After meeting Van Gogh

 .

“I dream of painting and then paint my dream”
Van Gogh’s words chase me along canals
that divide this city into history and future,
dreams undreamt & paths, no one walked,

Ten years on white canvas, bleeding,
then he chose to leave, i look for madness
but can’t find the struggle in his work, his strife
to capture life from dirty corners, Amsterdam

is put up on five million poles, hewn
in mud that is a slippery foundation, yet
it holds & we walk past the future into times
that missed some of the light it held. “what color

would you paint your dreams with–?”,  i smell
sweet scent of brittle years & ask

“do you remember how to build them–?” “No”
you say, you tried it once and coughed your lung out,
& you take my hand, maybe it’s not color

but the play of shade ‘n light that moves so fast
what made him eat his paint, drink the turpentine,
“life is woven with such fragile threads” i say,
and for a moment see him–

.

Earlier this week in Amsterdam, we were visiting the Van Gogh Museum & his story moved me quite a bit… linking up with dVerse where Brian Miller tends this weeks’ Poetics bar & we’re going a bit back in time… join us when the doors open at 3pm EST

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72 responses to “After meeting Van Gogh

  1. I think if we look, really look, at an artist’s paintings we can get a sense of who he is, but we have to spend time experiencing the painting from the inside. Your poem makes me wonder how it would feel, really FEEL, to be Van Gogh. I also wonder whether all who paint or write share a little bit of ‘crazy’ if we look, really LOOK, inside. I did enjoy the painting you shared above. Nice.

  2. Van Gogh has been in the front of my mind lately. It started when I snapped a wonderful picture of a freshly cut hay field and bales strewn about on it. Van Gogh was a troubled soul but he didn’t take it out on beauty. He took out his struggles on himself. Link to that particular post is below.

    http://geraldthewriter.com/2012/07/15/beauty-beyond-words-and-yet-i-want-them-so-badly/

    “what color would you paint your dreams with–?”

    Good question C.

    • Yes Claudia, I read up on him and the line in my poem “brush with faith” from my post was a reference to his preaching to the mining community.

  3. What a beautiful, evocative portrait of Vincent and Amsterdam (and the Dutch!). Particularly like: ‘Ten years on white canvas, bleeding,/then he chose to leave, i look for madness/but can’t find the struggle in his work, his strife/to capture life from dirty corners..’.
    I’ve been to this museum as well a few years back and I agree, absolutely stunning. He was almost too sensitive for this world.
    There was a docu-drama in England about him last year, starring Benedict Cumberbatch (he of Sherlock Holmes fame, you may have seen), called Van Gogh: Painted with Words, which I highly recommend. If you’ve not seen it, you can look here if you wish http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xir2M0cM9v4
    Very well done Claudia.

  4. love….the sprinkles of info on amsterdam mixed with the artist…nice inclusion of quotes as well…and even your own personal dialogue…i think on some level all artist have a bit of madness in them, the way they see the world for what it is and what it isnt…and the compulsion that comes with it…a lot of emotion in those last lines as well…the fragile years…great use of language there….

  5. Hi Claudia, very lovely poem and immediately one of my favorites of yours, beautiful sway between past and present. I had not known about Van Gogh nibbling paints. Crazy. I was very close to an artist for years and in one small apartment everything tasted of turpentine. Very hard to get away from it in enclosed spaces! Beautiful pic too. K.

  6. Work of art on a work of art, surely beats a trip to walmart haha yeah if you look you can surely see somethings that make the artist tick even if they confuse me haha

  7. Walking hand in hand with your loved one through Amsterdam… and if you had turned around you would have seen that I was right at your shoulder as you also walked me through your experience of Van Gogh and Amsterdam with your wonderful poem. Your unique voice is ever present in this one Claudia.

  8. There is always something special about walking where the artist walked…wondering what they might think now…and seeing works that challenge us to be even more creative…fine poem IMHO.

  9. One of my favorite artists and genius can be a troubling companion in life and for Van Gogh always the need to understand what he could not grasp. Wonderful write for this most gifted man.

