Reflections/poem biography for Van Gogh’s Other Mistress

Van gogh van goghed triple smaller

“she hears his ear unspiral;
her teeth crunch on bone.”

This poem started as a play with ideas and images. On the one hand, the intrigue of imagining if Van Gogh had had a secret mistress undocumented by history. On the other, the fact that an obsessive artist’s art often claims as much time as any lover would. Painting is the queen of all mistresses.
Obviously, Van Gogh’s ear had to play a role – it would be betraying his artistic myth/celebrity to leave it out. The images I chose are a mixture of details from some of his most famous pieces and synaesthetic indulgence of my own. This is a poem that I really enjoyed writing.


Electric Questions - lit version smallerDiscussion Point

How acceptable is it to mix fact and fiction in a poem about a real person, even if they’re dead? What are the moral obligations when presenting such work to readers? How does a writer balance imaginative freedom with factual accuracy?

Inspiration/Writing Prompt

Choose a painting or series of paintings by a dead artist. Research the painter’s background. Imagine the undocumented daily details of their life. Can you write a poem/story combining factual details about them, actual aspects of/images from their art and how you personally imagine their life?

plentyfish cover (1)At poetry readings, I often enjoy hearing about the background to a particular poem. ‘Wednesday Reflections/Sometimes I smile’ is my attempt to share the inspiration, frustrations, pain, philosophies and thoughts that lie behind my poetry collection ‘plenty-fish’. Each Wednesday, this blog will contain one of these ‘poem biographies’, as well as points for potential reader discussion and also writers’ prompts. My collection ‘plenty-fish’ may be bought from Nine Arches Press, here, or my website, here. More Wednesday Reflections on other poems in the collection can also be found here.