Sunflowers and Old Boots

I recently stumbled upon a website which had the letters written by Vincent Van Gogh to his brother, family and friends. Completely absorbed I was lost to research for hours on end, compelled to learn more of this painters fascinating life story. Here is the resulting “found” poem which uses lines written by Van Gogh himself to describe his experiences, collated in a way which hopefully does justice to his tale. All credit given to Leo Jansen, Hans Luijten and Nienke Bakker who edited and published his letters on line.

Sunflowers and Old Boots

 

This horror of life

I disgust myself as I look upon faces terrified by

my attacks of crisis.

 

Unexpected voices sound in my head

Things appear to change before my eyes

frightening me beyond measure.

 

Leaving a cracked jug of acute melancholy

a repulsion for life, not wanting to move

not wanting to wake again.

 

But extreme sluggishness is a crime!

I must climb back up from this dejected state.

I am very much behind. I have lost too much time.

 

I have dazzling ideas in my head, more than I could ever keep up with.

If only I’d been able to work without illness

How many things I could have done, what the land would tell me!

 

Those who don’t understand, that art preoccupies

accuse me of working too fast

but I should work as hard as a shoemaker, assiduously to make progress.

 

 

Money is the enemy before the troops

One cannot deny or

forget it

 

My dear brother I have bought a suit for 35 francs

But it will last the year

Yet I have need of shoes and a few pairs of drawers

 

I must paint to recover the money to produce

Perhaps, one day,

I’ll be able to repay all that I have spent.

 

If I had private means perhaps

My mind would be freer

To do art for art’s sake.

 

I could sell my bed for the price of a train ticket

That I may see you again

but no, I am condemned to inconveniences.

 

I must stay locked up in the asylum

So not to inflict suffering on those I love.

Here I don’t frighten anyone.

 

The sufferings of anguish aren’t funny when caught in a crisis

But comfort can be found amongst inmates

Who show kindness to one another – it isn’t so sad.

One man hasn’t stopped talking or shouting for a fortnight

Another honourable madman always wears a hat,

spectacles and carries a cane.

 

Some howl, rave, are manic and angry, some filthy, some dangerous.

The food smells musty and is hard to digest

But there is gentleness, we look after each other.

 

Frequent and decisive attacks mean I’m forbidden to paint,

Apprehensive of a relapse, I suffer a thwarted artistic will.

It’s a shipwreck of a journey.

 

In Spring, out in the park,  I have the clarity for work

But the winter is dangerous

I am too damaged by grief.

 

I fear for what reason remains

And capacity for work may be lost.

 

I long to be freed from surroundings and circumstances

I don’t understand and be once more

Bathed in a benevolent sunshine.

 

A warm handshake as I say goodbye,

Vincent.

 

*Lines taken from VanGoghsLetters.org/vg/ edited by Leo Jansen, Hans Luijten and Nienke Bakker

Van Goghs boots

Nic Hulme 1972 – 20XX

It’s Napowrimo Day 20 and the prompt; to write a poem with your name in it.

Nic Hulme 1972 – 20XX

 

One day a grey plaque will be engraved

Nicola Hulme 1972 – 20XX

flowers lying across my coffin, music playing

a line or two of remembrance may be uttered

and that will be all.

 

The sun won’t light up my day

the hush of the tides wont soothe my soul

stars wont inspire me to dream

buds will no longer hold promise.

 

My favourite perfume wont delight

new books wont intrigue

songs wont take me back to treasured times

your touch will leave me cold.

 

No emails will be sent, nor cards written

I wont call, there’ll be no conversation

there may be the odd mention of my name

as Mum or Nic – that will be all.

 

Will I have done all that I wanted to do?

If not, will I know? Will there be time to regret?

Will the next phase – should there be one-

be so amazing, these questions are insignificant?

 

Was it the drugs or the brain closing down

that prompted Steve Jobs to utter

in his dying breath

“Oh wow! Oh wow! Oh wow!”?

Live now or that will be all.

