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Sean Singer  

Van Gogh Legerdemain


Niet, nooit, nimmer is the Dutch way of saying no, never, never, and it is exactly what you don’t want to hear from your love as you sleep on a straw mat in a straw hut, in Etten. It’s 1888: Vincent says: I have tried to express the idea that the café is a place where one can ruin oneself, go mad, or commit a crime. He thinks razors, yellow, crows. Oddly, Theo reports his brother’s last words were: “La tristesse durera toujours,” the sadness will last forever, and Vincent—saw everything in yellow, and yellow absinthe, yellow corneas, yellow envelopes, foxglove, and tinted narrow stalks, perhaps swallowed paint hollowed with lead—was poisoned? Radiographical examinations show he reused many canvases. He painted things as they themselves feel them to be. Hokusai’s “waves are claws and the ship is caught in them, you feel it.” The women washing at the Langlois Bridge at Arles shows a sickening preponderance of yellow, with its dynamite corners and blonde asterisks. Once a blue Zouave asked Vincent what the hell he was doing there and he twisted like a ginger-colored whirlwind and said fuck, I paint them well.

Sean Singer

Sean Singer’s first book Discography won the 2001 Yale Series of Younger Poets Prize, selected by W.S. Merwin, and the Norma Farber First Book Award from the Poetry Society of America. He is also the recipient of a Fellowship from the National Endowment for the Arts. He is a Ph.D. student in American Studies at Rutgers-Newark. He lives in Harlem, New York City.

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