Saturday, May 30, 2009



Crows rose like black rick rack
into a sky of blue violence,
up from the golden wheat fields,
where boots had trampled
a sad and solitary path.

Listen to the screams of the crows
as they furiously flap their oil black
attempting to ascend the boundaries
of the earth, only to be caught
forever in a flight of vain striving.

The crows advance toward the
observer in a wave of
Here, the diverging roads lead
nowhere, and traveling them brings
only darkness forever – and peace.


Karen said...

How beautifully and perceptively you capture the feeling of the painting and the painter with your words.

The first stanza, so visual, with the "black rick rack" and the "sky of blue violence", "golden wheat fields," and boot-trampled path -- in itself, this could be a complete poem of the painting. But then, as always, you go much, much deeper. Your second stanza makes me really hear the cawing and the wings beating and feel the vanity of their "forever..flight." Again, you could have stopped here, because the poem already is full. Then you go again, deeper, bringing out the madness and darkness of Vincent and finally his peace at having finished it all.

Kaye, this is my favorite of all your poems. I think it is absolute poetry perfection. I can't think of anything better to describe it than PERFECT.

Catvibe said...

Oh K, what an amazing description of the tortured soul of Van Gogh as seen through the visual of his last painting. You have captured the essence here. I read Lust for Life when I was traveling to Europe in 1977 and so was enlightened on his life when I saw his paintings in Paris. But nothing prepared me for the emotion that drips from them still. I can not come into a room with a Van Gogh without a hankie. Beautifully written, and now you have added sound and animation to this and it really works well. Excellent K.

Aniket said...

"attempting to ascend the boundaries
of the earth, only to be caught
forever in a flight of vain striving."

I was transported to a distant place with the second para. Read it at least 5 times before moving ahead. A great tribute K.

Margaret said...

K. The words of your poem bring Van Gogh's last painting alive!

I heard the screams of the crows in their pitiful flight. Felt their desperation in...

"attempting to ascend the boundaries of the earth"

in the same way as we humans try to do.

Your last line..

"only darkness forever - and peace"

gave your poem the perfect ending.

the walking man said...

If Van Gogh were mad then I pray God I could be as mad.

trooping with crows said...

Hi Mom,
(sobbing, obviously)...
Ohhhhh, gosh I love Vincent! I loved our talk (more like a much appreciated lesson) the other morning. You are so knowlegable of all things Van Gogh, Mom. You know that one of my favorite lines of all your poetry is here...
"Crows rose like black rick rack"
You have captured the feel of this painting in words so well, that it seems the painting came after the poem.
I love the bittersweetness of the very last line. I could go on and on.
the walking man's comment is genius!

Anonymous said...

I was really struck by the reverse of the vanishing perspective. Everything widening as it gets closer. The sound of the crows looms. Too swallow you.

K.Lawson Gilbert said...

Karen, I'm glad this is your favorite. I have such an affinity for Vincent. Thanks so much for all the nice comments here. I really do appreciate them.
I'm fortunate enough to have seen this painting, among many others. Wheatfield With Crows is a huge painting. It was hanging at the exit of the exhibit "Van Gogh's Van Goghs" in D.C. - I was very emotional looking at each and every painting, but when I got to this one, I lingered as long as possible, knowing I might not ever see the original again. Just the idea of knowing that he carried the canvas and actually set it up in the same field where he shot himself was heartbreaking to me.

Cat - I appreciate your compliments so very much. Thanks!
Lust for Life is so electrically charged and sad at the same time. I also have the book of letters he wrote to Theo and others, mostly Theo - so very revealing. And I cry just looking at the paintings in books can imagine me in front of his actual paintings! Thanks again.

Aniket, so glad you felt moved by this. I am just as enthralled with Vincent as I am with his works. I guess it would be very difficult to separate the two, since he poured his very soul into the artwork. Thank you.

Margaret - Thank you for those kind words and compliments. Yes, the crows represent Vincent's dark depression and ominous mood at the time. I feel they also represent HIS torment, as he, too, hangs suspended between heaven and earth.

Walking Man - yes, I know what you mean. There is such a thin line between brilliance and insanity. He operated on the extreme edge of his sensibilities, where life and art are inextricably bound.

Hi Merissa, I know you do. Thanks for always wanting to know more and more about him. I guess our Van Gogh discussion and reflections Saturday morning got me to thinking about him, more than usual.

Wow..."You have captured the feel of this painting in words so well, that it seems the painting came after the poem." I thank you, with my whole heart, for such praise. <3

Jason - That is the effect I was hoping for...many, many thanks.

Karen said...

Gosh, K, I hardly know anything about him, nothing really, more than most who have seen some of his works and know the typical lore. Your love and admiration of him tells me I should know more. Is the book Cat recommends the place to start?

By the way, I hope I don't sound too analytical in my comments. I usually just want to say, "Wow! or Oh! or OMG, how lovely!" But Nancy from Breathing Poetry and I had a discussion about the purpose of comments, and she stated to me that she thinks the point should be to give specific feedback. Since then, I've tried to do more of that and less of just putting my hand on my heart and gasping in admiration. Sometimes now, I worry that I sound like Owen Meany - speaking in all caps and making pronouncements. Don't mean to do that at all.

Mairi said...