  10. Lovely write once again Claudia. Van Gogh and Amsterdam. He certainly was a sensitive man and I also tend to think most of us have a touch of the insane within us. It’s whether we can control it that matters. He obviously struggled with his sanity but his paintings didn’t. Lovely walk through the streets, canals and a little of Van Gogh’s life too.

  11. Nice to read this. It’s amazing how Van Gogh was able to create such beauty from a mind so troubled. But, I guess art was his sanity. Love how you describe his art here. I wonder too what it would be like to be him, but sometimes I wonder what it would be like to be you with all those images dancing in your mind.

    Have a good weekend Claudia.

  12. Van Gogh was insane … and yet he did write and paint for us about his struggles … as a psych night nurse I often think of him, when I hear my patients screan back at their voices … blessed be … all of us, C.

  13. ” . . . Amsterdam
    in mud that is a slippery foundation, yet
    it holds & we walk past the future into times
    that missed some of the light it held.”

    How cunningly you compare the city with the man and his art:
    “. . . i look for madness
    but can’t find the struggle in his work, his strife
    to capture life from dirty corners, Amsterdam . . . ”

    How wonderfully each stanza runs on into the other following your movement:
    “I dream of painting and then paint my dream”
    Van Gogh’s words chase me along canals
    that divide this city into history and future,
    dreams undreamt & paths, no one walked,

    As your poem ends, I start up to the top and re-enter its circle. Fine writing.

  14. I love the idea of the dream-painting and having a conversation with a figure from history. You don’t romanticise his troubled nature, but there is calm and empathy here along with admiration for his talent. I think I would have liked to have met him too.

  15. How sad, how uncomfortable… Yes, that’s how I would describe your poem, as well as Van Gogh (or any other tormented artist)’s life/work.
    I love the unclearness of this: “we walk past the future into times/
    that missed some of the light it held”
    Right on the spot!

  16. I love this part:

    “Ten years on white canvas, bleeding,
    then he chose to leave, i look for madness”

    “what made him eat his paint, drink the turpentine,
    “life is woven with such fragile threads” i say,
    and for a moment see him–” … Amen to that. I see madness far too easily. 🙂 Isn’t it funny how we can see/understand things for brief moments, and then we are once again lost in confusion?

  17. Lovely, lovely, lovely… so easy to read and it simply draws me in, takes me for a ride that I don’t want to end. I’m a Van Gogh enthusiastic and I can relate to looking for the madness yet remaining unable to find the struggle in his work. This was a joy to read.

  18. Wonderful… you have captured a fine portrait of Van Gogh with your words… stripping it to the essence… the play of the impossible shades of light and shadow

  19. I don’t think anyone who creates(even at a modest level) can read/learn about Van Gogh and not be moved. I envy you the trip through his museum…I love the way you look for him in his work, which are his dreams, and find(or so I read) none of the madness or agony…I also so often see only peace and incredible unity in his painting…anyway, another stellar poem, Claudia, striking and almost musical in language.

  20. Such a colorful and chromatic poem, Claudia. I love the parallel in his statement and the past and present in your piece…and the dampness and the difficult textures.This is a beautiful tribute. I love the moment when you caught a glimpse.

  21. so engagingly contemplative,

    “the play of shade ‘n light that moves so fast” –

    when he was well, i’ve read, he painted genius

    when he was not, he ate the means to create

    ““life is woven with such fragile threads” i say,
    and for a moment see him– ”

    beautifully done claudia, thank you 😉

  22. Oh I would love to visit the Van Gogh museum, he was indeed a man full of troubles… but what an artist! I loved this trip and makes me think what colours I need to paint my dreams…very nice!

  23. A big fan of Van Gogh, studied his work and wrote poems about him as well. I really like your take/presentation/interpretation. I know Amsterdam, but never helped me climb inside his mind, a point you make well. Very good write!

