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Ricker Winsor has lived a wondrous life, and he has documented his loves and his adventures in writing, music and visual art. He has been a photojournalist, a cabinetmaker and a fisherman. He has taught in Pakuwon City Surabaya and in Bali. In New York in the 1950s he hobnobbed with first generation abstract expressionist painters. As a young man in Mexico and as an aging man teaching in Bangladesh and Indonesia he wrote about school, monasteries, fly fishing, painting, and whorehouses for his books Pakuwon City and The Painting of My Life. And throughout his life he has been a painter and poet and performing blues musician—all of which brings us to Winsor’s latest book, Tik Tok: Poems, a book that highlights his adventures from 1973 to the present with 36 poems and 32 ink drawings done with reed pens and brushes.
Stylistic and subject matter similarities between the poems and drawings mark them clearly by the same artist, born out of the same artistic sensibilities and the same humanity. To paraphrase a well known commercial, he’s seen a thing or two so he’s written and drawn a thing or two.
There are no grandiose flourishes, nothing gimmicky or showy about either the drawings or the poems. They are straight-forward observations of time, place, moment and feelings. The drawings are mostly landscapes and scenes of towns and villages. Occasionally a figure shows up. They are simple, some almost minimalist, and drawn with childlike strokes of pen and brush. Many of them remind me of drawings by Vincent van Gogh.
There is a fresh vitality to the drawings that I find uplifting. They are printed sans titles; some seem random, while others seem to fit with the poems. On the page with “He Dropped Dead” is a bleak landscape showing a stormy sky over a broad field. There is a cold, cold feel to it, as if black ink and white paper can denote temperature in the way colors do. The poem is about the death of Winsor’s father when he, Winsor the son, was forty years old.
A reclining nude, dark and bold, illustrates a poem called “Gender Neutral.”
“The Taint” presents a jarring, black-humor look at the reality of life as expressed in this stanza: “The ugly edge is/always there throwing its stink/on perfect beauty/that’s never perfect . . .”
Another poem humorously talks about how fast things change with the lines: “Listen floppy disk/you will/fall in love/with a robot./It’s inevitable.”
For great drawings and pithy, funny, sad, and real poems, read Ricker Winsor’s Tik Tok: Poems.