Between December 1881-September 1883 – Twenty Words

The assignment specifications asked to select twenty words, and to create a poem (or series of poems) using only those twenty words. I interpreted this experiment quite liberally – instead, using a paragraph quotation from one of my favorite books. “Dear Theo” is a collection of letters written by Vincent van Gogh to his brother Theo. I chose a quotation and created three pieces which you can find below. I saw these three poems as an exploration of the written source text, as well as something that was highly informed by the historical and biographical context. Becoming increasingly less traditional in form, the poems are meant to be read in progression as a narrative account of Vincent van Gogh’s interactions with his brother and his artwork.

Original: While painting it I said to myself: I must not go away before there is something of an autumn evening feeling in the painting, something mysterious, something serious. But as this effect does not stay, I must paint quickly. So the figures are painted in at once by a few strong strokes. It struck me how firmly those little stems were rooted in the ground. I began them with a brush, but because the painted ground was already so sticky, a brush stroke was lost in it – I squeezed the roots and trunks in rom the tube, and modelled them a little with the brush. (155)

Between December 1881-September 1883

I.

While painting
something mysterious, something serious
an autumn evening feeling in the painting
I said to myself
I must not go away

lost in it
a few strong stroke
I began them with a brush.

But as this effect does not stay, I must paint quickly.

II.

M y s t e r i o u s.
S e r i o u s.
S o m e t h i n g.
P a i n t i n g.

III.

Dear Theo,

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