Van Gogh Erasure Poetry

Picture and art credit to Emily Blincoe at www.emilyblincoe.com
Picture and art credit to Emily Blincoe at http://www.emilyblincoe.com/arrangements

 

Even if I go under in the attempt

this I know:

I have a definite belief as regards art.

The great doesn’t happen through impulse alone.

If one is competent in one thing

one can learn rhythm in other areas.

It’s the succession of little

things

events

even if we’re tired, we go on –

because we’ve already gone a long way.

You may not always be able to say what confines you.

And the Prison is sometimes called mistrust.

If it were that easy

one wouldn’t have any pleasure of it.

That is all I seek:

always something other than heroism.

I try not to forget how to jest.

Based on the Selected Letters of Vincent Van Gogh. The picture above is one of a series of pictorial prompts on the theme of ‘Arrangements’ from dVerse Poets Pub. The colours reminded me so much of Van Gogh’s palette. Plus, I tend to be a stickler for a tidy desk arranged just so before I can start writing…

 

Postliminary

Haibun Monday
For dVerse Poets we are writing a haibun based on a lesser-known painting by Van Gogh. For more information about this poetic form, please visit dVerse Poets Pub, where you will meet many talented poets of all ages, experience and taste. As for the title of the poem: ‘postliminary’ is the opposite of ‘preliminary’ – something that occurs after the fact.

Post-holidays, post-weekend, the party’s over, the curtains drawn.
Sweep floors, fold laundry, sigh over undone homework and chores. The clatter clutter glitter mutter of video games on a loop and on sufferance. I don’t want to be the mother that forbids. I don’t want to be parent with the unpopular principles, old-fashioned moans, the terror reign of rules.

I dream of a walk in autumnal country fields, swish-detour through the leaves. I dream of a time when you sought my company, when ‘Mama’ was spoken without reproach. Our laughter mingling, our hands meeting, grubby faces to be kissed. Tell me of your hopes, your fears, the mere dull niggle of the everyday. Debate a book, a film or life, open up your eyes and mind to breathe in all, to question but love. In front, the distant hum of the village, fattened to post-prandial languor. To the right the church tower is but a squiggle, the bell tone playful not grave. Ahead of us a horizon I want limitless and full of sunrays for you.

Like the fields we stretch
away to gold and gray. Look –
how near how far the change!

Saint-Paul-de-Mausole-Vincent-van-Gogh (1)

Van Gogh’s Inspirational Quotes

From the National Gallery.
From the National Gallery.

‘Ever Yours’ is a one-volume selection of Van Gogh’s letters (drawn from the six-volume original published by the Van Gogh Museum back in 2009), translated from Dutch and French by a bevy of translators. The letters are accompanied by a general introduction, historic family photographs, and reproductions of 87 actual pages of letters that contain sketches by Van Gogh. It’s not just art lovers who will find the book inspiring. Van Gogh struggled with a sense of purpose, depression, loneliness, making a living and with his own belief in art all his life, and was unremittingly frank about his struggles in his letters to his brother Theo. This will have important lessons (or warnings or resonance) for all creative people.  There are some comments in the introduction which show this volume is far from ‘hero-worship’: ‘He was almost always convinced he was right, and this made him quite tiresome.’ But his work ethic and the breadth of his interest in art, literature and other people, his enthusiasm for always learning something new are all astounding.

LettersVGThis is a book to treasure and turn to again and again. Like with Virginia Woolf’s diaries, there will always be a gem to discover, a crumb of encouragement, something to keep you going even in the darkest days, although neither Vincent nor Virginia could find that for themselves.

I have a definite belief as regards art… which also means that I know what I want to get in my own work, and that I’ll try to get it even if I go under in the attempt.

For the great doesn’t happen through impulse alone… it is a succession of little things that are brought together.

So often, in the past as well, a visit to a bookshop has cheered me up and reminded me that there are good things in the world.

The Sower, from Wikiart.
The Sower, from Wikiart.

Life is but short and time passes quickly. If one is competent in one things and understands one thing well, one gains at the same time insight into and knowledge of many other things into the bargain. It’s sometimes good to go about much in the world and to be among people… but he who actually goes quietly about his work, alone, preferring to have but very few friends, goes the most safely … in the world.

