Dangerous Pursuit of Yellow

Annie Wright

But if you had known, may I take the liberty, that prolonged use of absinthe might have caused, rather than exacerbated the epilepsy, and the thujone it contains could have manifested jaundiced visions: that the manias and exhaustion which triggered the depressions would lead you to drink turpentine, try to ingest the paint, which in turn provoked the hostility your friends fled from and the nausea and stomach aches which sent you staggering into fields under the fiercest suns; that the resulting sunstroke when you were consumed by suns, light, flowers, aggravated all your symptoms, had you devouring the paint chips, sending to Paris, London, for more tubes of lemon chrome, addicted to its vibrancy, outrageous hue, so the doctor had to treat you with digitalis to control the passions, seizures, the fits of gloom, thereby causing you to see only stil-de-grain and sulphurous spots, the poisoning from digesting lead chromate swelling your retinas, so you hallucinated light in zinc white auras round the stars: would you have chosen another path, of sobriety perhaps, a modest life, instead of what's led to this pine box, haloed by last canvases, blazing rings of sunflowers and corn marigolds, and to those final words, tolling now for absent bells - la tristesse durera toujours?

Annie Wright

Annie Wright was born in Malton in North Yorkshire. As a child she loved poetry and remembers being the 'last one standing' when the teacher at a primary school she had just moved to in Guildford used to get the whole class reciting poems and sitting down as they forgot the words.

"I had a good memory, but it was a nerve-wracking experience as we chanted poems from memory such as I Stood Tiptoe, Tarantella, The Highwayman and Daffodils at breakneck speed in front of Miss Lynch, an elderly and terrifying teacher. I was the new girl and had not yet made friends and was very aware that I wasn't endearing myself to my new class mates, but I truly loved the poems and rose to the weekly challenge of adding another poem to the lengthening list."

Annie returned to the North East to do A Levels and subsequently worked as a teacher in London and Calderdale and as a volunteer in Sudan before returning to the North East in 1989 to continue her work in education.

Annie Wright's first full collection Redemption Songs (Arrowhead Press) came out in 2003. Including Sex (The Bay Press) was published in 1995. Annie is a member of Vane Women, the writing/performing/publishing collective based in Darlington. Her work has featured in Rewriting The Map, Northern Grit, Collecting Stones and Love in Vane (Vane Women Press), North by North-East (IRON Press) and Ink on Paper (mima/Mudfog).

Annie became interested in the relationship between artists and the pigments, sometimes highly toxic, which were in use until the invention of chemical dyes and colours in the 19th century. Stories of the origins of colour continue to fascinate her. A sequence of 5 poems about yellow pigments provided the original inspiration for the collection she is currently working on, Dangerous Pursuit of Yellow.

As Adviser to Primary schools in North Yorkshire, Annie is on the road a lot and frequently finds herself catching fragments of programmes on Radio 4. One such moment covered a snippet of conversation concerning a new theory about the possible origin of Van Gogh's epilepsy. She explains: "In that moment I drove home very excited, knowing I had finally found the inspiration for the title poem which had been eluding me for some years. The first draft came fairly quickly, but since then the poem has undergone several redrafts, the last of which was to convert it to a prose poem. The form preserves the sense of urgency of the original draft, but is, I feel, better suited to the integrity of the poem and its narrator."

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Dangerous Pursuit of Yellow © 2014 Annie Wright: used with permission.
Copyright of this poem remains with the poet: please do not download or republish without permission.