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Posts Tagged ‘ekphrasis’




Oh Vincent,

There is in my heart
a small yellow room
with a small wooden table
with a dull yellow cloth
and a rounded clay vase
with your name scrawled in blue,
and it’s bursting with sunflowers,
all of them open, all of them turning,
turning toward the light,
which is to say the flowers face every which way.
There is light everywhere we dare to turn.

Consider this a love letter, Vincent,
a letter sent back in time,
a letter that impossibly arrives
just when you despair,
just when you believe no one cares about your art,
the letter that reaches you to say you are loved
in that exact moment you feel unlovable.

Let this be the letter in which you see
the sunflowers you sowed a hundred thirty years ago
have re-seeded themselves in me
and now grow rampant in my days,
golden petalled and flagrantly lovely.
And your stars, swirling, your wheat fields goldening,
your cypress reaching, your church bells unsinging,
you will find them all my words.

This is how love replants itself—
more love, old friend, more love.
Because you were so truly you,
so full of hope, so full of fear,
because you risked your everything,
I, too, will risk, will dare.

Consider this a love letter, Vincent,
the one that helps you see
how your life is linked to eternity.
Let this be a letter that says thank you, Vincent,
for teaching us new ways to see beauty.

Perhaps this letter will arrive
when you are in the yellow room,
or perhaps the asylum, perhaps in Neuwen,
and you, surprised to find it addressed to you,
will receive it and let the words in,
then hear your own startled voice saying,
It matters? as you pick up your brush
and begin again.  

*

My dear friend composer/pianist/historian Kayleen Asbo and I want to offer you the video recording of our hour-long conversation about Vincent Van Gogh, loss and The Art of Creative Collaboration– click here.This project has been such an important part for each of us in holding on to hope and beauty during a dark and challenging time. If it speaks to a part of your own aching soul and you want to share it, you have our blessing to forward it to whomever you wish.

If you want to offer a donation in support of our work so that we can professionally record our project in both audio and video format, click here for our Go Fund Me account. And we have an anonymous donor who will match all funds donated before July 30! 

If you want to engage in the full collaboration–Vincent’s paintings, Kayleen’s music, and my poems–I hope you will join us in “Love Letters to Vincent” on July 29, the day Vincent died, at 11 a.m. mountain time. We will present the entire collaboration, sending love letters back in time to honor this man who changed the way we see beauty. There will also be a chance to participate in a group creative activity, responding to his work, creating a giant love letter for Vincent. Sliding scale. It will be recorded and sent to all who register.

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inspired by “The Starry Night” by Vincent van Gogh and the piano composition by Kayleen Asbo by the same name

Anything will give up its secrets if you love it enough.
―George Washington Carver


You teach us how to meet the night,
the quiet shadowed pools of night,
the night outside the glow of home,
the night beyond the sleep-warm bed.

You teach us how to fall in love with night,
the violet night, deep fields of night,
the swirling, churning curves of night,
the whirling, sweeping waves of night—

and oh the stars in their spiraling
you share their gold and pink and green,
a twinkling, a burst of shine,
a firmament in which to dream—

but there’s no way to see stars
if you don’t first befriend the dark.
You teach us how to love the dark,
the verdant, fertile wholesome dark.

Oh, to love what frightens us—
to meet dark with curiousness,
Though it’s mighty, tumultuous,
you teach us the dark is generous.

Vincent, you didn’t paint your asylum’s window bars.
You showed us only night. And stars.

*

My dear friend composer/pianist/historian Kayleen Asbo and I want to offer you the video recording of our hour-long conversation about Vincent Van Gogh, loss and The Art of Creative Collaboration– click here.This project has been such an important part for each of us in holding on to hope and beauty during a dark and challenging time. If it speaks to a part of your own aching soul and you want to share it, you have our blessing to forward it to whomever you wish.

If you want to offer a donation in support of our work so that we can professionally record our project in both audio and video format, click here for our Go Fund Me account. And we have an anonymous donor who will match all funds donated before July 30! 

