Thursday, April 20, 2017

ARTSPEAK! Portraits poem "Self-Portrait as a Painter"

Hello and Happy Poetry Friday! Be sure to visit the generous, talented Tabatha at The Opposite of Indifference for Roundup.

Welcome to day 21 of ARTSPEAK! Portraits, my 2017 National Poetry Month poem-a-day project, during which I am looking, listening with my spirit ear, and asking these subject to share with me their secrets. THANK YOU for your comments on these posts! I can't tell you how much I am encouraged by your words. What a gift! I'm so grateful for this community.

Before we go any further: Be sure to check in with Donna at Mainely Write to see how our Progressive Poem is progressing! Our poem continues to delight and surprise... yay!

And now, here are the ARTSPEAK! Portraits poems so far:

20. "What to Do in the Desert" after Nubian Girl by Ervand Demirdjian
19. "In Summer" after In Summer by Auguste-Pierre Renoir
18. "Night" after The Outlier by Frederic Sackrider Remington
17. "Boy Blowing Bubbles" after The Bubble Boy by Paul Peel
16. "Morning" after Buki Rinsen by Tsuchida Bakusen
15. "When Papa Paints" after Portrait of Anne by George Wesley Bellows
14. "Whistler's Mother" after Arrangement in Grey and Black, No. 1 by James McNeill Whistler
13. "In the Company of Kittens" after Contentment 1900 by Henriette Ronner-Knip
12. "Sixteen" after Jeanne Hubuturne-1919 by Amedeo Modigliani
11. "Promise" after Portrait of a Little Italian Girl by Maria Kroyer
10. "Portrait of a Writer" after Oskar Maria Graf by Georg Schrimpf
9. "Speaking of the Weather" after Profile of a Woman by Fujishima Takeji
8. "Happiness" after Self-Portrait with Straw Hat by Elisabeth Vigee le Brun
7. "Virginia, Sitting for a Portrait" after Portrait of Virginia (Little Girl) by Frida Kahlo
6. "Paint-by-Number" after Portrait of a Woman by Alexei von Jawlensky
4. "I Am" after The White Cloud, Head Chief of the Iowas by George Catlin
3. "What If?" after Portrait of Camille Roulin by Vincent van Gogh
2. "The Lady Confesses" after Portrait of a Lady with Mask and Cherries by Benjamin Wilson
1. "Mona Lisa in Love" after Mona Lisa by Leonardo da Vinci

Today's portrait is a self-portrait by Vincent van Gogh. I'm sort of fascinated by van Gogh, so I enjoyed doing a little research before writing this poem. I especially enjoyed this article about 7 Things You May Not Know about van Gogh. Also, I am loving the beautiful book VINCENT'S STARRY NIGHT AND OTHER STORIES: A Children's History of Art by Michael Bird, illus. by Kate Evans. I love it so much, I bought myself a copy. I could live inside this book!

Self-Portrait as a Painter
after “Self-Portrait as a Painter” by Vincent van Gogh

These brushes hold stars
in their bristles,
and steeples and people.
This canvas grows irises
and sunflowers,
wheatfields and crows.
     Can you see
the yellow house in my eyes,
the Arles bedroom, the boots?
Paris glitters in my beard.
The colors shout, Faster!
But I am neither God nor saint.
I do the one thing
that keeps the tigers away –
     I paint.

 - Irene Latham
Readers, this poem reminds me a bit of myself. Whenever I get grumpy, my husband will sometimes say, "Why don't you just go write?" Because I always feel better when I spend some time creating! I also feel better when I play the cello or take a walk or take a nap or piece a quilt... speaking of which: WE LOVE GEE'S BEND DAY! is this Sunday!! Yay! I wish all of you could be there. xo


  1. Absolutely loving "Leaving Gee's Bend", Irene. Someday... Have a great celebration on Sunday!
    I've got my line done for tomorrow - quite a challenge. Love your van Gogh!

    1. I wasn't finished when my finger hit Publish...
      Wanted to say I really liked "I do the one thing
      that keeps the tigers away – I paint." And it IS the same with writing.

  2. Like Donna, and you, there are those things that "keep the tigers away" that I love. My wish is that each person finds that, too. Beautiful poem, Irene. It may be my favorite, your including those special parts of his work we can recognize (These brushes hold stars in their bristles. . .") makes me smile!

