Denise Bundred – What I am doing now

Denise Bundred 2019We have asked our most recently published poets what they are working now. The launch of Litany of a Cardiologist was postponed but we have plans to launch it in the autumn.

I have the luxury of spending part of every day in my study. I shut out the news and things I can do nothing about; and concentrate on reading, writing and reflection. Some time ago I began a sequence of poems about Vincent van Gogh. The first poems were in the voices of the three doctors who looked after him in the final years of his life.

More recently I have extended the sequence to include short poems about individual pictures and other poems which include Vincent’s paintings together with details of his life during this period. I have been reading After Cezanne by Maitreyabandhu and his wonderful poetry has had a huge influence on my writing.

So much is written about Vincent’s mental illness in his final years, but he also had long periods of lucidity when he read widely (he particularly liked Shakespeare and Dickens which he read in English) and he wrote fluently in Dutch and French about his work, the effects he was trying to achieve and the paintings of other artists.

I have more than thirty poems in the sequence and here are two.


The Red Vineyard

Vines like red wine; high
horizon and golden sky
stained with pale green.

The earth violet
after rain. Yellow puddles
trap the lemon sun.

Lilac figures bow
to their harvest. Palisade
of trees curves, windswept,

into the distance.
Luminous river, anxious
in the setting orb

and the memory
of a boy and grey carthorse
eager to go home.


Link to The Red Vineyard:


Asylum of Saint-Paul, Saint-Rémy
 ………………….Tuesday 18th June 1889

About this time he wrote to his brother for a copy of Dicks’ Shilling Shakespeare.
‘I’d like to have it here to read from time to time and it’s complete.’

Aware of Theo’s purse, he stressed ‘cheaper editions have been changed less,
so I wouldn’t want one above three francs.’

No longer confined to his cell, he packed his oils and brushes before strapping
an easel and canvas to his back.

He completed an olive grove — undulating strokes of green on twisted
trunks and blue shadows in the sandy soil. Poppies winding a path to the left.

A grasshopper was submerged in pigment in the right corner, unseen for more
than a century, until a curator found it when she looked through a microscope.

After alluding to the olive trees and a new study of a starry sky he noted,
‘I have no white at all at all’ and ended —

as always — ‘firm handshakes to you, to Jo and to our friends,
Ever yours, Vincent.’



Link to Olive Grove


Denise’s pamphlet, Litany of a Cardiologist is available from our SHOP

denise‘Drawing from her own life working in paediatric cardiac care, Denise Bundred’s debut collection leads us inside the hospital, to wander its wards and corridors, into the operating room and the mind of the cardiologist. We find medics, exceptionally skilled, working at the cutting edge of medicine, but also still human, wiping sweat from their hands, taking time to breathe and reflect. I couldn’t help but be moved. I know these rooms; I have heard the cardiologist speak. The poems navigate fear and pressure with convincing authority, but you will also find compassion and hope in these pages. Bundred has composed a love letter to the heart, and the working lives devoted to its complex chambers.’ – Rebecca Goss



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