Wednesday, August 8, 2012


Here’s one, a combination of ekphrasis and a persona poem (in the voice of someone else) from my van Gogh book of poems.  [This my final post in a short series on ekphrasis.]


                                                I begin,
Vincent, to regard your closeness
in matched colors: stormy sky
blue eyes, the orange of your beard.

                        Some days you entered
full of sunflowers, those big ugly eyes
that watched while walls had ears
for the wild side.

                                    Your head
not yet a hill of bandages,
you saw how Rachels often end up empty
and whispered about a wedding of two
complementary colors.

                                                And I half-
hearing you rave late into night
about the fullness of color: how grays glow
with a bridelike blush and yellow in woodwork
wavers out and into shadows.

                                                With your scent
of turpentine, absinthe and death, you gave me
more than I bargained for.  The Christmas
you brought me the razored section
of your left ear, I turned away,
not wanting to see what wasn’t there.

-- Lenny Lianne

This poem of mine is almost thirty years old.  Though it’s gone through many revisions, the poem always has been spoken by Rachel.

Who was Rachel?  According to the brief police report printed in the Arles newspaper the day after Vincent van Gogh cut off part of his earlobe, he gave the section of ear to a certain Rachel, a prostitute. 

Vincent cut off part of his ear on Christmas Eve and gave it to Rachel as a token of himself, or perhaps as a Christmas present.

How did I come to write this poem?  When I lived in Northern Virginia, and before I started taking courses toward in MFA in Creative Writing (Poetry), I often took courses at the Washington Writers Center, now in Bethesda, Maryland.  One of those brief courses was “Nothing but Words,” taught by Rod Jellema, a fine poet and teacher.  One evening he gave a six-minute writing exercise whose instructions were:

1.     Write in the present tense.
2.     Use concrete, specific words; no abstractions
3.     Try to use all of these words:
ache (as a verb)
strip (as a verb)

After six minutes of writing, I had the first draft of the poem which, twenty-five years and quite a few revisions later, would appear in my second book, FRENZY OF COLOR, REVERIE OF LINE.

Click here to go to Amazon and see my book.


1 comment:

Tammy Vitale said...

the poem is breathtaking!