exploring the land of blue

“Blue is therefore most suitable as the color of interior life.” ~ William H. Gass


“Moonlit Night” by Anton Pieck (1941)


by Laura Mucha

Across the valley, it waits for you,
a place they call The Land of Blue.

It’s far and near, it’s strange yet known –
and in this land, you’ll feel alone,
you might feel tears roll down your cheek,
you might feel wobbly, weary, weak.

I know this won’t sound fun to you –
it’s not – this is The Land of Blue.
It’s blue – not gold or tangerine,
it’s dark – not light, not bright or clean.

It’s blue – and when you leave, you’ll see
the crackly branches of the tree,
the golden skies, the purring cat,
the piercing eyes, the feathered hat
and all the other things that come
when you escape from feeling glum.

Across the valley, it waits for you,
a place they call The Land of Blue
and going there will help you know
how others feel when they feel low.

~ from A Poem for Every Day of the Year, edited by Allie Esiri (Macmillan, 2017)


As the poet explains at her website, this poem was written for a poetry workshop in response to a painting she saw at the National Gallery in London. The painting featured two mountains with a “land of blue” in the distance. She thought perhaps people went there when they were sad.

Though initially written as a children’s poem, Mucha’s observations about sorrow — that experiencing it ultimately helps us develop compassion and empathy — certainly applies to adults as well. I was also reminded of how Mr Rogers stressed the importance of honoring children’s emotions and encouraging them to speak freely about what they were experiencing.

I do love how art begets more art (which is why I’ve always enjoyed ekphrastic poetry). In Mucha’s case, her emotional reaction to the painting inspired her to explore often untalked-about-feelings within the safe space of a poem.

Every day I look at a lot of art, listen to music, and read inspiring words, both poetry and prose. How effectively a piece is able to instantly make me feel something is a good gauge of its worth.

I agree with William Gass that blue is most suitable as the color of interior life. Picasso comes to mind, with his famous Blue Period. He was going through a profound depression after the suicide of his friend, but just as Mucha suggests about the nature of despondency, he was eventually able to move past his dark mood in a few years.

Although blue is quite often associated with coldness and melancholy, we see through the works of other artists that the “land of blue” may also be one of peace, serenity, calmness, reflection, and deep, abiding beauty.





Do any of the following paintings speak to you? Maybe you’d like to write a poem about it. If so, leave it in the comments, or email it to me later (I might share it in a future post). Would love to visit your personal land of blue. 🙂


“Melancholy Woman” by Pablo Picasso (1902)



“Blue Landscape” by Paul Cezanne (1903)



“Open Window, Nice” by Raoul Dufy (1928)



“Among the Lilies” by Paul Gauguin (1893)



“A Mountain Pass: Karachi” by Hasui Kawase (1927)



“Blue Interior” by Frederick C. Frieseke (1912-13)



Stepan Zavrel (1932-1999)



“Elsie in a Blue Chair” by Mary Cassatt (1880)



“La Fenêtre à Tangers” by Henri Matisse (1911-1912)



“Umbrellas” by Pierre-Auguste Renoir (1885-1886)



“Nice, Baie Des Anges” by Raoul Dufy (1927)



“Deux Femmes dans Interieur” by Edouard Vuillard (1892)



“Lovers in the Sky” by Marc Chagall (1928-1930)


*If you’re a Chagall fan, see my post, “Marc Chagall’s Blue World” for lots more.


Listen to Helena Bonham Carter read Laura Mucha’s poem:



The lovely, lithe, and lyrical Linda Baie is hosting the Roundup at TeacherDance. Leap over there to check out the full menu of poetic goodness being shared in the bloggy world this week. Perhaps this is a good weekend to lollygag.



“Blue Nude II” by Henri Matisse (1952)



“A certain blue enters your soul.” ~ Henri Matisse


Copyright © 2019 Jama Rattigan of Jama’s Alphabet Soup. All rights reserved.

52 thoughts on “exploring the land of blue

  1. Wishing for an entire day to lollygag, Jama! The poem needs to be read aloud, so thanks for that, too. It feels like a sweet and loving lullaby, a wish for everyone just as you wrote. I do love it and the ending: “and going there will help you know
    how others feel when they feel low.” The gallery made me scroll down then up, beautiful art is calming, just like a lullaby! Thanks, Jama!