I'm with trooping with crows. Crows rose like black rick rack is great. Beginning with a rhyme makes the reader sit up and take notice and the rick rack image is absolutely apt. I've known and been almost awed by the last whet field painting since I was about eleven, when I got one of those Time Life art books on Van Gogh for Christmas. I have a thing, as you've probably noticed, for poems about paintings and the way they add to the dialogue started by the original, as evidenced here.

Vesper said...

Ohhhh, I love this, Kaye! It's fantastic, so powerful that my heart hurts in the best of ways. Beautiful, very beautiful!

Listen to the screams of the crows
as they furiously flap their oil black
attempting to ascend the boundaries
of the earth, only to be caught
forever in a flight of vain striving.
I am there...

S.L. Corsua said...

Love the first two lines, esp. 'rick rack' and 'blue violence.'

I also can't get the line "forever in a flight of vain striving" out of my head. Makes me think of something melodic, a hum, a song, an epic. ;)

Cheers, Kaye. Always a treat to be here.

Julie said...

Excellent! The last three lines make me think of Robert Frost's "The Road Not Taken." But you've added a wonderful twist that I LOVE!

I can only echo everyone with all of the lines I love (which would be all of it). I love how you use words like "blue violence" and "a wave of madness" and "attempting to ascend the boundaries..." to describe the scene and point back to the artist.

Another awesome thing is that it could be about a painting...or about a scene in real life...or something totally different. And yep. I'm sitting here applying it to my life, too. You always touch my soul. Much applause for your wonderful work!

K.Lawson Gilbert said...

Karen, before Vincent was so popular with the masses, ( starry night or his self-portrait on everything from mousepads to coffee cups) I studied his artwork and became fascinated with it and his life. Yes, do read Lust for Life and get some art books to view his work and maybe other bios. He is really well worth getting to know.

LOL!! I have this discussion with many people - how to comment on or critique others' works. I just do a little of both, I guess. I like it all, the analytical and the gasps! Your comments are always great no matter what. LOL - Owen Meany!

Mairi - Thank you so much. It doesn't surprise me that you have also been enamored by the painting. It is such a captivating work.

Vesper - I'm glad this touched you in a special way. I think we all feel that pull of gravity at times, and the vain striving. Thanks for the very nice comments.

S.L. I always appreciate your astute reflections. Thanks so much for stopping by. Glad that line is sticking with you! ;)

Julie - Yes, that is what I was alluding to - the line in "The Road Not Taken." What a different turn of events for the artist - the diverging roads were not the hallowed ground that Frost knew, sadly enough. Van Gogh DID take the road less traveled, but found only disappointment.

And yes, isn't that what is so great about poetry. We all find our own meaning and apply it. Thanks so much for the good comments.

Aine said...

Interesting-- I never thought of those crows as flying towards the observer.

I love the first line, too. And though it's totally off-track, I must admit I thought of Dr Seuss as I read it (just the first line).

Gerry Boyd said...

It's hard to find words to say how good this is. Talking about poetry is like "dancing about architecture". Just know this moved me and, hopefully, that is enough. Thanks.

Lynne Grossman said...

Even without Van Gogh's painting as an illustrative clue, this poem stands proudly on its own! It's not only intensely visual (as in rich emotive colors), it's also auditory. I feel as if I'm caught in the swirls of genius/madness. Using crows as a metaphor is so fitting. (People sometimes "crow" when they talk...often folks wonder if "paintings could talk...)

From the first few lines to the end, you have woven this cohesively and expertly.

Some parts I particularly adore, but, as usual it's hard to choose because I like the entire poem. These parts stood out to me even more, but without your complete poem, these phrases would just hang suspended instead of forming this gem.

Terrific opening! "Crows rose like black rick rack/into a sky of blue violence/flying" and
" furiously flap their oil black wings" (Yes, the painter (and writer" in me sees this "slick" use of words.)

As for the last stanza: bravo. I may be reading more into this than you intended, but I feel as if you're also referencing Van Gogh's personal struggles and stating he found peace through painting, although I'd discuss this poem on a level much more complex than merely the obvious reference to Van Gogh. There's many a universal message here, K.

K.Lawson Gilbert said...

Aine - Many thanks for your comments. Yes, I can see where it is Seussian, in a way - the close rhyming technique.

Gerry - Yes, it is more than enough to know that one of my poems has the ability to make one think and be moved, as you say. I appreciate the very flattering remarks. It is nice to have you here at Old Mossy Moon. I hope you will visit again soon.

Hi Lynne - Thanks so much for all the great comments. It is so gratifying to know that you have been able to pull this apart and understand it on so many levels.

Vincent's paintings draw us in and let us live in the moment. I felt that very clearly when I saw this painting on display.

Unfortuanately, the peace that Van Gogh finally felt was death.

gel said...

Yes, I realize that and I'm sure you know I was not making light of this tragedy. I wish that he could have healed his inner torment in a different fashion.

K.Lawson Gilbert said...

Gel, I would never think that you would make light of suicide, my friend - and I knew perfectly what you meant in your comments. You have such a way to pull apart the layers of a poem and get to the real meat of things...(sorry if you are a vegan) LOL! Anyway, thanks for stopping in again. It is always great to see you. I have been to your site but don't know how to leave a message - does that sound dumb? It probably is. It is a lovely blogspot. I will try again.