  3. Oh, this is my favorite so far! There's such beauty in your lines. I love this one - "Paris glitters in my beard." Thanks for the lovely pics and your poems. I've seen the Children's History of Art at the bookstore. I'm not at all surprised that you had to have your own copy!

  4. I'm going to share this one with my daughter. Happy Friday! Have fun keeping the tigers away!

  5. I think I might love this poem best so far. This one is amazing and full of the driving forces of this and implied. Those tigers, they are relentless....but he fought them so well for so long with such beauty. Thank you for bringing this poem to us here.

  6. Hands down my favorite thus far, Irene. I can't wait to share this -- and your others -- with our school art teacher after break. This is, perhaps, an odd connection, but your poem reminds me of Peter Reynolds' The Dot. We use this book to encourage our students to just make a dot and see where it goes. Oh, the power of a paintbrush/crayon/colored pencil! "These brushes hold stars in their bristles,and steeples and people." Lovely. -- Christie @

  7. What a vibrant poem--you had me from that wonderful first line all the way through. Fabulous!

  8. I love the Van Gogh poem. I can so relate to the need to create (in my case write or play the flute) to keep the tigers away.

  9. Congratulations on the new edition of your book, Irene! That's exciting.

    These lines caught my attention today:

    "Paris glitters in my beard.
    The colors shout, Faster!"

    It's been fun to follow your series.

  10. I like this poem. I left a van Gogh poem in the comments on Matt's site today. I've been researching him, too. I wish I could be there to celebrate your book, too, but I will be there in spirit, cheering you on!

  11. Happy celebration, Irene! I love today's poem - there is something so vivid and Vincent about your choice of words.

  12. Gorgeous poem, Irene. Your personas/voices for your portraits are so captivating. I feel like I've gotten to know these subjects in an intimate way.

  13. For so many of us, creating helps us keep our own tigers away, whether we paint, write, sculpt, dance, sing, play or make!

  14. A new GEES BEND? Brava! Enjoy a mighty fine time.

    And I appreciate how you worked your magic here, with the beard + brushes but also his keeping the tigers at bay.

    I have a good imagination but somehow don't picture you grumpy, Irene! Your fullgrump is probably someone else's indigestion. . .


  15. I'm drawn to VG, too, Irene. His paintings are so gorgeous, and his story so moving. Love your poem, especially that tigery ending. (Jan gets points for inventing "fullgrump.")

  16. Irene, you have captured the essence of wonder and wondering in your VG poem with the beautiful words that hold vibrant images: brushes holding stars in their bristles, Paris glittering in his beard. The ending is inspirational and leaves me questioning what keeps the tigers away. I say the act of being creative does. Hearing you read the poem gives the poem a dreamy quality for me. New edition? I haven't read the first one, unfortunately for me. Have a great celebration.

  17. Irene! As Molly says, this is truly vibrant. The power you bestow on inanimate objects lights up my brain. Just beautiful!

  18. This is just beautiful, Irene! You've captured the subject of so many of his paintings, as well as his humility and obsession with painting. Love it!

  19. Two things I love the most: poetry and art. Your poem is so wonderful in that you incorporated van gogh's painting. As i read through it his work popped in my head. Self-portrait are currently my fascination. I had recently just successfully made my first self portrait sketch so everything about this post is wonderful. :)

  20. Oh Irene, I'd like to borrow his brush for a day or two and watch the stars emerge from them, thanks for this wonderful, animated poem! And "Art keeps"my "Tigers away" too! I'll be with you in spirit on Sunday!

  21. Wow. You really packed the Van Gogh into this poem. Love how the ending opens the poem to include all Creatives.

  22. "Paris glitters in my beard. . ." so much to adore in this poem! I love all of the hints of his other paintings. Fabulous!! xoxo

  23. I love your van Gogh, Irene - especially the brushes that hold stars in their bristles. And I see the flecks of a yellow chair in his coat. Enjoy your Sunday celebration!

  24. I'm right behind Robyn, having just celebrated another birthday, thinking, "Oh, my neck!" :-) You have (once again, as usual) inspired us a bunch with this post. Here is my rough contribution:

    Curious cottontail
    out in the open yard
    bring me your willingness to go
    past the edge of comfort and safety
    for a taste of bliss.


Your thoughts?