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Poem: "the two alchemists" - The Wordsmith's Forge — LiveJournal
The Writing & Other Projects of Elizabeth Barrette
ysabetwordsmith
ysabetwordsmith
Poem: "the two alchemists"

This poem came from the April 5, 2011 Poetry Fishbowl.  It was inspired and sponsored by marina_bonomi.  She wanted to see what would happen with a Chinese-style alchemist and our paper mages.  But it turns out there are two  approaches to alchemy ...

To read the other poems in the Origami Mage series, visit the "Serial Poetry" page on my website.


the two alchemists


in the high mountains
the origami mage met
an old alchemist

he was practicing
the internal alchemy:
jing  and qi  and shen

they talked by his well
about their rivals and roads,
their joys and regrets

"tell my rival, if
you see him: I have found the
key to happiness"

"tell my rival, if
you see her: I am learning
all about patience"

the alchemist said:
"it would seem that we are on
the same path, my dear"

in the low valleys
the kirigami mage met
an old alchemist

he was practicing
the external alchemy:
metal elixirs

they talked by his hearth
about their rivals and goals,
their hopes and their fears

"I want to learn how
to cut to the heart of the
matter," she whispered

"I wanted the pill
of immortality, but
I was not ready"

"if you could still die,"
asked the kirigami mage,
"would you choose to go?"

the old alchemist
nodded, so she cut for him
an eight-spoked fălún

"tell my rival, if
you see him, that he was right
after all," he said

she agreed, and said,
"I hope that you don't meet my
rival where you go"

then she loaned him her
scissors to cut himself free
of immortal life

she watched his spirit
ride the Dharma Wheel toward a
new lesson at last

kirigami mage
prayed that her rival still walked
among the living

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24 comments or Leave a comment
Comments
the_vulture From: the_vulture Date: April 7th, 2011 09:05 am (UTC) (Link)
Character development for the kirigami mage? Yay! :)
rowyn From: rowyn Date: April 7th, 2011 04:29 pm (UTC) (Link)
People can be rivals without being enemies. :) I liked this one!
ysabetwordsmith From: ysabetwordsmith Date: April 7th, 2011 09:54 pm (UTC) (Link)

Yes...

Sooth. I think the two alchemists had managed to ... agree to disagree, at least, and in that regard were ahead of the curve when the two paper mages arrived. But I think the girls will ultimately wind up making more progress.

I'm glad you liked the poem!
the_vulture From: the_vulture Date: April 8th, 2011 03:18 am (UTC) (Link)
I'm not even sure they're rivals anymore, even if they may not have realized this yet. :)
ysabetwordsmith From: ysabetwordsmith Date: April 8th, 2011 03:46 am (UTC) (Link)

Well...

They're in the process of growing past that. I suspect there may always be an aspect of friendly competition, though. When the series started, I wasn't sure what direction it would take -- whether there would be a winner and a loser, or they'd part company, or learn to get along, or what. It looks like they're going to work things out eventually, as they learn more about each other and themselves.
the_vulture From: the_vulture Date: April 8th, 2011 04:20 am (UTC) (Link)

Re: Well...

It's a very interesting dynamic to witness between the characters, especially upon seeing that the kirigami mage may not be as much of an antagonist as first presented. :)
ysabetwordsmith From: ysabetwordsmith Date: April 8th, 2011 04:29 am (UTC) (Link)

Re: Well...

The antagonist in a story isn't always evil, just has a goal that somehow opposes the protagonist. They might be competing for the same thing, they might be pulling in opposite directions, or one could be in the other's way. These two have at least gotten past the point of pulling in totally opposite directions, and have started to show glimmers of harmony; but they've got some distance to go before they get out of each other's way yet.
the_vulture From: the_vulture Date: April 8th, 2011 05:38 am (UTC) (Link)

Re: Well...

But the key is that the antagonist presents some sort of challenge to the protagonist. We've been told thatt Kirigami Mage is a rival, but, really, we haven't seen any rivalling going on (and, yes, I KNOW you're not supposed to use 'rival' as a verb in this fashion XD ). I'm just sayin'...
ysabetwordsmith From: ysabetwordsmith Date: April 8th, 2011 05:45 am (UTC) (Link)

Re: Well...

Yes, there are pieces missing from earlier in the plot arc, as well as the end not being done yet. We don't have the initial spark that set them off, although we know that at least part of it has to do with the difference between their arts and how their magic expresses itself. But I suspect there's some kind of personal conflict as well. (Certainly the Kirigami Mage is jealous of the Origami Mage.) So that happens, and they wind up competing somehow -- maybe trying to outdo each other, or reach some kind of goal. Then it shifts to the 'chase' mode that characterizes the middle of the story arc. Eh, the pieces will fall into place eventually.
the_vulture From: the_vulture Date: April 8th, 2011 06:21 am (UTC) (Link)

Re: Well...