Dream Home

Napowrimo Day 4 – Write about a dream

 

It started with a dream

of a home in the forest

with a ceiling of stars

of a life non-conformist

 

I climbed a great oak

there I laid the first planks

made a bed in the boughs

with moonbeams for a lamp

 

I drank from the waterfall

I ate berries from the bush

I forgot about the city

its pollution and the crush

 

Time evaporated into air

joy took its place

I was living without a care

I lived at my own pace

 

Wild roses were my perfume

small animals my friends

birds serenaded daily

leaving my soul fully cleansed

 

My pulse did not race

my arteries didn’t harden

I was healthy, I was happy

In my rustic home and garden

By Gum!

Day 3 of Napowrimo – use rhyming words

 

My resolve I now need to harden
Got the look from my prison warden
Was summoned to tackle the garden
The weeds she sees cannot be pardoned

Before this beautiful day closes
She kindly, thoughtfully proposes
I should prune and cut back the roses
Their fragrance will once more thrill noses
So I’ll summon my strength and amass
The inner strength to mow the long grass
Perhaps I may scrape by on a pass
Though the neighbours compete and outclass
Kneeling weary on two creaky knees
Carpe Diem! This day I will seize
Though I huff and I puff and I wheeze
I’m determined to win by degrees
Such joy now the long winter is done
Mopping my brow I turn to the sun
Need a massage and bath but By Gum!
I came, conquered, I weeded, I won!

The Sycamore Prince Returns

Today is a momentous day for me. Today is the first time as a member of the Write Out Loud Poetry Group Stockport, that I feel accomplished. Not through being published, not through any quality of poem produced but… to be able to pull out of my bag a poem previously written and read, re-edited and rejuvenated.  You may think this unremarkable, but allow me to explain. In the last two years of joining the group, I have been running to keep up. Each meeting a theme is set and we have a month to write a poem ready to read at the next meeting. I have always been envious of those poets who can say, “I may have read this before, it’s one a wrote a while back.” This month, with the publication of my new children’s Picture Book “The Fixer Man” (shameless plug – I’m sorry!)  I haven’t had the hours needed to write a poem for the group…but I do have “one I have read before, one I wrote a while back” and there you have it… I have now reached the point where I have my own back catalogue of poems, which I can delve into and pull out when called upon. I feel I’ve earned my stripes, done my time, passed my test, graduated into poetry. Today is a good day.

 

The Sycamore Prince Returns

 

Each year impatient for his return

marking time until the majestic moment arrives.

In a shaft of pure light, when reverent air lies still

on a soft whisper he comes.

 

The Autumnal Prince towers

above ethereal mists caught

between earth and sky.

His slender ebony limbs outstretched beneath

the canopy of his golden crown.

 

A silvery sun showers him in sparks

igniting flaming hues.

Baptised in fire a volcanic blaze erupts

burning with vibrant life,

copper passions and saffron embers smoulder.

 

But one who burns so bright cannot stay,

his reign fleeting.

Cool light fades. Cruel chill winds blow

loosening the desperate grip of his fragile hands.

I mourn each yellow fingered leaf

as it falls and returns to its roots.

His glory too quickly lost.

 

Cast into wintry shadows,

our dreams left to sleep for a season.

sycamore

Songbird

My heart swells, with the Spring song sang

by the soloist in sycamore tree

My spirit rises, as his tune stirs

hazy sun-warmed memories.

I drink in, the surroundings

with eyes unveiled and see

diamond dew drops dripping

from budding apple tree.

Where did you go little songbird?

When snows filled winter glen

To whom did you sing whilst away?

Do they miss you now as I did then?

 

Day 25 of Napowrimo and the prompt is as follows: write a poem that

  • Is specific to a season
  • Uses imagery that relates to all five senses (sight, sound, taste, touch, and smell)
  • Includes a rhetorical question

spring

Dust

A shirt is shaken, sprawled over a board.

Her smile is fixed, eyes glazed

hours pass by as the iron runs.

Life evaporates with the steam.

The corpse is well turned out,

the headstone reads “she kept a tidy house”.

