Monday, February 10, 2020

#152 Backstory of the Poem "VAN GOGH TO HIS MISTRESS" by Margo Taft Stever



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***This is #152 in a never-ending series called BACKSTORY OF THE POEM where the Chris Rice Cooper Blog (CRC) focuses on one specific poem and how the poet wrote that specific poem.  All BACKSTORY OF THE POEM links are at the end of this piece. 

#152 Backstory of the Poem
“VAN GOGH TO HIS MISTRESS”
by Margo Taft Stever
Can you go through step-by-step writing of this poem from the moment the idea was first conceived in your brain until final form? My inspiration for writing this poem came from reading articles (Below Left) about Van Gogh and also from studying Van Gogh’s, Self-Portrait with Bandaged Ear and Pipe (Below Right). 
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Where were you when you started to actually write the poem? And please describe the place in detail? I began to write this poem in 1984, around thirty-four years ago when I was in my thirties. (Right:  Margo with her oldest son David in 1984) At that time, I kept copious notebooks of poem ideas, poem fragments, and poems. When my children were young, I wrote diligently during their nap time every day. 
          Many of my poems went into my first poetry collection, Frozen Spring (Mid-List Press, 2002), but I also found inspiration from these notebooks to write some of the poems published in Cracked Piano (CavanKerry Press, 2019) and still find such ideas in my notebooks.
When my children took their naps, I wrote on a spiral notebook in my bedroom. Just as I lay on my bed propped up on one arm to do my homework in high school, I would write poetry lying down in the same position at that time, or I would write sitting up and using the headboard as a back rest. My bedroom was located in a suburban neighborhood on the Hudson Line about forty-five minutes outside of New York City. (Below:  Margo's writing space today)

How many drafts of this poem did you write before going to the final? (And can you share a photograph of your rough drafts with pen markings on it?) As with many of my poems, this poem began when I wrote down thoughts that I had about Van Gogh’s ear. My poems are generally written in longhand in a notebook before I enter them into a computer. Because I started this poem so long ago, I cannot estimate how many drafts existed. I am including two out of several pages of free writing from my 1984 notebook (Left and Right Below). I continued to work on the poem until its final publication in Cracked Piano.

Were there any lines in any of your rough drafts of this poem that were not in the final version? And can you share them with us? As is true of a number of my poems, this one evolved over decades. I am appending two notebook pages of screen shots of some of the original writing, but much of which didn’t go into the final poem. Over time, the published poem, “Van Gogh to His Mistress,” is a distillation of ideas, much of which can be found in this original drafts.

What do you want readers of this poem to take from the poem? Van Gogh was mistreated and misunderstood at the same time that he created some of his most powerful paintings. His self-mutilation is an expression of that mistreatment. If he hadn’t been shot and killed, imagine what more he might have left as a testament of his genius. I wanted all of us, including myself, to think about what happened to Van Gogh, to consider the enormity of his vision and suffering, most of it caused by others, and learn from it so that we can begin to treat people who are in any way outside the norm, whether they are immigrants, artists, autistic people, speech-impaired, or exceptional in any other way, as we would treat those who we believe that we love most. (Above Left:  Self Portrait by Vincent Van Gogh)
Which part of the poem was the most emotional of you to write and why? The most compelling part of writing the poem was contemplating the enormity of the suffering and affliction that plagued Van Gogh throughout his life and the lack of appreciation that he confronted. Of course, this is juxtaposed by how much people value his work today, but how would we have treated him in the flesh if we lived during his time?

Has the poem been published before? And if so where? The poem was first published in Salamander Literary Magazine (http://salamandermag.org/), then in my chapbook, The Lunatic Ball (Kattywompus Press, 2015), and also in Cracked Piano (CavanKerry Press, 2019).
 
VAN GOGH TO HIS MISTRESS

He sensed his ear,
but he could
not see it. 
In the blind
this is called
blindsight.

The last failed
effort
of the body
to survive—
Keep this
object carefully.

The ear rested
on the table
alone
among blue tints
and suppressed
shadows.

To present
an ear
in the middle
of the night,
an arterial flap,
flap of
bat’s wing,
wing of angel.










