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,



*Lines taken from edited by Leo Jansen, Hans Luijten and Nienke Bakker

Van Goghs boots

Expect Miracles

Napowrimo Day 5 using Christina Thatcher’s prompt, based on the poem by Ellen Bass “Relax”: Include the phrase “Bad things will happen.” My thanks to Randy at

for suggesting Christina as an alternative source of prompts for the challenge.

Expect Miracles


Is your glass half full or half empty?

To paraphrase, Einstein said your life experience is based

on whether or not you view the Universe as kind.

Growing up, no-one paid much attention to Einstein

in my household, nor the Sufi poets who decreed

“This too will pass.”

My family worked all hours and missed these valuable insights.

Instead, they settled on a twisted, self-limiting prophecy

of their own making:

Expect the worst then anything good that happens is a bonus.

They aspired to nothing more than survival of dark times,

an unquestioning acceptance that bad things will happen.

Ironically, their neglect regularly left me alone with books.

The ability to read allowed me the freedom to choose another path.

Positivity is my conscious choice.

If this is the progress made by one generation,

imagine the possibilities which open up to the next.

To expect miracles? I hope they do.


I feel immortal

Yes, I feel immortal… this morning I opened Twitter and there staring back at me was a quotation from an interview I gave a year ago, and underneath was my name Nicola Hulme…  I had to read it twice to make sure it was really also carried the hashtag #wednedsaywisdom

I ask for no more, I am immortal, I have a quote as had Ghandi, Martin Luther King,  Maya Angelou, Elizabeth Gilbert, Oprah Winfrey, CS Lewis, Terry Pratchett…

I feel complete. My job here is done.

How bizarre!

OK so I’m not a superhero, but it just shows that wonderful things do happen and can happen for everyone. It’s something I believe in very strongly.

PS. I my job as writer will never be done, I have opened the gateway, I have let in the light, I will write until I have no more words. It isn’t a job, it’s a passion, perhaps an addiction.

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