Category Archives: Poetry

These Eyes are Windows at 87 Hackford Road

Yes, these eyes are windows, and this body of mine is the house – Herman Melville, Moby Dick.

The first time I saw a Vincent van Gogh painting was Irises when I visited The Getty Center in 2004.  I thought it was so serene, almost calm in contrast to his other works, for example, Sunflowers. I was in awe over his ability to capture the movement of the irises with his expertise in twisting his lines (another great example, The Starry Night). Apparently he painted Irises within the first week at an asylum in Saint-Rémy, France.

DSC00119
I saw van Gogh’s works again the following year in 2005 when I travelled to Amsterdam and visited the Van Gogh Museum. (And I’m freaking out right now because I was looking for my photos from that trip, and they are apparently missing). I remember lots of flowers (obviously). Inside the building itself was a colourful and bright atmosphere. I think the walls in particular were bright yellow. (Call off the search and rescue team! The photos have been found! I repeat, the photos have been found! But to my disappointment, I didn’t take any photos inside the museum. I guess I wanted to obey the rules at that particular time.) I like this shot though:

DSC01850 van Gogh museum

Which brings us to last year. Last summer, I ventured south of the Thames, and enclosed in a little neighborhood in South London, I visited 87 Hackford Road. One of many houses and flats along the road but what distinguishes this house amongst the rest is a blue plaque indicating a house that reads, “Vincent van Gogh, Painter, lived here 1873-1874”.

Reversing roles, a group of us five waited outside the front door until we heard the doorbell ring.

This house was the setting for the exhibition, Yes These Eyes are Windows, by Dutch artist Saskia Olde Wolbers in conjunction with Artangel. Opened to the public for the first time, the audience was given the opportunity to experience the “history” of the house. It was unknown that van Gogh lived in the house until a postman from the 1970s discovered this fact. Occupied by various tenants until 2012, this blue plaque has protected the house and its surrounding area from demolition.

Once inside, we walked around this empty house. The artist intertwined fictional narratives based on oral histories, press archives and literary works. And in contrast to the bright atmosphere of the museum, the house was left alone – barren, stripped of flooring, wallpaper. Only a few bits survived, such as a ceramic vase, part of a linoleum brick wallpaper, and a modern bathroom door with a red handle.

As a viewer, we were guided by these voices (and lights) starting in the front room and leading us up the two levels and finally inside van Gogh’s room. Wolbers gave the house a life and a story to tell even if it’s a fictional account based on facts.

Since 2012 it has been unoccupied, but this isn’t the end of the story. The property has now been bought by a Chinese violinist and will use the space as a music school.

I felt Saskia Olde Wolbers’ exhibition was an opportunity to experience something beyond van Gogh’s works. Yes, it’s absolutely amazing to see his works in person, but this exhibition, it felt more personal. It was like a behind-the-scenes experience. I stepped back in time to experience his daily life, and as his story was one of many (factual and fictional) stories of this house, it almost made him approachable and relatable. Dare I say ordinary? He was one of many tenants at this house. And for a time, he was a Londoner, just like me.

van Gogh flat 1Feb2015

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Filed under Art & Exhibitions, Poetry, Travels

Camp NaNoWriMo

2013-Participant-Camp-NaNoWriMo

Although I’ve never been to summer camp before, when I was 11 years old, us sixth graders were invited to camp for a week in the fall (autumn).  I absolutely loved it; everything from nature walks (including night walks), singing camp songs, to just being around friends (and no parents!).  Oh and I had a crush on one of the camp counselors.  He was Italian, and on our last day, he wrote in my notebook, “Ciao, bella”!  When he translated it to me, I swooned.  Then I showed it off to my friends who all revealed that they too had that written in their notebooks.

Even though November is NaNoWriMo, they’ve held a few Camp NaNoWriMo‘s during the year, and as there will be one in July, I’ve decided to participate.  It’s relatively easier – one can choose a word goal.  And I’ve also decided to “bunk” with up to seven other random “campers,” meaning, I’ll be in a group of other writers to support each other.  I just missed NaPoWriMo – that’s National Poetry Writing Month – (I see a trend here), where one commits to write a poem a day for 30 days.  So for Camp NaNoWriMo, I’ve decided to do a poem a day.  It’s a 10,000 word minimum, so I’ve made that as a goal, and as I don’t think I can write a poem that’s 323 words per day, I will also write a children’s story or two that I’ve been meaning to finish along with other anecdotes.

Wish me luck!

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David Lynch does Dior

This short clip/long commercial is just as weird as the collaboration itself:

Apparently, it’s inspired by his poem, Lady Blue (like that makes it more clear):

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Filed under Art & Exhibitions, Dreams, Fashionista, Music, Poetry, Random, Uncategorized

Inside a soundproof room

So it’s been over a year since I last performed my words in front of people.  I must admit I’ve been incredibly intimidated about performing in NYC – this city is the Mecca of poetry/spoken word!  Before even attempting The Bowery or Nuyorican Café, I wanted to check out lesser known places.  I mean, there’s nothing wrong with going to the deep end, in fact recently I’ve been to the deep end plenty of times, but for this, I wanted to linger in the shallow end.  Unfortunately my lazy ass didn’t even touch the water since moving here.

