitive, grinding motif, I enforced the alliterative use of the letter G at the start of every line. I know, what a nerd.
Blending photography with verse composed in an exotic form makes for a stretching brain workout. I hope you think it was worth it.
Here we go!
Gears make the modern world go round Gliding smoothly, cognate cogs enmeshed Giving us a way to direct power, Gyrating as their motion transfers torque
Gliding smoothly, cognate cogs enmeshed Gently whirring, many-toothed machines, Gyrating as their motion transfers torque, Grind out their mechanical advantage
Gently whirring, many-toothed machines, Gnawing grimly on each spiny wheel, Grind out their mechanical advantage; Gizmos spinning nature into work
Gnawing grimly on each spiny wheel, Geometric partners twirl in sync; Gizmos spinning nature into work, Grease-encased machines of man’s design
Geometric partners twirl in sync; Giving us a way to direct power, Grease encased machines of man’s design Gears that make the modern world go round
Photographs were taken with a Leica Q2 Monochrom. Background material on gears was abstracted from this superb article. Illustrations were created using DALLE-2.
Have you come across a pantoum before? Do you enjoy alliteration? Are you a nerd who loves mechanical objects? When was the last time you built something with LEGO? Let us know in the comments below.
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