poetry / Poetry Pairings

Poetry Pairings: Rilke, Van Gogh, and Small Stones

Peach Tree in Bloom at Arles, c.1888 By Vincent van Gogh

Peach Tree in Bloom at Arles, c.1888 By Vincent van Gogh

I’m happy to bring you a guest poetry pairing by Jessica Latham today:

Poetry pairings: Rilke, Van Gogh, and Small Stones

 I’m reading A Year with Rilke: Daily Readings from the Best of Rainer Maria Rilke and since it will be due back to the library in a few days, I’m reading days and months ahead. This morning I read Where I Am Going. Where are you going?  Are you trustful of the nameless?

A name that many of us know is Vincent Van Gogh.  I am happy to see the online blog post Where I Am Going paired with one of Van Gogh’s paintings, which reminds me of a movie I checked out from the library, Vincent: The Life and Death of Vincent Van Gogh. At one point in the movie I had to stop and transcribe Van Gogh’s words, ones I still come back to:

Looking at the stars always makes me dream. As simply as I dream over the black dots representing towns and villages on a map. Why, I ask myself, shouldn’t the shining dots of the sky be as accessible as the black dots on the map of France? Just as we take the train to get to Tarascon or Rouen, we take death to reach a star. We cannot get to a star when we are alive anymore than we can take the train when we are dead. So to me it seems possible that Cholera, Tuberculosis and cancer are the celestial means of locomotion; just as steam boats, buses and railways are the terrestrial means. To die quietly of old age would be to go there on foot…We do not feel we are dying, but we feel the truth that we are of small account.

Van Gogh and Rilke expressed their existence by brushing paint on canvas, by putting ink to paper – and this reminds me of small stones, short writing pieces aimed at capturing present moments.  Walking to the library, I jotted down a few short thoughts, a few of my own small stones:

one two three

the joy of counting


eddie brickell

recollecting childhood

in my ears

man with a hood

does not look in my eyes

cold sun

burning off pizza

one step at a time

winter sun


the old man with the cane’s

blue converse

the man in the hood

still does not look in my eyes

fading sun
What small stones can you capture today?  What inspires you to write?  What in this present moment is lovely?

– Jessica Latham lives in wine country in Northern California and obsesses about living with passion and love.  She has been featured in various journals for her poetry, haiku and fiction.  Jessica also spends her energy interviewing others daring to live with passion and love on her blog, Rowdy Prisoners.  Besides reading, writing and loving, she tires herself out with CrossFit, keeping up her Spanish and spending time snuggled up reading Daniel Ladinsky’s translations of the great Sufi Master, Hafiz.

8 thoughts on “Poetry Pairings: Rilke, Van Gogh, and Small Stones

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