If you want to engage in the full collaboration–Vincent’s paintings, Kayleen’s music, and my poems–I hope you will join us in “Love Letters to Vincent” on July 29, the day Vincent died, at 11 a.m. mountain time. We will present the entire collaboration, sending love letters back in time to honor this man who changed the way we see beauty. There will also be a chance to participate in a group creative activity, responding to his work, creating a giant love letter for Vincent. Sliding scale. It will be recorded and sent to all who register.

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each line taken separately from his letters or speech
 inspired by his unfinished painting “Tree Roots,” which was first hung upside down,
and by Kayleen Asbo’s piano composition “Roots”

you will find beauty everywhere,
the root of everything—
and the sadness will last forever

*

the sadness will last forever,
the root of everything—
and you will find beauty everywhere

*

My dear friend composer/pianist/historian Kayleen Asbo and I want to offer you the video recording of our hour-long conversation about Vincent Van Gogh, loss and The Art of Creative Collaboration– click here.This project has been such an important part for each of us in holding on to hope and beauty during a dark and challenging time. If it speaks to a part of your own aching soul and you want to share it, you have our blessing to forward it to whomever you wish.

If you want to offer a donation in support of our work so that we can professionally record our project in both audio and video format, click here for our Go Fund Me account. And we have an anonymous donor who will match all funds donated before July 30! 

If you want to engage in the full collaboration–Vincent’s paintings, Kayleen’s music, and my poems–I hope you will join us in “Love Letters to Vincent” on July 29, the day Vincent died, at 11 a.m. mountain time. We will present the entire collaboration, sending love letters back in time to honor this man who changed the way we see beauty. There will also be a chance to participate in a group creative activity, responding to his work, creating a giant love letter for Vincent. Sliding scale. It will be recorded and sent to all who register.

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Dear readers, 

As you know, I’ve been sharing lots of poems inspired by van Gogh’s paintings and the music of the incredible composer/pianist/historian Kayleen Asbo–and finally, a chance for you to hear her work!  We will have two events together: the first one is Monday, July 11 for a conversation about collaborating across the arts. We’ll share about the process of creating “Love Letters to Vincent,” piano compositions and poems all conversing with the art of van Gogh, who was, in turn, responding to other artists of his day. Join the big conversation! It will be practical and passionate! Donation based. 

for more info and to register, copy and paste this link:
https://events.r20.constantcontact.com/register/eventReg?oeidk=a07ej9t6q9ac30328ce&oseq=&c=&ch=

The second event, “Love Letters to Vincent” on Friday, July 29, will have all the pieces she composed, all the poems I wrote, all the art, plus a chance for you to write your own love letter to Vincent. This online salon of love and memory on the anniversary of Vincent Van Gogh’s death will be a heartfelt communal ritual of creativity.

Available on a sliding scale donation and also recorded for later viewing. for more info and to register, copy and paste this link:
http://events.r20.constantcontact.com/register/event?oeidk=a07ej8dm76j7c30686c&llr=q9rr4nabb

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after the painting “The Bedroom” by Vincent van Gogh and the piano composition “Yellow Bed” by Kayleen Asbo

In the tilted room with the yellow bed,
hope waltzes on the wooden floor—
one, two, three, one, two, three—
 
not that you see it there,
it’s not obvious like the windows,
the paintings, the mirror, the pitcher, the chairs.
 
Hope is what you don’t see.
But it is there, beside the water glasses,
beside the long towel.
 
Hope sways so keenly
to snatches of melody
the whole room seems to sway.
 
And it’s one, two, three,
one, two, three; Who, hope says,
will dance with me? It promises
 
friendship. It promises rest.
Will you dance? it asks, a dizzy mess.
It promises community. It promises fame.
 
Will you dance? it asks, but it smells
of paint and faraway dreams.
It smells of madness and longing to be seen.
 
Will you dance? it says, its arms flung out.
Here is where Vincent said yes.
Some see a still life, but others see
 
the whirling, the twirling, the beautiful
spinning of hope, reeling hope,
fragile hope.