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Thanks for this, Jama. Linda suggested that I might feel a kinship with your post today. And I did. Tearily…even a thank you for that. I remember as a child thinking of blue as a warm color and being confused when I was told it denoted coldness and red was warm. I wonder what that meant. Blue has always been a tranquil, warm, happy color for me. Lol!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. All these images spoke to me: “Blue Interior”, “Among the Lilies”, “Umbrellas”, “Elsie in a Blue Chair”

      In Blue

      Let’s review
      the task of blue –
      for quite a few
      it means to stew.
      Yet, I think of you,
      Mom, in this hue
      as breezes blew
      and flowers grew
      though young I knew
      I’d grow in blue.

      by Donna JT Smith, 3/1/2019

      Liked by 3 people

  3. Thanks for sharing the story that went with the poem — very cool how the painting made her think of The Land of Blue. I would love to write a poem about Zavrel’s painting, not sure exactly when though!

    Liked by 1 person

  4. What a wonderful post! I immediately sent this poem to my school’s literacy council to consider for our April poetry brackets. It’s perfect for a young teen. Thank you!

    Liked by 1 person

  5. The Kawase painting of Karachi is just gorgeous; something about the …bluing of the landscape in moonlight is amazing. I smiled a little at this poem – I made an effort NOT to go to “the land of blue” for my poem choice today, but it’s where I live, so that interior blue makes sense to me. And yet, it’s not all gloomy, sometimes it’s just… distant? Like the sky, maybe. It’s still a good thing, though far away.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I know what you mean about distant — a feeling of detachment more than sadness is what many experience. I’m a big Kawase fan — lots of moons in his work.


  6. I don’t usually treat myself to bloggy-gagging this early in the morning, but I’m glad I did today. I was feeling a bit let down as I said goodbye to older sister, Cyn, who is off to her other home in Sausalito. I think also, the nearly 3 feet of snow in my yard and all around town doesn’t help!, But as the poem says, I went there to the land of blue, and I certainly understand what others are feeling ( especially your reader with SAD). Loved the paintings by the way.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Can’t believe how much snow you got! And I didn’t realize Cyn had another home in Sausalito (also in Honolulu, right?). I think we’re all more than ready for Spring (our daffodils are coming up!). Love the term bloggy-gagging, BTW! Too clever. 🙂


  7. Jama, the Land of Blue by Mucha is a place that I can enter to spark my imagination. I like your thought :
    In Mucha’s case, her emotional reaction to the painting inspired her to explore often untalked-about-feelings within the safe space of a poem. Poem’s are. Expressive places where emotions can be explored. Your blue gallery is filled with so many beautiful pieces of artwork for my mind to explore and perhaps craft an ekphrastic poem. I would like to place Moonlit Night in my winter gallery ( submitted by you). It is such a beautiful one. Let me know if it is Okay.

    Liked by 1 person

  8. I’ve always thought blue was restful and pea-green was despairing. I’m fond of Picasso’s Blue Nude, and I’ve had a framed version since I was a teen. I don’t find it sad. I find it full of hope, as if it’s the moment of grief right before the lights come back on, and you turn to face the day with a smile. It’s honest. https://www.google.com/url?sa=i&rct=j&q=&esrc=s&source=images&cd=&ved=2ahUKEwiFpZj3wuPgAhVBSN8KHewzCMkQjRx6BAgBEAU&url=https%3A%2F%2Fwww.amazon.com%2FArtistic-Home-Gallery-Picasso-Bronze-Framed%2Fdp%2FB00RR3E8UQ&psig=AOvVaw2L2nzI5DV-_2Xf_Cn9OUMG&ust=1551618351985105

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Interesting interpretation of Blue Nude. Must admit I find it despairing — color aside, the position of the subject facing the wall, seemingly rejecting the outside world. How long has she been there? But I like the hope you extract from it.

