Anthony Costello
I Freeze, Turn to Stone
October 2018. 43 pp. ISBN-13 978-3-901993-69-5
£7.00 (+ 1.50 p&p), €7.00 (+ 1.50 p&p), US$10.00 (+ 2.50 p&p)
“Anthony Costello here joins the company of Charles Reznikoff, John Seed and others, who have transformed documentary or personal prose into resonant free verse. Such a process doesn’t just slow the prose down, it elicits a different kind of attention. Reading it, we are less focused on the human story, and more on human perception, sense, and predicament, in themselves, which as a series of semi-detached moments reach further into Van Gogh’s being. Instances of common pain and hope are set in sequence with his obsessive observations, repeatedly making lists of coloured things wherever he was: houses, rooms, fields, clouds, cups and saucers … In the poised rhythmic measure that Anthony Costello provides, the simplicity of these lists by which he clings onto life, finally matches the simplicity of the heart-felt appeal for normality: that same night one single star a large friendly one, // and I thought of you all and my own past years // and our house, and in me, these words …”
Peter Riley

I Freeze, Turn to Stone is such an interesting and original project. I had no idea Van Gogh was such a poetic writer. These poems are vivid, joyous and melancholic; they chart an exquisite process of discovery and curation. I Freeze, Turn to Stone deepens our appreciation of the relationship between visual, written and lived experience.”
Helen Mort

“Anthony Costello has created from Van Gogh’s letters a collaboration across time: the painter finds a language for what he sees; the poet engages the reader in the painterly work of looking, and seeing. Costello’s poems are alive with a sensuous intensity of seeing: the blue of an enamelled coffee pot and of the Milky Way; how red floor tiles and the green of a garden shine alongside each other. The language is exact and transparent, as attentive to nuance and rhythm as a painting is to texture and pattern. The poems become a portrait of the artist and a reimagining of his art.”
Judith Willson

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Table of Contents

Excerpts from I Freeze, Turn to Stone


Behind those saplings,
behind that brownish-red soil
a delicate bluish-grey,
warm, hardly blue, all aglow,
and against it a hazy border of green
and a network of little stems
and yellowish leaves;
a few figures, wood gatherers,
wandering around, dark masses
of mysterious shadows;
the white cap of a woman
bending to reach a dry branch
stands out against the red-brown
of the ground,
a skirt catches the light,
a shadow falls, a dark silhouette
of a man appears above the underbrush,
a white bonnet, a white cap, a shoulder,
the bust of a woman moulds itself
against the sky, these figures
are full of poetry.

The City

Towers and roofs,
smoking chimneys outlined,
silhouette against a horizon
of light, a broad streak over
which hangs a heavy rain cloud
torn above by the autumn
wind into large shreds
and lumps chased away,
the wet roofs glisten,
the dark mass of the city
a body colour, the Schenkweg
through the wetness,
I would have drawn it
had I not been working
on figures of peat-carriers.

Reviews of I Freeze, Turn to Stone

"Such confessional insights into the artist are well picked and probably what most readers would underline in going through his lenthy letters. Costello has done this for us: chosen passages of rhythm and honesty to highlight in these pages - which enable us to know the man better."

Patricia McCarthy. "Ekphrastic Approaches". Agenda 52.3-4 (Spring/Summer 2019): 119-126; 126.

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