  24. Claudia. Claudia. This was beautiful. van Gogh has always been one of my favorites, a constant source of inspiration. I believe he was manic-depressive, so I sort of reach across the centuries to touch him, because he has certainly touched me. And you, from reading your poem about his Amsterdam work. Thanks so much for this, and for the photo, which looks like a painting, Amy
    http://sharplittlepencil.com/2012/08/04/elementary-school-lesson-dverse/

  25. I do not think he sold one painting during his life time..and now they are worth millions….and to think that fraud Picasso made millions out of his…I bet VG wished he had made a bonfire before he died rather than have his work languishing as investments in vaults of corporate juggernauts.

  26. “Ten years on white canvas, bleeding,
    then he chose to leave, i look for madness
    but can’t find the struggle in his work, his strife”

    I love this because I agree. Their is such beauty created within the very midst of his personal suffering. How is it the human condition can be so opposed within one soul and yet it is.

  27. bitters…never tasted the bitters, but this leaves me with a taste I shouldn’t have. Am I right? Very good, sorry so late, and my poem tonight is so simple, no time, but soon again I will. Thanks Cheers 🙂

  28. Claudia, This is terrific. And it is the third reference to Van Gogh I’ve encountered this week. The first was a Dr. Who episode on Netflix. He was such a wonderful artist. It’s too bad he never knew in his lifetime how he would be viewed in the future. Peace, Linda

  29. Oh my… I love this! Van Gogh is my absolute favorite artist. I draw so much inspiration from his paintings and sketches.I also feel connected to him somehow… his troubled mind. I would love to spend a day in his museum.

    Thank you very much for the wonderful comment you left on my blog. I appreciate it more than you will ever know!

  30. Painting and poetry share a nature, according to Simonides. Once committed to paper or canvas, they cease to be wholly our property; they communicate, they enter the consciousness of the observer and reader, they are interpreted, they’re all about a whole nother semiotics. I’m resigned to that, and a whole dance of poems follow me wherever I go, the steps of their farandole becoming less familiar as the dance goes on.

    Your poem is excellent. No surprise.

  31. This is very good Claudia. Love the mixture of the artist and his work to your first time seeing and how it affected you, even some tidbits about the city itself. Great transitioning and seamless movement. Great job. Thanks

  32. One of my all time favourite Australian poets, Billy Jones, who recently passed, wrote a wonderful poem about Van Gogh, and I read it yesterday at SpeedPoets (the monthly event I host), so reading this today blew me away… the ending is so crisp.

  33. We just watched a short program on VanGogh on 60 Minutes alleging he didn’t commit suicide but was protecting some kids who shot him. VanGogh and his work just gets me right in the gut. I hope there’s an afterlife where I can sit down and have a good chat with him.

  34. Many people forget that Vincent was Dutch, focusing on the French part of his life. You have brought clarity of vision to a fantastic story, artist and city. (Amsterdam has a special place in my memory).

    I particularly loved the lines ” we walk past the future into times that missed some of the light it held.”

  35. Amsterdam is so amazing! and so is Mr. Vincent- I truly fell more in love with houseboats after my visit. I love the barges full of flowers too! thanks for taking me back 🙂

  36. Van Gogh’s work is phenomenal–just saw a few pieces in Paris, would love to see a museum full! As usual, you are right at his level, painting amazing pictures with your words “sweet scent of brittle years” loved that!

  37. “but the play of shade ‘n light that moves so fast
    what made him eat his paint, drink the turpentine,
    “life is woven with such fragile threads” i say,
    and for a moment see him”
    After Meeting Van Gogh

    Hi! Claudia… your poetic words, your thoughts, your beautiful image[photograph] have captured your feelings after… we [you] were [visited] visiting the Van Gogh Museum & [how] his story moved…

    Thanks, for sharing and the journey to go back and come for-ward and play “catch-up…too!

  38. Art is truly for the mad, for the future is only bearable by the mad.
    Art is truly for the sane, for the future can only be predicted by thought.
    Madness and sanity vying for the soul of the artist, transmuting the mind from its sweet grave burden to its auric shine of the forever glass.
    Art is the crucible of transformation, the fire of pain and healing.
    Avian ash reborn to feathers and flight.
    As above, so below.

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