      Liked by 1 person

  9. I love Michelle Kogan’s respponse to the painting you share by Raoul Duffy, dear Jama. Blue for me is a bright blue bird, juicy blue berry pie, clear shallow blue-aqua west coast Florida gulf waters on a happy swim day, so I have sometimes been slow to understand the “I am blue” mood as being one of doldrums, depression, feeling low. I so much appreciate how this post opens me up to knowing more. Many appreciations.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Yes, blue can definitely be an upbeat color — especially if you’re able to enjoy beautiful blue sky and waters. It’s interesting that there are two sides to blue — just like yellow, which is often associated with sunshine, cheeriness, optimism. Yellow is also the color of cowardice and sickening jaundice. It’s all in how you want to look at it, isn’t it?


  10. My family pronounces our name ‘BUH-loo.’ When I was in elementary school I’d be grumpy when my classmates called me “Cathy Blue.” But now that I think about this poem and these lovely images, I’d rather like to be called Cathy Blue once again!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Interesting, thanks for sharing. You must have also gotten a lot of Cat Ballou when the movie came out. I’m glad you cleared up the pronunciation of your family name, since I was accenting the second syllable all along.


      1. Hee hee. The movie actually came out before I was born. I choose to believe my parents didn’t know of it when they named me! Also a lot of Baloo the Bear after The Jungle Book movie. (sigh) But hey – Mr. Cornelius is a bear and I really like him!

        Liked by 1 person

  11. Thank you for sharing “The Land of Blue” with us, Jama. I love that it honors the fact that we do feel glum at times, and that we’ll return from that place “across the valley” and find the world as we left it. I recently taught a lesson on word choice and tone. After reading this poem, I want to share it as a follow up to that lesson. I know my students will recognize “The Land of Blue.”

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Yes, it’s important to acknowledge the full range of human emotion — and sadness, depression, and anxiety are probably not discussed enough (though so prevalent in our society). It does help to know we are not alone with our sadness and sorrow. Everyone has a blue day now and again. I think you will have an interesting discussion about this poem with your students. Glad you’re sharing!

      Liked by 1 person

  12. So much to appreciate in all this, Jama – thank you for sharing. I will try to return when I’ve got more-awake brain cells and pondering time. (And, after the busy First Friday last night, I was pretty much completely unproductive all day today (Sat.), so I sure enjoyed this post-lollygag permission to lollygag! Maybe I’ll have to work that luscious word into a blue/response poem, and you’ve tossed out lovely, lithe and lyrical too… hmmm.) ;0)


    1. Lollygag is such a great word, isn’t it? And you deserve to spend some quality lollygagging time this weekend, says Mr C. 🙂 Hope you had fun Friday night!


  13. This poem, and your fabulous gallery of blue, not to mention Boham-Carter’s lovely reading, made me reflect on all the permutations of blue, and the variety of moods they can connote. Such a thoughtful post, Jama – thank you!

    Liked by 1 person

  14. I feel reassured by the concept that Blue is a place where we can go to experience emotions and understand others–and then escape. I’m intrigued by the first painting of the two women and their tea. The one in blue seems blue, and the other one is looking at the door. I wonder what she’s writing.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Yes, the woman in the hat is looking down and doesn’t seem to be engaging with her tea companion. Could be just a mellow afternoon for them — one writing in her journal, the other perhaps reading a book. Now if this were a coffee shop, I think we’d see active chatter.


  15. What power the color blue has over all of us. Yet each blue-focused painting you shared conjures up a different blue-shaded emotion across a full spectrum. Fascinating. I have pinned your post to my Writing Ideas Padlet to return to later. Thank you, Jama! — Christie

    Liked by 1 person

    1. It’s interesting the different shades of emotion with the different shades and strokes of blue. I like imagining each of the artists’ mood when he/she was painting as well as what mood he/she was trying to convey.

      Liked by 1 person

  16. Laura is in my picture book critique group. She’s so talented. But she didn’t let my group know her poem was on your blog. I’m so glad I came over for some “Alphabet Soup” time and saw it. I haven’t been reading many blogs this last year but try to pop over here every few weeks because you brighten my days! I love your blog!!!
    Blue is a happy color for me as I associate it with blue skies…especially the deep blue skies in Colorado where I grew up! And if there’s a puffy white cloud…all the better.


    1. Hi Penny!! Been missing your PF Great-Aunt and Great-Nephew series. Hope your writing is going well. Small world that you know Laura — same group that B.J. Lee is in?


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