          In 2019, CavanKerry Press published Margo Taft Stever’s book, Cracked Piano, and Kattywompus Press published her chapbook, Ghost Moose. Her four additional poetry collections include The Lunatic Ball, Kattywompus Press, 2015; The Hudson Line, Main Street Rag, 2012; Frozen Spring, Mid-List Press First Series Award for Poetry, 2002; and Reading the Night Sky, Riverstone Press, 1996

          Her book Looking East: William Howard Taft and the 1905 U.S. Diplomatic Mission to Asia; the Photographs of Harry Fowler Woods, which she co-authored with her son, James Taft Stever (Right Bottom), was published by Zhejiang University Press in 2012. Her poems have appeared in Verse Daily, upstreet, Blackbird, Salamander; Poem-A-Day, poets.org, The Academy of American Poets; Cincinnati Review; Salamander; Prairie Schooner; New England Review; Connecticut Review; Poet Lore; West Branch; Seattle Review; and numerous anthologies including No More Masks and Women Write Resistance. She is the founder of the Hudson Valley Writers Center (www.writerscenter.org) and the founding editor of Slapering Hol Press. For more information, please see: www.margotaftstever.com.
BACKSTORY OF THE POEM LINKS

001  December 29, 2017
Margo Berdeshevksy’s “12-24”

002  January 08, 2018
Alexis Rhone Fancher’s “82 Miles From the Beach, We Order The Lobster At Clear Lake CafĂ©”

003 January 12, 2018
Barbara Crooker’s “Orange”

004 January 22, 2018
Sonia Saikaley’s “Modern Matsushima”

005 January 29, 2018
Ellen Foos’s “Side Yard”

006 February 03, 2018
Susan Sundwall’s “The Ringmaster”

007 February 09, 2018
Leslea Newman’s “That Night”

008 February 17, 2018
Alexis Rhone Fancher “June Fairchild Isn’t Dead”

009 February 24, 2018
Charles Clifford Brooks III “The Gift of the Year With Granny”

010 March 03, 2018
Scott Thomas Outlar’s “The Natural Reflection of Your Palms”

011 March 10, 2018
Anya Francesca Jenkins’s “After Diane Beatty’s Photograph “History Abandoned”

012  March 17, 2018
Angela Narciso Torres’s “What I Learned This Week”

013 March 24, 2018
Jan Steckel’s “Holiday On ICE”

014 March 31, 2018
Ibrahim Honjo’s “Colors”

015 April 14, 2018
Marilyn Kallett’s “Ode to Disappointment”

016  April 27, 2018
Beth Copeland’s “Reliquary”

017  May 12, 2018
Marlon L Fick’s “The Swallows of Barcelona”

018  May 25, 2018
Juliet Cook’s “ARTERIAL DISCOMBOBULATION”

019  June 09, 2018
Alexis Rhone Fancher’s “Stiletto Killer. . . A Surmise”

020 June 16, 2018
Charles Rammelkamp’s “At Last I Can Start Suffering”

021  July 05, 2018
Marla Shaw O’Neill’s “Wind Chimes”

022 July 13, 2018
Julia Gordon-Bramer’s “Studying Ariel”

023 July 20, 2018
Bill Yarrow’s “Jesus Zombie”

024  July 27, 2018
Telaina Eriksen’s “Brag 2016”

025  August 01, 2018
Seth Berg’s “It is only Yourself that Bends – so Wake up!”

026  August 07, 2018
David Herrle’s “Devil In the Details”

027  August 13, 2018
Gloria Mindock’s “Carmen Polo, Lady Necklaces, 2017”

028  August 21, 2018
Connie Post’s “Two Deaths”

029  August 30, 2018
Mary Harwell Sayler’s “Faces in a Crowd”

030 September 16, 2018
Larry Jaffe’s “The Risking Point”

031  September 24, 2018
Mark Lee Webb’s “After We Drove”

032  October 04, 2018
Melissa Studdard’s “Astral”

033 October 13, 2018
Robert Craven’s “I Have A Bass Guitar Called Vanessa”

034  October 17, 2018
David Sullivan’s “Paper Mache Peaches of Heaven”

035 October 23, 2018
Timothy Gager’s “Sobriety”

036  October 30, 2018
Gary Glauber’s “The Second Breakfast”

037  November 04, 2018
Heather Forbes-McKeon’s “Melania’s Deaf Tone Jacket”

038 November 11, 2018
Andrena Zawinski’s “Women of the Fields”

039  November 00, 2018
Gordon Hilger’s “Poe”

040 November 16, 2018
Rita Quillen’s “My Children Question Me About Poetry” and “Deathbed Dreams”

041 November 20, 2018
Jonathan Kevin Rice’s “Dog Sitting”

042 November 22, 2018
Haroldo Barbosa Filho’s “Mountain”

043  November 27, 2018
Megan Merchant’s “Grief Flowers”

044 November 30, 2018
Jonathan P Taylor’s “This poem is too neat”

045  December 03, 2018
Ian Haight’s “Sungmyo for our Dead Father-in-Law”

046 December 06, 2018
Nancy Dafoe’s “Poem in the Throat”

047 December 11, 2018
Jeffrey Pearson’s “Memorial Day”

048  December 14, 2018
Frank Paino’s “Laika”

049  December 15, 2018
Jennifer Martelli’s “Anniversary”

O50  December 19, 2018
Joseph Ross’s For Gilberto Ramos, 15, Who Died in the Texas Desert, June 2014”

