poet's pose

I’m finally getting up the courage to write about her. And about you. And about how I feel about her and you. When I think about it, I have an empty ache in my chest. I think about the things we did together and wonder if you’re doing the same things with her like you did with me. I’m not still in love with you. I know that I love the person you were when you were with me. But damn, it sure is hard when you still look like the same person and you aren’t with me. Maybe I’ll write more and maybe I won’t. I just hope she treats you better then I ever could. And my god, I hope she was worth it.
—  Please don’t take his smiles for granted. -gaa

Vincent Van Gogh made this portrait of Eugène Boch on or about September 1, 1888. It could have been a fine birthday present for this fellow painter whom he had been introduced to only two months earlier.
But it wasn’t. It was intended as a decoration for Vincent’s new home, the “Yellow House”. Van Gogh hung it in his bedroom.

“Ah well, thanks to him — at last I have a first sketch of that painting I’ve been dreaming about for a long time — the poet. He posed for it for me. His fine head, with its green gaze, stands out in my portrait against a starry, deep ultramarine sky; his clothing is a little yellow jacket, a collar of unbleached linen, a multicoloured tie.” (Letter 673, September 3, 1888).

In 1891, Theo Van Gogh’s widow gave the portrait to Boch, who was more than happy with the gift:

“I do not know how I can tell you, madam, how much I was touched by your present and how much pleasure it gives me: it is a beautiful work of art, but moreover a souvenir of Vincent, who I knew in Arles. I still remember the good moments which we had together there. Full of enthusiasm for art, for pure art ! This remains my most enduring thought about your brother-in-law.“ (Letter to Jo Van Gogh-Bonger, July 21, 1891)

Eugène Boch, a Belgian impressionist painter, was born on September 1, 1855. His older sister Anna was a founding member of ‘Les XX’, an important group of artists in its days.

Vincent Van Gogh, Eugène Boch or ‘The Poet’, September 1888. Oil on canvas, 60 x 45 cm. Musée d’Orsay, Paris


Man’s Informal Robe with the Thirty-six Poetic Immortals
Period: Taishō period (1912–26)
Date: early 20th century
Culture: Japan
Medium: Silk, stenciled and paste-resist dyed
Dimensions: Overall: 50 3/8 x 49 5/8 in. (128 x 126 cm)
Classification: Textiles-Costumes
Credit Line: John C. Weber Collection, Metropolitan Museum of Art

Description from The Metropolitan Museum of Art: “Representations of the Thirty-Six Poetic Immortals harken back to a literary canon established by the courtier Fujiwara no Kintō (966–1041). When portrayed in the handscroll format, individual poets—in distinctive poses, and with recognizable attributes—are separated from one another by inscriptions of their poems. In contrast, Rinpa artists gathered these isolated, iconic luminaries into a single scene, a convention followed in this informal man’s robe. The visually complex composition was produced through a dyeing process that initially involved using a stencil through which a rice-paste resist was applied, creating thin white outlines around most figures. Colors were then added to accentuate the presence of five poets in particular—notably, one of five female poets, who occupies a prominent position at the upper center of the back of the garment. Her figure, however, is slightly obscured by the men that surround her.”

Artemis:  I’d love to get a better look at the detail of this piece.    I’d go to the Met to see it but it isn’t on view.  :(

Victor Hugo, Three-Quarter View, 1885
Auguste Rodin (French, 1840–1917)
Drypoint, second of eight described states; 9 x 7 in. (22.9 x 17.8 cm)
Rogers Fund, 1916 (16.37.2)

Metropolitan Museum: 

The author of Notre-Dame de Paris (1831) and Les Misérables(1862) was an old man when Rodin proposed to make his portrait. Hugo’s patience with sittings had been strained to the breaking point by another sculptor whose efforts are reported to have produced a mediocre bust. Moreover, Hugo’s devoted mistress Juliette Drouet was dying of cancer. Details of the story vary, but the earliest published accounts agree that Rodin was permitted to be present in the Hugo household and to make sketches, but that the poet would not actually pose. Rodin made dozens of drawings from every possible viewpoint, some rapidly sketched on the spot and others from memory, before being allowed to set up a modeling stand in an out-of-the-way corner to work in clay. From these preliminaries Rodin created the bust of Hugo that he first exhibited at the Salon of the Société des Artistes Français in 1884. A series of splendidly executed prints followed. The fifth state of this Three-Quarter View was published in the journal L'Artiste in February 1885.


I am fair, O mortals! like a dream carved in stone, 
And my breast where each one in turn has bruised himself 
Is made to inspire in the poet a love 
As eternal and silent as matter.

On a throne in the sky, a mysterious sphinx, 
I join a heart of snow to the whiteness of swans; 
I hate movement for it displaces lines, 
And never do I weep and never do I laugh.

Poets, before my grandiose poses, 
Which I seem to assume from the proudest statues, 
Will consume their lives in austere study;

For I have, to enchant those submissive lovers,
Pure mirrors that make all things more beautiful:
My eyes, my large, wide eyes of eternal brightness!

(Beauty, The Flowers of Evil - C. Baudelaire )


5 retrospective indications that I would be rubbish at relationships

During my childhood 
I never had the patience 
nor the careful fingers needed 
to make daisy chains. 
I’d only get about three or four flowers threaded 
before my clumsy hands 
broke the sequence.

Restaurants make me feel nervous and stupid.

I never learnt French. I do not know what
tenderloin of pork avec compôte de pommes is -
if it’s pork and applesauce, just say
pork and goddamn applesauce.

To any boy who might one day
want to take me on a date:
let’s walk to the beach and buy fish ‘n’ chips,
eat from the newspaper parcels on our laps as we
watch the ocean roll in and out and 
in again, 
our romance soundtracked by the squawks 
of a hundred hungry seagulls and their melancholy calls – 
we’ll call it a metaphor for the human condition, for our
all-consuming need to devour love.

My mother once compared my sex life 
to that of our mutt – we were walking him down at the river 
and he was trying to hump every other dog 
in Palmerston North.

The funniest thing about this is that
the amount of people I have slept with
remains in the single digits and
I have never had a one night stand.

(The funniest thing about this is
nothing at all.)

I am messed up. 
I feel sinful and small.

I cannot sleep in the presence of other people.

I have Goldilocks-like senses: 
his body is too warm, his bed is too cold 
this position is too entangled, 
the other is too detached

and the streetlight outside the window
is brighter than the fluorescent bulbs
in a dentist’s surgery

(if I close my eyes
how do I trust him
not to extract each of my teeth
while I am floundering in the dark shadows
of my dreams?)

I read too many books.

At first they gave me hope for princes and heroes, 
happy endings. 
Now I am versed in sobering sadness
drunks and druggies
crippling minds diseased by terrible ideas,
boys who pose as poets 
and poets who write prose about fucking

and sex that doesn’t live up to the sonnets

I am wary of everyone now – I know how these things finish

I am a cynic stuck in the clutches
of a self-fulfilling prophecy.