A year ago I found an open mic night on meetup.com.  The ad seemed interesting – it boasted all kinds of acts, DJ’s, featured performers, and it was free.  I’ve been eyeing it for a year and finally today, I went to it.  Held in a dance studio in Hell’s Kitchen, I could already tell the room was filled with eccentric people just by stepping into the room.

At the start, the emcee, a middle-aged woman, declared she’s not a quiet bird but a Phoenix rising from the flames.  Her widened eyes stared right at me as she said that, and I didn’t know if I should’ve taken it as inspiration or a threat.  She performed twice, and every time someone was standing or whispering, she became passive aggressive with them, calling them “dear” or “honey” yet the tone in her voice was a bit threatening (yet I noticed she didn’t do the same for other performers).  Her second performance consisted of a dance routine and at one point she attempted to give a lap dance to one of the fellas in the front row (who I think had a crush on her).

A woman in the front row kept farting.  I wasn’t sure at first but after the fifth time I saw her sway to one side in her chair.

An older man lacking teeth performed as well.  But it wasn’t the poems and songs that were memorable but how he introduced each one.  There was one where he nonchalantly described one of his poems as something he wrote while he was staying at a mental hospital.  Then there was another love poem dedicated to a friend of 35 years but he didn’t write it because he was in love with him but it was a poem about their 35 year friendship and how he was admired the guy (talk about in denial).  He was hilarious though – his dirty jokes won me over especially this one:

“Little Red Riding Hood was getting ready to visit her grandma but her mom said, you can’t head out to the woods because the big bad wolf will find and eat you.  Nevertheless she ventured off to the woods.  Sure enough the big bad wolf did find her – she was wearing her red hooded coat, red bra, and red panties, and the big bad wolf cried, ‘Rawr!  I’m going to fuck you!’  Little Red Riding Hood took out her gun, pointed it at him, and replied, ‘Oh, no you’re not.  You’re going to do what the story says – you’re going to eat me.’”

An oversized middle-aged couple performed an interpretation piece to the song of Red Hot Chili Peppers’ “Scar Tissue.”  The woman was a statue, the Goddess Venus to be exact, and the man played a man admiring this statue.  I understood why she was naked, she was a statue, duh, but I didn’t understand why he was.  At first the statue was immobile, but halfway through the song both were dancing, and at times, fighting.  I’m all for obscure performance acts filled with metaphors but I had no clue what they were trying to express.

An incredibly skinny and tall woman was next.  She introduced herself as an aspiring singer who used to dance with all sorts of dance companies.  She busted out songs by Diana Ross, Adele, and Amy Winehouse, and sadly, it was bad.  I mean, BAD.  I’m talking nails on chalkboard bad.  I have no idea why I even endured it but I guess a small part of me wanted her to improve or at least admit she was fucking with us and start singing like Beyonce.  Unfortunately this was not the case, and after the fourth song I wished Simon Cowell would come out and chastise her.  At this point the regulars were dancing as she sang along.  There’s one thing about encouragement but in reality, I think it’s in her best interest for someone to tell her how horrible her voice is.  Good thing the room was soundproof because honestly that would be the only place where she would be allowed to sing.

I finally made my way out after a shy duo attempted some sort of Pink Floyd-like jam session.  The only word they would mutter was “Sorry” every time they messed up.  I could tell the audience got bored after a few minutes.  I mean, they were jumping around and dancing to “It’s Raining Men” a few minutes ago.

With “Scar Tissue” stuck in my head, I left the building chuckling at this bizarre experience.

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Filed under Poetry, Random, Thoughts

Happy New Year?

Swinging on the Moon

Back in June
I was swinging on the moon
Elated, overjoyed of the possibilities
Confident of my abilities
To succeed

Then this afternoon
A rush of your words brought me down
So I wrapped myself in a cocoon
Hoping to shut down
Thinking…

Back in June
I stumbled and fell
While swinging on the moon
Confused, hesitant of the possibilities
Scared of the responsibilities
Of my decisions

Then this afternoon
A rush of your words kept me down
But then I turned around
Where to?

Uptown
Midtown
Downtown
Hometown?

I thought the Big Apple had endless opportunities

And it’s so easy to give up
Because at times like these
It’s so hard to lift your head up
Hopes and fears are at a constant tug-o-war

And it’s so easy to fall on my knees
Look up and question the demi-gods,
“You think this is funny?”
Sighing as I imagine them nod

Back in June
I was swinging on the moon
Elated, overjoyed of the possibilities
Confident of my abilities
To succeed

Then this afternoon
A rush of your words brought me down
But then I turned around
Where to now?

© Van Francis

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