051 December 23, 2018
“The Persistence of Music”
by Anatoly Molotkov

052  December 27, 2018
“Under Surveillance”
by Michael Farry

053  December 28, 2018
“Grand Finale”
by Renuka Raghavan

054  December 29, 2018
“Aftermath”
by Gene Barry

055 January 2, 2019
“&”
by Larissa Shmailo

056  January 7, 2019
“The Seamstress:
by Len Kuntz

057  January 10, 2019
"Natural History"
by Camille T Dungy


058  January 11, 2019
“BLOCKADE”
by Brian Burmeister

059  January 12, 2019
“Lost”
by Clint Margrave

060 January 14, 2019
“Menopause”
by Pat Durmon

061 January 19, 2019
“Neptune’s Choir”
by Linda Imbler

062  January 22, 2019
“Views From the Driveway”
by Amy Barone

063  January 25, 2019
“The heron leaves her haunts in the marsh”
by Gail Wronsky

064  January 30, 2019
“Shiprock”
by Terry Lucas

065 February 02, 2019
“Summer 1970, The University of Virginia Opens to Women in the Fall”
by Alarie Tennille

066 February 05, 2019
“At School They Learn Nouns”
by Patrick Bizzaro

067  February 06, 2019
“I Must Not Breathe”
by Angela Jackson-Brown

068 February 11, 2019
“Lunch on City Island, Early June”
by Christine Potter

069 February 12, 2019
“Singing”
by Andrew McFadyen-Ketchum

070 February 14, 2019
“Daily Commute”
by Christopher P. Locke

071 February 18, 2019
“How Silent The Trees”
by Wyn Cooper


072 February 20, 2019
“A New Psalm of Montreal”
by Sheenagh Pugh

073 February 23, 2019
“Make Me A Butterfly”
by Amy Barbera

074 February 26, 2019
“Anthem”
by Sandy Coomer

075 March 4, 2019
“Shape of a Violin”
by Kelly Powell

076 March 5, 2019
“Inward Oracle”
by J.P. Dancing Bear

077 March 7, 2019
“I Broke My Bust Of Jesus”
by Susan Sundwall

078 March 9, 2019
“My Mother at 19”
by John Guzlowski

079 March 10, 2019
“Paddling”
by Chera Hammons Miller

080 March 12, 2019
“Of Water and Echo”
by Gillian Cummings

081   082   083    March 14, 2019
“Little Political Sense”   “Crossing Kansas with Jim
Morrison”  “The Land of Sky and Blue Waters”
by Dr. Lindsey Martin-Bowen

084 March 15, 2019
“A Tune To Remember”
by Anna Evans

085 March 19, 2019
“At the End of Time (Wish You Were Here)
by Jeannine Hall Gailey

086 March 20, 2019
“Garden of Gethsemane”
by Marletta Hemphill

087 March 21, 2019
“Letters From a War”
by Chelsea Dingman

088 March 26, 2019
“HAT”
by Bob Heman

089 March 27, 2019
“Clay for the Potter”
by Belinda Bourgeois

#090 March 30, 2019
“The Pose”
by John Hicks

#091 April 2, 2019
“Last Night at the Wursthaus”
by Doug Holder

#092 April 4, 2019
“Original Sin”
by Diane Lockward

#093 April 5, 2019
“A Father Calls to his child on liveleak”
by Stephen Byrne

#094 April 8, 2019
“XX”
by Marc Zegans

#095 April 12, 2019
“Landscape and Still Life”
by Marjorie Maddox

#096 April 16, 2019
“Strawberries Have Been Growing Here for Hundreds of
Years”
by Mary Ellen Lough