 

Dust piles upon dust

falling layer upon layer

dancing on sunbeams in shafts of light

piercing silent rooms.

Bed clothes lie ruffled.

breakfast pots sit in the sink.

 

No-one cares they run through fields

climb over styles

gather mud on their boots

eat picnics on blankets

whilst the tap drips into a bowl

waiting, waiting, waiting.

 

Wind-blown hair, sun burnt skin,

smiles light up the meadow,

birds chatter along with laughter

on the breeze, the dandelion clock

sends parachutes to mark the hours

of this endless day.

fun in fields

Simple Pleasure

Simple Pleasure

 

A rose garden alive with soothing humming bees

fragrance so intoxicating it brings me to my knees

a parasol to cool my brow whilst playful toes peep

at blazing golden rays from above, whilst I submit to sleep.

rose garden

 

I dropped the ball for Napowrimo on Day 7, writing a poem about what you would wish for…. so here it is, better late than never. Hopefully….

Lyrical beauty, decomposing poets and butterflies

The New Mills Poetry Trail Open Mic Event – The Butterfly House at The Torrs, New Mills, by Nicola Hulme

As the setting sun filled the evening sky with a spectacular orange glow, I drove through the Derbyshire lanes to a small town nestled against the dramatic backdrop of the Peak District. I was on my way to celebrate the New Mills Poetry Trail with an evening of open mic poetry.

The residents of New Mills extended a warm welcome to the “outsiders” from Stockport’s Write Out Loud group; they even extended their arms to a poet from who hailed from the far reaches of Glossop, such a friendly bunch.

book butterfly

Held in the beautifully ornate Butterfly House at the Torrs Hotel, poets spilled out into neighbouring rooms such was the amazing turn out. It was heart-warming to see so many people of varying ages and backgrounds coming together to share in their passion, to hear and be heard. Remarkably, for such a large gathering, the atmosphere still remained intimate, reminiscent of stories told around the fireplace.
Published poets, new poets, experienced performers and those, like I, who still shake inwardly when approaching the mic, came together in a shared appreciation of the spoken word. Topics conveyed ranged from the pastoral pleasures of a slow canal walk, the heartaches of unrequited love, through to the surprise of eight family members surviving their first holiday together without anyone’s demise! For our delight we were told how Wordsworth’s decomposing body made fine fertiliser for the daffodils and allotment gardeners cried out for insect genocide, namely the extinction of the Cabbage White. The strength of Manchester was praised in a salute to the bees and conversations overheard at Costa were mulled over between drinks.

It was interesting to observe how we write as introverts, cocooned individually honing our craft, yet, on nights such as these, when we share our lines a new beauty emerges. Like a butterfly spreading its wings for the first time verbalising our humanity, vulnerabilities, passions and fears we create something new and more captivating together. We create a place of trust, empathy and support where smiles, nods and applause say “Yes, we understand, we have experienced the same and can relate to you.”

Quill-pen-parchment-and-ink-bottle1

IPhones, technology and social media may play a huge part in our daily life but it’s reassuring to know the poetry scene is very much alive and well, uniting communities. On this night the people of New Mills and the surrounding areas turned their backs on box set binging and X-Factor warbling, preferring to spend time with friends in a lyrical wonderland.

I’d like to say thank you to Randy Horton and his team of volunteers for organising the Poetry Trail and the open mic evening. Thanks also to the shopkeepers who supported the event by allowing poems to be displayed in their windows and of course to the people of New Mills for coming together and making it a night to remember. I hope we can do it all again next year.

Review is about New Mills Festival Poetry Trail Round Robin on 26 Sep 2018 (event)

Visit @writeoutloud for details of your local poetry groups.

Secret Apples

Secret Apples

 

Deep crimson, swollen with juice

fruitfulness bends the bough.

Ripened by summer’s rays

skin shining in warm showers.

You hang in glorious maturity

tantalisingly out of reach

safe from the harvester

stirring desire more than any other.

Your serenity is a gift

suspended above mayhem

on the furious bend of a motorway slip road.apples