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Poem: "Bā Guà" - The Wordsmith's Forge — LiveJournal
The Writing & Other Projects of Elizabeth Barrette
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ysabetwordsmith
Poem: "Bā Guà"

This poem came out of the November 2, 2010 Poetry Fishbowl.  It was inspired and sponsored by marina_bonomi.  It is the second Origami Mage poem that I've written this month.  (See also "The Jewel and the Key.")


The inspiration began with the beautiful bā guà gate photo, and then I looked up some more details about the bā guà framework, specifically the Fuxi "Earlier Heaven" version.  In essence, this is a protective and balancing design with rich symbolism in Chinese and Japanese cultures, so it appears in many guises.  The poem's form echoes one of the most popular examples, an eight-sided mirror with the trigrams engraved along the sides.  Each verse consists of a tercet representing one of the trigrams; the closed lines are whole sentences, while the open lines are broken into two phrases separated by a caesura or into two sentences.  The original poem is written in MS Word so that the verses match the positions on the octagon, and those are the verse titles:

          Qián
     Duì        Xùn
Lí                     Kǎn
     Zhèn     Gèn
          Kūn


That barely fits on the original page when compacted to 8pt type; I don't think I can duplicate the effect in LiveJournal, so you'll have to use your imagination a bit for the layout.  I'm waffling over whether the best scrapbook layout would be to leave all the verses horizontal (as in the original) or tilt them to align with sides of the octagon (like the trigrams in the mirror design).  *chuckle* It would probably be easier to fit the words on the page in Japanese or Chinese, which are much more concise. But on the whole I really like this form.  (Sorry, angela_n_hunt, it's probably going to be a nightmare in chapbook layout.)  Now, on to the poem!


Bā Guà


Qián
Heaven expands in a broad blue sky.
Creative energy awaits expression.
The origami mage arrives in the Garden of Gates.

Duì
The lake embodies      stagnation and satisfaction.
No ripples disturb its smooth surface.
The origami mage wonders where to turn next.

Xùn
Wind penetrates the garden with gentle fingers.
Neither the leaves nor the branches resist it.
The origami mage      meditates on flexibility.


Fire dances in the radiance of sunbeams.
They move rapidly      as they cling to the walls.
The origami mage allows them to light her way.

Kǎn
Water circles the drain.      Abyss embraces emptiness.
Her rival has released a monster upon the trail.
The origami mage shivers      sensing the danger.

Zhèn
Thunder shakes the sky      arousing excitement.
Rivalry is unbreakable.      The separation still aches.
The origami mage circles around the same thoughts.

Gèn
Mountains stand immovable on the horizon.
Don't just do something.      Stand there.
The origami mage      finds her center.

Kūn
Earth receives      the rain that falls.
A tortoise creeps      toward the north.
The origami mage      follows the guide.

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23 comments or Leave a comment
Comments
eseme From: eseme Date: November 4th, 2010 02:22 am (UTC) (Link)
The Origami Mage has such interesting adventures, and takes time to contemplate her path. I wonder if her rival does? I get the sense that he or she does not.
ysabetwordsmith From: ysabetwordsmith Date: November 4th, 2010 02:50 am (UTC) (Link)

Thoughts

>> The Origami Mage has such interesting adventures, and takes time to contemplate her path. <<

Precisely -- she is a particular flavor of Eastern protagonist, the contemplative hero. She succeeds by being calm and thoughtful and flexible.

>>I wonder if her rival does? I get the sense that he or she does not.<<

Her rival, the Kirigami Mage, is a particular type of Eastern antagonist. She makes life difficult for herself (and others) by being over-emotional and foolish and stuck on attachments. That's why she rarely gets the upper hand, and has to exert a great deal of effort to do so. At some point I may do some poems that focus on her in more depth.

As for the adventures, the series is getting long enough that you can start to see it looping: it has a spiral plot in the Eastern style, rather than a linear plot in the Western style. I hope. If I do it right.
eseme From: eseme Date: November 4th, 2010 03:56 am (UTC) (Link)

Re: Thoughts

I continue to be intrigued by this set of characters. I haven't read a lot of Eastern-inspired literature or poetry, so she is a new flavor of protagonist.
ysabetwordsmith From: ysabetwordsmith Date: November 4th, 2010 04:07 am (UTC) (Link)

Re: Thoughts

I'm glad to be introducing people to new ideas.

I have read some Asian stuff -- mostly poetry, a little bit of literature. I've read a very fine book of Zen fables, some of Basho's haiku, a fair bit of Chinese, Japanese, and Tibetan nonfiction about Buddhism and Shinto, various martial arts, and several different magical systems. At some point I'll probably sit down and do a serious research dive to write more poems that will fill in gaps in the storyline.
laffingkat From: laffingkat Date: November 4th, 2010 04:11 am (UTC) (Link)

Re: Thoughts

Will these pieces be collected and published someday in a book format? Even if you have to self-publish, I think it would be worthwhile.
ysabetwordsmith From: ysabetwordsmith Date: November 4th, 2010 04:14 am (UTC) (Link)

Re: Thoughts

>>Will these pieces be collected and published someday in a book format?<<

That's the plan, yes.