#097 April 17, 2019
“The New Science of Slippery Surfaces”
by Donna Spruijt-Metz

#098 April 19, 2019
“Tennessee Epithalamium”
by Alyse Knorr

#099 April 20, 2019
“Mermaid, 1969”
by Tameca L. Coleman

#100 April 21, 2019
“How Do You Know?”
by Stephanie

#101 April 23, 2019
“Rare Book and Reader”
by Ned Balbo

#102 April 26, 2019
“THUNDER”
by Jefferson Carter

#103 May 01, 2019
“The sight of a million angels”
by Jenneth Graser

#104 May 09, 2019
“How to tell my dog I’m dying”
by Richard Fox

#105 May 17, 2019
“Promises Had Been Made”
by Sarah Sarai

#106 June 01, 2019
“i sold your car today”
by Pamela Twining

#107 June 02, 2019
“Abandoned Stable”
by Nancy Susanna Breen

#108 June 05, 2019
“Cupcake”
by Julene Tripp Weaver

#109 June 6, 2019
“Bobby’s Story”
by Jimmy Pappas

#110 June 10, 2019
“When You Ask Me to Tell You About My Father”
by Pauletta Hansel

#111 Backstory of the Poem’s
“Cemetery Mailbox”
by Jennifer Horne

#112 Backstory of the Poem’s
“Relics”
by Kate Peper

#113 Backstory of the Poem’s
“Q”
by Jennifer Johnson

#114 Backstory of the Poem’s
“Brushing My Hair”
by Tammika Dorsey Jones

#115 Backstory of the Poem
“Because the Birds Will Survive, Too”
by Katherine Riegel

#116 Backstory of the Poem
“DIVORCE”
by Joan Barasovska

#117 Backstory of the Poem
“NEW YEAR”S EVE 2016”
by Michael Meyerhofer

#118 Backstory of the Poem
“Dear the estranged,”
by Gina Tron

#119 Backstory of the Poem
“In Remembrance of Them”
by Janet Renee Cryer

#120 Backstory of the Poem
“Horse Fly Grade Card, Doesn’t Play Well With Others”
by David L. Harrison

#121 Backstory of the Poem
“My Mother’s Cookbook”
by Rachael Ikins

#122 Backstory of the Poem
“Cousins I Never Met”
by Maureen Kadish Sherbondy

#123 Backstory of the Poem
“To Those Who Were Our First Gods”
by Nickole Brown

#124 Backstory of the Poem
“Looking For Sunsets (In the Early Morning)”
by Paul Levinson

#125 Backstory of the Poem
“Tracy”
by Tiff Holland

#126 Backstory of the Poem
“Legs”
by Cindy Hochman

#127 Backstory of the Poem
“Anathema”
by Natasha Saje

#128 Backstory of the Poem
“How to Explain Fertility When an Acquaintance Asks Casually”
by Allison Blevins

#129 Backstory of the Poem
“The Art of Meditation In Tennessee”
by Linda Parsons

#130 Backstory of the Poem
“Schooling High, In Beslan”
by Satabdi Saha

#131 Backstory of the Poem
“Baby Jacob survives the Oso Landslide, 2014”
by Amie Zimmerman

#132 Backstory of the Poem
“Our Age of Anxiety”
by Henry Israeli

#133 Backstory of the Poem
“Earth Cries; Heaven Smiles”
by Ken Allan Dronsfield

#134  Backstory of the Poem
“Eons”
by Janine Canan

#135 Backstory of the Poem
“Sworn”
by Catherine Zickgraf

#136 Backstory of the Poem
“Bushwick Blue”
by Susana H. Case

#137 Backstory of the Poem
“Then She Was Forever”
by Paula Persoleo

#138 Backstory of the Poem
“Enough”
by Kris Bigalk

#139 Backstory of the Poem
“From Ghosts of the Upper Floor”
by Tony Trigilio

#140 Backstory of the Poem
“Cloud Audience”
by Wanita Zumbrunnen

#141 Backstory of the Poem
“Condition Center”
by Matthew Freeman

#142 Backstory of the Poem
“Adventuresome Woman”
by Cheryl Suchors

#143 Backstory of the Poem
“The Way Back”
by Robert Walicki

#144 Backstory of the Poem
“If I Had Three Lives”
by Sarah Russell

#145 Backstory of the Poem
“Reservoir”
by Andrea Rexilius

#146 Backstory of the Poem
“The Night Before Our Dog Died”
by Melissa Fite Johnson

#147 Backstory of the Poem
“Pileated”
by David Anthony Sam

#148 Backstory of the Poem
“A Kitchen Argument”
by Matthew Gwathmey

#149 Backstory of the Poem
“Insulation”
by Bruce Kauffman

#150 Backstory of the Poem
“I Will Tell You Where I’ve Been”
by Justin Hamm

#151 Backstory of the Poem
“Comfort”
by Michael A Griffith

#152 Backstory of the Poem
“VAN GOGH TO HIS MISTRESS”
by Margo Taft Stever
https://chrisricecooper.blogspot.com/2020/02/152
backstory-of-poem-van-gogh-to-his.html

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