Poetry Friday: Mary Oliver and Vincent Van Gogh

Poetry Friday is hosted by Dori Reads

We recently visited the Saint-Paul-de-Mausole asylum in Saint-Remy, Provence, where Van Gogh was hospitalized towards the end of his life.  His room there overlooks fields, low stone walls and distant mountains.  The plain iron bed and wooden table had been placed as they would have been when Van Gogh occupied the room.  It was a beautiful Provencal afternoon, and a soft sunlight washed over everything in that simple room – we paused for quite some time to look through the window, through the iron bars, at the view which must have given him so much comfort, and so much inspiration.  We were told that wheat was planted there, and borders of sunflowers – both of which occur in so many of his paintings.  The sunflowers were still in bloom when we visited, and, thinking back on the experience this Poetry Friday, I am reminded of this poem:

The Sunflowers
by Mary Oliver
Come with me
into the field of sunflowers.
Their faces are burnished disks,
their dry spines
creak like ship masts,
their green leaves,
so heavy and many,
fill all day with the sticky
sugars of the sun.
Come with me
to visit the sunflowers,
they are shy
but want to be friends;
they have wonderful stories
of when they were young –
the important weather,
the wandering crows.
Don’t be afraid
to ask them questions!
Their bright faces,
which follow the sun,
will listen, and all
those rows of seeds –
each one a new life!
hope for a deeper acquaintance;
each of them, though it stands
in a crowd of many,
like a separate universe,
is lonely, the long work
of turning their lives
into a celebration
is not easy. Come

and let us talk with those modest faces,
the simple garments of leaves,
the coarse roots in the earth
so uprightly burning.

Vincent Van Gogh: “Wheat Field with Rising Sun”


4 thoughts on “Poetry Friday: Mary Oliver and Vincent Van Gogh

  1. That was a beautiful poem. I recall visiting De Young Museum in San Francisco when they were showcasing original masterpieces from Musee D’Orsay from Paris France December of last year – couldn't explain how I felt as I looked at Starry Starry Night up close and yes the beauty of the sunflowers and wheat field with rising sun. 🙂

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