Art into words poem

On Day Three of Ethical ELA’s Open Write, Margaret Simon invited participants to “transform art into words” by “choosing a work of art or creative practice and explore phrasing, spaces, and repetition.”

My mind immediately went to Van Gogh and the Immersive Experience I recently attended. The last two lines of my poem are Van Gogh’s own words, written in a letter to his brother, Theo, referencing other artists who were known for painting specific flowers: “You know that Jeannin has the peony, Quost has the hollyhock, but I have the sunflower, in a way.” My poem’s title comes from Van Gogh’s artist friend Gauguin, who loved Vincent’s sunflower paintings in a time when many artists thought they were too rustic a subject. Van Gogh, however, was fond of the flowers. Newly-invented pigments of yellow oil paint enabled him to experiment and innovate, creating the two series of seven paintings collectively known as Sunflowers. At his funeral, the flowers graced his casket; a friend later planted sunflowers on his grave. 

“Completely Vincent”
Van Gogh, painting sunflowers for Gauguin

Yellow
and yellow
thirty shades 
of yellow
new
alive
wilting
dying
returning
with faces
forever turning
toward the sun
light shining
in darkness
returning
returning thanks
for my friend
for the beauty
of these flowers
growing in
wild array 
by the paths
I walk 
day by day
I offer them
to you, 
my friend
can you see
in my oil-bouquet
all the shades
of gratitude
so much
I cannot even say
whether it’s still 
in me to pray
be that as it may
today
today
I have the sunflower
in a way

2 thoughts on “Art into words poem

  1. Van Gogh, more than other artists, seems to invite us inside. You graciously take up his invitation and generously share the treasures you find. Goosebumps come as your verse leads into the artist’s own words. This is not the first time your work has done this.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Such vibrant work from such a desperate soul – Van Gogh’s work does in invite us in more than most. So well-said, Paul. Thank you for those words about my own work – they mean much.

      Like

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