Like everyone else, I have need of relationships of friendship or affection or trusting companionship, and am not like a street pump or a lamp post, whether of stone or iron, so that I can’t do without them without perceiving and emptiness and feeling their lack…

Vincent's room in Arles, vangoghgallery.com
Vincent’s room in Arles, vangoghgallery.com

It is often impossible for men to do anything, prisoners in I don’t know what kind of horrible, horrible, very horrible cage… You may not always be able to say what it is that confines, that immures, that seems to bury, and yet you feel I know not what bars, I know not what gates – walls… And the prison is sometimes called Prejudice, misunderstanding, fatal ignorance… mistrust…

I shall love her so long
That in the end she’ll love me too.
The more she disappears, the more she appears.

You will understand what I tell you, that to work and be an artist one needs love. At least someone who strives for feeling in his work must first feel and live with his heart.

Orchard with flowering peaches, watercolour from Wikipedia.
Orchard with flowering peaches, watercolour from Wikipedia.

…sometimes I grew so impatient that I trampled on my charcoal and was wholly and utterly discouraged. And yet, a while later I sent you drawings made with chalk and charcoal… all the same I had taken a step forward. Now I’m going through a similar period of struggle and despondency, of patience and impatience, of hope and desolation. But I must plod on and anyway, after a while I’ll understand more about making watercolours. If it were that easy, one wouldn’t take any pleasure in it.

I envy the Japanese the extreme clarity that everything in their work has. It’s never dull, and never appears to be done too hastily. Their work is as simple as breathing, and they do a figure with a few confident strokes with the same ease as if it was as simple as buttoning your waistcoat. Ah, I must manage to do a figure with a few strokes. That will keep me busy all winter.

Starry Sky, from vangoghgallery.com
Starry Sky, from vangoghgallery.com

However, paintings come off better if one takes care of oneself and keeps well. But for you, for your work, for your whole life as well, you mustn’t have too many worries.

… I wouldn’t wish for a martyr’s career in any circumstances. For I’ve always sought something other than the heroism I don’t have, which I certainly admire in others but which, I repeat, I do not believe to be my duty or my ideal… Every day I take the remedy that the incomparable Dickens prescribes against suicide. It consists of a glass of wine, a piece of bread and cheese and a pipe of tobacco… I try not to forget completely how to jest, I try to avoid everything that might relate to heroism and martyrdom, in short I try not to take lugubrious things lugubriously.

#TBR5

 

 

 

 

 

New TBR Reading Challenge – and Rereading

I’ve been following Jacqui’s recent deep-digging into her TBR pile with interest. Her latest blog post, reflecting on the experience of her #TBR20 challenge, was particularly enticing. Writer Eva Stalker launched the idea, and some of my blogging friends, such as Emma and Max, have also been persuaded to join in. So I plan to follow suit, while allowing some wriggle room for those inevitable review copies.

The principle is very simple. With so many books double and triple stacked on my shelves (not to mention stashed away on my e-reader), I really need to stop collecting and start reading some of them. So I plan to reduce the pile by at least 20, for however long it takes, and during this period I will refrain from buying any new books (other than those I am sent for urgent reviewing purposes). You are probably laughing, remembering how disastrous my TBR Double Dare challenge ended up… But this feels more manageable – or perhaps it’s just the right time of year to be doing it.

I do have an initial list of 20 in mind, but will allow myself to be open to the fickleness of moods and interests. I also want to incorporate a good selection of ebooks and real books, French and German books, poetry and non-fiction, crime and translated fiction etc. My Global Reading Challenge seems to be suffering a little here, so I may have to make some changes. I will probably need to do a serious cull of my ebooks at some point in addition to this.

So here are my first thoughts on the topic (the ones marked with denote crime fiction titles, is for woman writer)

1) Books in French:

P1030248All about the challenges and disappointments of everyday life in modern France – quite a contrast to the more luscious depiction of France in fiction written by foreigners.