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     inspired by Landscape at Auvers in the Rain by Vincent van Gogh and Rain at Auvers by Kayleen Asbo

 
Sometimes when it rains
I forget it will ever stop raining.
The rain, it falls,
it falls for days, it falls,
and the rain becomes
a metric imperative,
insistent as a stop watch,
familiar as the pulsing
of blood in the heart,
a throbbing, a beat so adamant
I forget any other tune.
Did you forget, Vincent,
the rain would stop?
Did you feel inside you
a storm as urgent, as bold,
as the rain you painted
long diagonal strokes?
 
I can’t look at your painting
without feeling inside me the rain,
the rain, feel it slant across my world
in thick dark lines.
I can’t look at the purples
and yellows of Auvers
without remembering how days
after you painted these hues,
you would take your life.
 
But how could I vilify the storm
even knowing what I do?
You found in the tumult
light.
You fueled the dampened, darkened world
with ecstatic gold.
You didn’t push the storm away, Vincent.
You let it drench you.
You shared with us all
how struggle, too,
is so terribly, terribly
beautiful.


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inspired by Eternity’s Gate by Vincent van Gogh and a piano composition by the same name by Kayleen Asbo, with quotes from van Gogh’s writings about the painting


Perhaps you, too, have sat
in the corner of a room,
back bent like winter grass,
elbows on your knees,
head weighty in your hands.
Spent. Exhausted.
Unsure how to live
another minute.
This is perhaps
the moment
we least want to be seen,
but if we are lucky,
perhaps an artist
with an eye for eternity
will feel it his duty
to find in our ruin
something precious,
something noble,
something unutterably moving
something to help us
know ourselves
as a part of infinity,
our life a brief song,
unbearably beautiful,
a masterpiece,
dark and descending
though it is.   

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inspired by the painting “Winter (The Vicarage Garden Under Snow)” by Vincent Van Gogh and the piano composition “Winter Fields” by Kayleen Asbo


While he painted the world in browns and grays,
Vincent van Gogh did not yet know
of the throbbing vibrance that would someday
emerge from inside him. He did not yet know
how these somber scenes—like a man alone
shoveling the dim weight of winter—
would give way to an ecstasy of gold,
an elation of blue, rapturous green.
God, I am drawn to these grim, gritty paintings
with their muted schemes and tangled branches,
searching for notes of what will happen—
how he will travel to the warmth of Provence,
will come to share through thick stroke and bright hue
“the terrible passions of humanity.”
How he will give everything, everything to his art—
how his talent will grow as the world breaks his heart,
how he will change the way we see beauty,
how he will be wrestled by melancholy.
I imagine him sitting in the bleak Dutch cold,
painting the dreary, dissonant snow,
becoming the painter he’s destined to be,
living into the losses, the gifts he does not yet know.






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inspired by the painting “The Sower” by Vincent van Gogh and piano composition by the same name by Kayleen Asbo

Forever, the farmer depicted in oils
strides across the field throwing seeds
in an eternal ostinato sowing.
Forever, the sun behind his back
pulses radiant, golden, glowing.
Forever, the worker is caught mid-step
as he swings back his arm in the blue-ish light,
Forever his work is never done.
Forever there are mouths to feed
and grain to grow and the need
for one who unstintingly sows—
and there are thousands of ways to sow.
 
It is said the only thing necessary
for evil to triumph  
is for good people to do nothing.
And so like van Gogh’s sower,
it is our work to keep sowing.
Though forever loss.
Though forever the poor.  
Though forever depression.
Though forever war.
Though forever the crows descend
to follow the sower and eat the seed,
the sower sows despite.
The sower sows because—
The sower sows forever,
for that is what a sower does.

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inspired by Almond Blossom by Vincent van Gogh and music by Kayleen Asbo by the same name

I want to hang a painting
of almond blossoms
above your bed
so when you wake
the first thing you see
are delicate white petals
and a sky a thousand shades of blue.
I want you to wake every morning
into an ever-emerging sense of spring—
wake into sunshine,
wake to a world of splendor
and extravagant blossoming.
 
Of course, the fall.
Of course, the struggle.
Of course, the difficult days.
And of course, the almond blossoms,
painted in creams, pinks and greens
each one an insistent grace note
that lingers beyond its season,
promising something improbable
and utterly necessary,
like ever-blooming beauty,
like the light and airy perfume of hope.

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