Thursday, 7 March 2019

This week’s Poetry Friday host is Catherine at Reading to the Core. Stop by for a round-up of this week’s poetic posts.

Hello, Poetry Friday friends. I haven’t seen you in a few weeks. Before I get to this week’s poem — a quick update!

I took a blogging break while I was traveling with 17 other children’s authors on PJ Library’s Author Israel Adventure. It was a life-changing trip, full of new friends, amazing experiences, and lots of learning. I’ll tell you more about it in future posts. If you can’t wait, there is a great photo essay about our trip in Publisher’s Weekly — written and photographed by children’s author Mark Shulman.

Enjoying felafel sandwiches in Jerusalem with children’s authors Emma Carlson Berne (L) and Madelyn Rosenberg (R).

Because of the trip, I moved this year’s February Poetry Project to March. We are a small group this year, with some regulars and some new poets responding to a common poetry prompt every day. If you’d like to join, let me know. This year’s theme — definitely inspired by the incredible Mediterranean cuisine  — is FOOD. If you’d like to learn more about my annual poetry project, please read this 2016 post.

The only other time I have traveled abroad with a group of authors was four years ago. In 2015, about 60 poets/community activists gathered in Salerno, Italy for the 100 Thousand Poets for Change World Conference. That’s where I met Lisa Vihos, the poet I’m going to introduce you to today.

Lisa Vihos reading at 100 Thousand Poets for Change World Conference in Salerno, Italy, 2015.

Lisa Vihos is a Wisconsin poet and editor. Some of her books are the chapbooks This Particular Heaven (Kelsay Press, Kelsay Books, 2017) and Fan Mail from Some Flounder (Main Street Rag Publishing, 2018). Two of the anthologies Lisa compiled and edited are From Everywhere a Little: A Migration Anthology (Water’s Edge Press, 2019, co-edited with Dawn Hogue), and the book I’m featuring today: Van Gogh Dreams (HenschelHAUS Publishing, 2018).

Van Gogh Dreams is an apt title for this collection. The book weaves together ekphrastic responses to specific Van Gogh paintings (The Potato Eaters, Sunflowers, Starry Night, for example), poems in Van Gogh’s voice, and modern reflections on the artist and what 21st century creatives can learn from him.

If you’re in the Maryland/DC area, Lisa is coming to visit! She will be the featured author, along with Andria Nacina Cole, at Wilde Readings (the local literary reading series that I co-host). The event is March 12 at the Columbia Art Center, Columbia, MD. We start the open mic at 7 pm. (More info is here.)

I’m so excited to see Lisa again. Literary friendships run deep.

Here is Lisa Vihos’s poem from Van Gogh Dreams.

Love Letter for Vincent
By Lisa Vihos

I would have sat quietly
while you painted the stars
and I would not have tossed
the sunflowers
before you were done with them

I would have tended
the irises, dusted your chair,
and made your bed, in love
with the vibration inside all things —
just like you. I would not have judged

the cut ear or the old sermons.
I would have cooked your potatoes,
wiped clean your shoes,
and bought you another absinthe
at midnight in the pool hall.

I would have brought a picnic lunch
and a cool drink to the wheat field.
I would have marveled with you at the sun
and the patterns the blackbirds made
as they flew low along the horizon.

Posted with permission of the author.

Van Gogh Dreams is available here and on Amazon.

I love that the cover of Van Gogh Dreams is a work of  art in itself. As Lisa explains in the book’s introduction, it is taken from a collage created by her father, artist Georg Vihos.

While she’s here, Lisa will be recording an episode of the long-running Library of Congress podcast “The Poet and the Poem.” The host is Grace Cavalieri, our new state poet laureate of Maryland! I’ll share a link when the podcast is available.

Do you love Van Gogh’s paintings? You might want to check out Vans new Van Gogh fashion line. Yes, Vans the sneaker company. What would Vincent think, I wonder?

15 responses to “Poetry Friday: Van Gogh Dreams”

  1. I love the poem you chose to share. Thanks for sharing Lisa’s work. I look forward to reading more of it.

  2. Linda Baie says:

    I remember you shared Lisa’s work before & I have her book, A Brief History of Mail. Oh, the relationships! And this one about Van Gogh also is from someone who wants the relationship. Love it all, especially the opening, “and I would not have tossed
    the sunflowers
    before you were done with them.” Have fun with your friend, Laura!

  3. Laura, it looks like your birthday month was filled with wonderful happenings. Thank you for introducing me to a new poet. I would be sitting in awe of Van Gogh if I had met him. This love letter format is quite fitting and such a tribute. Thanks for adding me to the March project. I am away at a state conference and have lots of presentations next week in schools so I may not be able to add much.

  4. Kathryn Apel says:

    Wow! What an adventure!! You must be bubbling with creativity and joy. Loved the Van Gogh poem you shared. It just draws us all in with the familiar.

  5. Irene Latham says:

    I must get this book! And I love hearing all the ways you’re out there living your poem, Laura. Beautiful! xo

  6. Alice Nine says:

    Dropping this book in my shopping cart! What a beautiful tribute to Van Gogh so full of love of artist through the allusions to his art. The opening stanza is wonderful! Thank you, Laura. I really wanted to join your FOOD challenge but didn’t want to take someone’s place since I’m not sure I can meet the challenge every day. But since you have spots open, I will sign up. I loved doing it last February.

  7. Ruth says:

    What a tender love letter for Vincent! Thank you for sharing it.

  8. Tabatha says:

    Charming poem, so full of the desire to share his wonder, ease his burdens.
    That felafel looks tasty! Looking forward to hearing about your adventures in person.

  9. Linda M. says:

    What a tender letter to Vincent. The things we would have lovingly done (with the help of hindsight). Your joy over travel with other writers is infectious! Sounds like a trip of a lifetime. Can’t wait to hear more.

  10. Linda says:

    I really enjoyed the poem you shared. I’m putting Lisa’s book on my wish list. Thank you for introducing us to her work!

  11. Artists aren’t always understood or appreciated in their lifetime. Thanks for sharing Lisa’s poem which shine’s brightly on Van Gogh in many ways!

    Looking forward to hearing more about your travels too Laura…

  12. Laura, your trip sounds amazing, and I’m looking forward to hearing more about it. Ekphrastic poetry is one of my favorite forms, so I am swooning over “Love Letter for Vincent.” Thank you for sharing it with us today!

  13. Mary Lee says:

    I couldn’t wait. I peeked at the photo essay. WOW! What a trip! What an opportunity! What a fabulous new tribe you have! Can’t wait to see what writing comes of it.

    And Lisa’s poem. LOVE. And the Vans. Must have.

  14. Molly Hogan says:

    Laura, your trip must have been amazing! I always find myself discombobulated upon returning from a journey. I see everything differently and have a hard time settling back into the world I’d temporarily left. It’s a powerful time. On another note, I love this poem to Vincent Van Gogh. Thanks for sharing!

  15. Oh…I wish I had seen this before…and I wish I had gone to this reading! I love Lisa and Andria…we are friends from when she lived here. xxxx

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Laura Shovan

Laura Shovan is the author of the award-winning middle grade novel, The Last Fifth Grade of Emerson Elementary. Her second book, Takedown, is a Junior Library Guild and PJ Our Way selection. Look for A Place at the Table, co-written with Saadia Faruqi, in 2020. Laura is a poet-in-the-schools Maryland.

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