on Gauguin

Nature morte au profil de Laval, Paul Gauguin, 1886

I recently joined a Portuguese e-publication where I must compose a poem weekly, and my self-proposed theme was to translate paintings that I favoured throughout my life, which, knowing myself, is a monumental task. I’m not a visual creator in the slightest, but am instead wholesomely auditive; I suffered of poor eyesight from early age, but was only treated much later, already in early adolescence. This generated an imbalance in how I most confidently translate the stimuli I receive from the world; my trust always falls, firstly, in what I hear, and not in what I see.

I’ve always been incredibly fond of visual arts, and I ache to develop a veritable visual mythology to guide my creative endeavours. This project is one such exercise I hope may help in that task, and this second composition (the first was on Munch’s Sun), even in translation, is already roughly contoured by my visual weaknesses. Hopefully, they become better as I write more of them.

Still Life with Profile of Laval has always been a painting of great intrigue to me; the deformity of Gauguin’s sculpted jug, tactically placed behind the assortment of fruits, immediately inspired the unbecoming of the latter; that is the inevitable disfigurement — the perishing — which Laval seems to gaze at in stolid anticipation. The vividness of the objects and, in contrast, the smokey dullness of every other element in the painting (including Laval himself), seemingly translates two aesthetic tempos in a single stage: there isn’t so much a dichotomy of being/not-being, but one of being/waiting-to-no-longer-be; a slow and dormant corrosion. Gauguin’s signature diagonal strokes, which I call his texture of dissipation, add the final weight to what is, in my view, a beacon of painted brilliance.

I truly hope you’re well, and thank you,

Published by João-Maria

A tick clinging to the bristles of a purple boar.

41 thoughts on “on Gauguin

    1. I’m trained in Journalism, thus, the very art of writing articles. It is, of course, with great exultation that I receive such compliment, as it is of infinite value to be considered good at anything one works so hard to do.
      Thank you so much, Hermione, for being so kind. (I will eventually get better on the poems too) (I very much hope)


      1. Absolutely. Not only that, I must also refrain from translating works. I do it very rarely, and it never quite works out, but for some reason, I still do it. Poetry, of all written arts, fairs the poorest after a translation.
        T’is true that all we can do is continue our betterment, and I find your honesty more valuable than an ingot of mithril, truly. Thank you.


      2. This is a really interesting observation. I sometimes feel an urge to write in another language – not necessarily my native English – and the freedom/restriction of word choice can help the tone, rhythm and flow of the poem, which can be lost in translation! I wrote this one in Portuguese – would be keen to hear your thoughts! https://wp.me/s9OIFy-saudade


  1. Brilhante. Espero que continues estas publicações, adorei.
    Nossos sentidos, menos favorecidos, são sempre compensados por outros que se vão desenvolvendo mais.
    João, esta abordagem poética e plástica é fenomenal, e mesmo que seja uma tarefa monumental, continua, estás no bom caminho. Como foi prazeroso ler-te.
    Um abraço.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Obrigado, Irina.
      Significa mesmo muito para mim, foste das primeiras pessoas que me leu aqui, e perduramos, os dois, como se as pestanas temporais de forma alguma se tivessem aberto.
      Obrigado, a sério.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. I felt lost at first two lines but as the poem drove in itself I walked along to see where it goes.
    I am aware your intention behind this might siffer than what I gained from it… still I want to share so that I can rest assure.
    I feel it to be an excerpt from the story of a reflection. how it is aware of its truth and the fact that it wants to defy it. Though not in the poem itself but in background exists its journey in critising itself for trying to be a rebel without cause but eventually getting to terms with the fact that it has a purpose and it is limited. It has known for a while that the path to peace is making peace with its life’s existence but neither be ashamed nor let anyone put it down because of that purpose’s limitation. Ever since it has succeeded inpractising the former but latter still frustrates and angers it. this is the excerpt where it is struggling from that taxing, anxious frustration. it struggles and hates the struggle as well as those who are pushing it into this struggle.
    That’s what I took from this creation of yours. I hope that even though it isn’t what you desired it must not have turned out to be disappointing.
    Loved the poem!


    1. Oh, I don’t mind at all, Hermione. I’m a big victim of the “literary” dictionary; those dense, sometimes eldritch words that we read so much in poems. Especially more verbose poets, like Stevens and Walcott, or Shepherd and Pound, and I do read them a lot.
      You’re absolutely correct, it sometimes detracts from the poetic experience, or becomes even too repetitive.


      1. Thanks. You have many likes, which speaks more volumes than my words. Although, I suppose the art of good writing is a tension between I suppose being well fed and popular and starving and niche, rather like the Hemingway versus F. Scott Fitzgerald dichotomy that used to rage on. All best, Hermione


      2. Well, it does depend on what is the precise byproduct of said attention. There are certainly thousands of instagram poets that, with little effort, pull absurd amounts of engagement; way, way superior to mine. Incomparable, even. And there are certainly many artists who, despite more talented than I, don’t attract as many people. I also haven’t made a cent from my creative writing, ever, so I wouldn’t say I’m well fed over it.
        I do find your critique earnest and of true utility, and I won’t let a bunch of likes becloud or devalue your opinion. Your words speak as many volumes to me as those who liked. As I said once, I write poetry for those who like me, but it’s those that don’t that inspire poetry. If we’re to further an Art, we must understand the motions of its change.


  3. This is a beautiful poem and I love the idea of blending poetry with visual art. I enjoyed the second reading – you can engage with the language on a deeper level. Boa continuação João!


  4. Your poem does full justice to Gauguin’s genius. The “mourning of the certainty of lines” and the “brain of caliginous cloth” are both elements of imagery that compare with the very best poetry I have read (and I read a lot). And your explanation of the creative process is almost as poetic as the poem itself! You are truly a poet and writer of great ability. I wish I could write with a fraction of your panache and meaning. I am inspired by you. Thank you for stopping by my blog from time to time and appreciating my simple poems!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I don’t like this one very much, Satyen, but I’m happy that you do. I don’t think your poems have much of simple about them, nor do I think they are poorly made. I’m joyous of reading them, and I think you’re marvelous yourself.
      (You’re right, however, that my writing has a lot of panache; I don’t know about meaning, though). Thank you so much, Satyen.


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