Marcus Malte: Cannisses – small-town residential area C

Jérémie Guez: Paris la nuit – the alienated youngsters of the Parisian balieues  C

Emmanuel Grand: Terminus Belz – Ukrainian refugee in Breton village, aiming to cross over to Britain  C

Fouad Laroui: L’etrange affaire du pantalon de Dassoukine – Morocco meets France in this collection of bittersweet and often very funny short stories

Dominique Sylvain: Ombres et soleil – finally, a woman writer too! The world of international corporations, dirty money and arms trade – plus the charming humour of the detecting duo Lola and Ingrid.   C W

2) Books in German: 

P1030249

Jakob Arjouni: Ein Mann, ein Mord  – third case for Kayankaya, the Turkish-born detective with a very Frankfurt attitude   C

Alex Capus: Mein Nachbar Urs – stories from small-town Switzerland

Judith Schalansky: Der Hals der Giraffe – the dying of the light in East Germany, a biology teacher who proves to be the last of her species  W

Stefanie de Velasco: Tigermilch – this wasn’t much liked by the IFFP shadow jury, but I was attracted by its Berlin setting and thought it could be the Christiane F. for the new generation  W

Friederike Schmöe: Fliehganzleis – 2nd case for ghostwriter Kea Laverde: I’ve read others in the series and this one is again about East vs. West Germany and some traumatic historical events   C  W

3) Books on ereader

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Ever Yours – The Letters of Vincent van Gogh – one of my favourite painters, need I say more?

Hadrien Laroche: Orphans – an allegorical tale

John Enright: Blood Jungle Ballet – the return of detective Apelu Soifa and his fight against crime on Samoa  C

Sara Novic: Girl at War – child survivor of Yugoslav war returns to Zagreb ten years later  W

Ansel Elkins: Blue Yodel – debut collection of poetry, winner of the 2014 Yale Series of the Younger Poets prize  W

4) Other:

P1030247

Max Blecher: Scarred Hearts – Romanian writer who died of tuberculosis of the spine at the age of 29 in 1938 (perhaps fortunately so, since he was Jewish)

Sergei Dovlatov: Pushkin Hills – shortlisted for the Best Translated Book Award this year, but written back in 1983, it’s all about Mother Russia, the artist’s life and living under censorship

Kishwar Desai: Witness the Night – the first in the Simran Singh series and always very topical about controversial subjects in India C W

Ariel Gore: Atlas of the Human Heart – a younger person’s version of ‘Eat, Pray, Love’ (which I didn’t like much), a teenager’s journey of self-discovery and running away from America  W

Wendy Cope: The Funny Side – 101 Humorous Poems (selected and introduced by Cope)  W

Have you read any of these? Are there any you would particularly recommend starting with, or should I swap some over for something else? (They do strike me, on the whole, as a rather sombre pile of books).

The other idea that Jacqui planted into my head was to have a bit of a rereading challenge. I carry my favourite books with me in every place I’ve ever lived in and I look up certain pages, but I never get a chance anymore to reread them properly. (Where, oh where are the days when I used to reread all of the novels of Virginia Woolf and Jane Austen every year or two?) So who would like to join me and Jacqui on a #reread challenge? Perhaps of 6 books in a year, roughly one every 2 months? Would that be feasible?

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Here are some instant favourites that spring to mind: F. Scott Fitzgerald’s ‘Tender Is the Night’; Virginia Woolf’s ‘Between the Acts’ (her last novel); Jean Rhys’ ‘After Leaving Mr Mackenzie’; Muriel Spark’s ‘Loitering with Intent’ and Tillie Olsen’s brilliant collection of essays about life getting in the way of creating ‘Silences’. What would you reread, if you could and would?

 

 

 

 

 

 

Chasing Your Dreams

When Theo got off the train in Arles,

the stink and noise hit his nostrils and ears,

in cacophonous attack on Boulevard des Lices.VanGoghCafe

‘Of course with a name like Vince you have to paint,’

He told his brother,

‘And all summer you’ve been squiggling caricatures  in the square,

when tourists come to oogle at the little that is left

of that greater misunderstood one, the one with just one ear.

But now it is November, nights are closing in.

The city is deserted, fuel costs going up.

Come home to the Midwest, brother,

forget your midlife crisis!’

 

Yellow House Van GoghBut Vince turned eyes on him which saw beyond alimony payments,

eyes that had wandered amongst stars,

made accomplice by the wind,

protected by history.

‘You have a duty to follow your dream,

your passion,

and mediocrity has nothing to do with it.’