We went for a drive yesterday and, as usual, I took my camera with me. But I wasn’t really in the mood for taking pictures; I wanted to see things for myself rather than look at them through a viewfinder. Sadly, that means that although I have a few nice pictures of a reservoir, I missed a really good shot of black cows straggling across the Spanish hillside and another of a herd of bracken-coloured goats grazing on the scrubby roadside.
We also saw an elderly rustic walking down the middle of the road carrying a seriously dangerous-looking rifle, apparently stalking something. I didn’t take a picture of him, either, but that was mainly because I think that pointing a camera at a man with a gun is not the wisest of acts.
He would, however, have made a good illustration for a blog post talking about Mikhail Kalashnikov, who died this week and who is mostly famous for inventing the AK-47 assault rifle, a weapon which is said to be responsible for more deaths than the Hiroshima atom bomb.
Perhaps poetry is not the first idea you’d associate with his name, but a few years ago, at a reception at the Kremlin in honour of his ninetieth birthday, Kalashnikov was quoted as saying:
I wrote poetry in my youth, and people thought I would become a poet. But I didn’t become one. There are many bad poets out there without me. I went along a different path.
The reason for the huge success of the gun Kalashnikov invented lies in the fact that, while being easily mass-produced by unskilled workers, it is extremely reliable in the battlefield.
This, of course, is totally unlike poetry where, to be successful, each piece requires individual crafting and attention by a skilled writer. And when put in the hands of different readers, the same poem can produce entirely different effects.As a slightly unconnected afterthought: if a picture is worth a thousand words, and the pen is mightier than the sword, how does shooting photos compare to wielding an AK-47?