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The Boundless and Miraculous: The Found Poems of Vincent van Gogh, by Larry Stapleton

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The Boundless and Miraculous: The Found Poems of Vincent van Gogh, by Larry Stapleton

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“Stapleton’s accessible and illuminating collection of sonnets works well as a series of glimpses into the consciousness of a great artist; the diary of a soul.” – The Sunday Times (UK)


The boundless and miraculous is what Vincent van Gogh believed we should all seek – and to be satisfied with nothing less. This is exactly what he achieved in his art, despite many profound difficulties which he recorded in his letters. These letters later became recognised for their literary virtues, such as simplicity, clarity, spontaneity and rich imagery.

Such qualities are among those most prized in poetry. In The Boundless and Miraculous, closely related extracts from Van Gogh’s letters are brought together to make ‘found poems’ – writing not originally intended to be a poem but reframed as such – here in the form of sonnets (see example below). These record several pivotal moments in Van Gogh’s life, the content and tone reflecting his emotional state at such times.

The poems also encapsulate the development of Van Gogh’s artistic vision, notably the thought processes behind some of his most iconic paintings. Highlighted too are his thoughts on the work of other artists – his contemporaries and those who went before him.

The found poem can bring together elements from quite disparate parts of an individual letter that are united in theme. This often relates to a particular preoccupation of the artist at the time, which he kept returning to, perhaps over the course of quite a long letter dealing also with separate matters.

Recurring frequently in the correspondence are the themes of simplicity and work (especially in the countryside), the great need for consolation and his thoughts on those artists he most admired. The making of the found poems, and the particular form adopted – the sonnet in various guises – will provide the reader with a new frame of reference for the artist’s writing. This will in turn help encourage further readership of the wonderful letters, wherein the artist’s rhetorical argument, his thoughts and feelings, which these sonnets aim at conveying in their essence, may be found expressed in greater detail.

With 87 colour plates, The Boundless and Miraculous celebrates Van Gogh’s spectacular art as well as his exquisite writing in what could be considered a series of brief autobiographical sketches. Aimed at all lovers of Van Gogh’s work, this volume will make a unique contribution to our understanding of his short and amazing life.

“Finding poetry in the letters of Vincent van Gogh…” – The Irish Times

“… sheds light on some of the most famous paintings ever made.” – Matthew Gedden

 To Theo

 You must understand how I regard art.

One must work long and hard to arrive

at the truthful. What I want is damned difficult,

and yet I don’t believe I’m aiming too high.


 I would like to reach the point where people

say of my work, that man feels deeply, feels subtly.

What am I in the eyes of most people?

A nonentity or an oddity.


Very well – assuming that, I’d like to show

what there is in the heart of such an oddity,

such a nobody. This is my ambition,

based less on resentment than on love.


Even though I’m often in a mess, inside me

there’s still a calm – pure harmony.


The Hague c. 21 July 1882


 About the Author

Larry Stapleton’s poetry has been published in periodicals including Poetry Ireland Review, The Stinging Fly, THE SHOp, Cyphers, The Stony Thursday Book, Crannóg, The Honest Ulsterman, The North, The Interpreter’s House, Irish Pages and in The Irish Times. A former Director of the Environmental Protection Agency in Ireland, he lives in Wexford. For more information, see www.larrystapletonpoetry.com.

Additional Information

Additional Information

Author Stapleton, Larry
Editor No
Print Format Paperback
ISBN-10 No
ISBN-13 9781916099814
Illustrations 87 colour plates
Date of Publication September 26, 2019
Number of Pages 224