>> Even if you have to self-publish, I think it would be worthwhile.<<

Actually, angela_n_hunt already asked me if I'd let her do the Origami Mage collection. Hopefully that will come together. I would really like to do this one as a solo chapbook, so that the cover and styling can have an Asian flavor.
laffingkat From: laffingkat Date: November 4th, 2010 04:06 am (UTC) (Link)
Nicely done. I love the way the poem expresses aspects of Eastern philosophy in the layout, word choice, and narrative. I'm particularly fond of the Gèn verse.
ysabetwordsmith From: ysabetwordsmith Date: November 4th, 2010 04:08 am (UTC) (Link)

Thank you!

I'm glad that the Eastern motifs are coming through. I look for different things I can include for that, and different ways to present them.
jenny_evergreen From: jenny_evergreen Date: November 4th, 2010 12:49 pm (UTC) (Link)
I love it, but I want to know what happened next! :)
ysabetwordsmith From: ysabetwordsmith Date: November 4th, 2010 09:48 pm (UTC) (Link)

Well...

You can always ask for more about this character in another fishbowl. I do have some ideas for followup, though, and eventually I'll be sorting the poems into chronological order.
marina_bonomi From: marina_bonomi Date: November 4th, 2010 02:52 pm (UTC) (Link)
This is...just perfect.

I can see a classical Chinese garden, a bit labytinthine, with all these different environments in it, each accessed by a bagua door bearing the appropriate trigram, but they are hidden and not in sequential order and one has to understand the message deep inside to find the next one and progress...

I can see the origami mage as well, but only from the back, as she moves through, pondering.
ysabetwordsmith From: ysabetwordsmith Date: November 4th, 2010 09:47 pm (UTC) (Link)

Thank you!

>> This is...just perfect. <<

I'm happy to hear that!

>>I can see a classical Chinese garden, a bit labytinthine, with all these different environments in it, each accessed by a bagua door bearing the appropriate trigram, but they are hidden and not in sequential order and one has to understand the message deep inside to find the next one and progress...<<

I like puzzle gardens, where there are lots of different things to explore, and what you see depends on where you go because there isn't a singular path through the whole.
red_trillium From: red_trillium Date: November 6th, 2010 07:36 pm (UTC) (Link)
I like how you've given us the guide to how this would look, I can't picture it 100% but it gives me a better appreciation for the poem's inherent non-word art.

I like your imagery.
ysabetwordsmith From: ysabetwordsmith Date: November 6th, 2010 08:26 pm (UTC) (Link)

Thank you!

I appreciate the feedback. If I wind up doing this poem as a scrapbook page, I'll probably save an image of it to post.
kitrona From: kitrona Date: August 18th, 2011 03:03 am (UTC) (Link)
I got through the explanation and yelled, "Oh, that is COOL!" even before reading the verses. This is a lovely series.
ysabetwordsmith From: ysabetwordsmith Date: August 18th, 2011 03:09 am (UTC) (Link)

Yay!

I'm glad to hear that. Looks like you've discovered the other goodies on the Serial Poetry page. Bear in mind, the various series have a wide range of flavors -- different cultures and moods, though most of them are fantasy of some sort.
kitrona From: kitrona Date: August 18th, 2011 03:31 am (UTC) (Link)

Re: Yay!

I'm enjoying the exploration. :)
kitrona From: kitrona Date: September 19th, 2011 03:20 am (UTC) (Link)

Re: Yay!

I posted a link to this and one of the other Origami Mage pieces and people couldn't get them to open. It doesn't look like it's friendslocked; am I missing that it is?
ysabetwordsmith From: ysabetwordsmith Date: September 19th, 2011 05:28 am (UTC) (Link)

Re: Yay!

Pretty much everything here is public, except for a few donor-locked pieces. I don't know why they would refuse to open, other than computers do weird things around me sometimes.

You might try going through the links on the serial poetry page:
http://penultimateproductions.weebly.com/serial-poetry.html
and on the poetry tag:
http://ysabetwordsmith.livejournal.com/tag/poem
Maybe one will work if the other jams for some reason.

Another option would be to toss me a couple bucks and become a cosponsor for your favorite poems. Then you'd have nonexclusive reprint rights and could post them on your own blog.
kitrona From: kitrona Date: September 19th, 2011 06:10 am (UTC) (Link)

Re: Yay!

Ok, I'll try the other links first and then if that doesn't work, I'll toss you a couple bucks. :) Thank you!
ysabetwordsmith From: ysabetwordsmith Date: September 19th, 2011 06:48 am (UTC) (Link)

Re: Yay!

I appreciate your patience with the obstacles, and your efforts to boost the signal for my work.
kitrona From: kitrona Date: September 19th, 2011 06:50 am (UTC) (Link)

Re: Yay!

Oh, not a problem! :) I'm used to obstacles, and I signal-boost as much as I can, especially with work that touches me like yours does. :)
book_worm5 From: book_worm5 Date: August 28th, 2014 04:03 pm (UTC) (Link)
"Don't just do something. Stand there."
That's an interesting reversal of the saying as I've usually heard it. I don't think I've come across this version before. Worth some thought.

(I finished Monster House this morning, so I found another series to look through. ;-) Really ought to start working properly though.)
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