Clearly, more poetry about these two needs to be written. :)
ysabetwordsmith From: ysabetwordsmith Date: April 8th, 2011 07:46 am (UTC) (Link)

Re: Well...

Indeed it does, and I enjoy seeing what people ask for and wish to explore.
ysabetwordsmith From: ysabetwordsmith Date: April 7th, 2011 08:39 pm (UTC) (Link)

Yes...

If you look at the story arc from beginning to end, you can see that it starts with an emphasis on the Origami Mage and her perspective -- but as it progresses, the Kirigami Mage becomes more complex and understandable as they interact with each other and the challenges along the way. I like the growing sense of balance.
the_vulture From: the_vulture Date: April 8th, 2011 03:16 am (UTC) (Link)

Re: Yes...

I like the growing sense of balance, too. :)
janetmiles From: janetmiles Date: April 7th, 2011 10:50 am (UTC) (Link)
Intriguing. I always enjoy the Origami Mage poems, but this one is particularly striking.
ysabetwordsmith From: ysabetwordsmith Date: April 7th, 2011 09:40 pm (UTC) (Link)

Thank you!

I'm glad you liked it.
eseme From: eseme Date: April 7th, 2011 01:36 pm (UTC) (Link)
Oh my! This is lovely, and could almost be the end of the series. Though I would like the kirigami mage to get to speak her new truths to the origami mage in person.

And those two working together... Why, that's a whole other series.
ysabetwordsmith From: ysabetwordsmith Date: April 7th, 2011 09:36 pm (UTC) (Link)

Thoughts

>> Oh my! This is lovely, and could almost be the end of the series. Though I would like the kirigami mage to get to speak her new truths to the origami mage in person. <<

It is not the end of the series. There are two other poems that come after it, which are written and sponsored but not published yet because they are out of sequence. Happily "the two alchemists" fills one crucial gap, bringing us closer to publication of those later poems. And the resolution isn't written yet. We'll get there.

>>And those two working together... Why, that's a whole other series.<<

Agh ...

This series, unlike the others, has a clear end (when they resolve their differences). angela_n_hunt wants to print it. That's a lot more feasible with a closed series than an open-ended one. I'm not necessarily opposed to another Origami Mage series (chapter?) but I think I'd want a new plot-spiral and not something random. Asian literature has a totally different structure than Western literature, and I doubt I could do it justice without some sense of where it's going. I need to be able to figure out the turnings.
meeksp From: meeksp Date: April 7th, 2011 09:41 pm (UTC) (Link)

Re: Thoughts

Ooh...What sort of presentation do you have in mind for the prints? I can imagine this series turning into a beautiful art book.
ysabetwordsmith From: ysabetwordsmith Date: April 7th, 2011 09:50 pm (UTC) (Link)

Re: Thoughts

angela_n_hunt runs Hunt Press, a small publisher. (They are currently fundraising to buy a new computer to make books.) I believe she's thinking about a collectible chapbook -- something small and artistic with Asian aesthetics. We won't be able to discuss real details until the series concludes, though. "Beautiful art book" is along the lines of what I would like to see, if the budget for such a thing proves feasible. I've seen Arkham House put out some lovely little collectible books, and a few of the poetry collections I have from elsewhere are done similarly. It's an art form I admire, well-built books.

So far, I have four illustrations, all icons courtesy of djinni, which are visible in my character gallery. There are two each of the Origami Mage and the Kirigami Mage:
http://pics.livejournal.com/ysabetwordsmith/gallery/000spesk

angela_n_hunt is a photographer. my_partner_doug folds origami. So in addition to artwork, we have photography of origami as an option. my_partner_doug actually made a figure based on instructions in one of the poems ("The Folding Boat").

If you'd like to try your hand at illustration, go right ahead. The "Serial Poetry" page will take you through the series in ... my best guess at a chronological order, so far. Many of these poems have vivid visual descriptions. The original drafts often have reference links, too. If you aren't sure what something is supposed to look like, ask and I'll expand the detail, share links, or maybe call in marina_bonomi (who is a real live Sinologist and has helped make the cultural details accurate in the poems).
meeksp From: meeksp Date: April 7th, 2011 10:40 pm (UTC) (Link)

Re: Thoughts

I've read them, and you're right about the descriptions. I can easily see the events unfolding as I read :)

I had intended to ask if you ever got the illustration for "unfolding wings" done, but it sounds like you haven't. One thing I've never been clear on is whether these poems take place in China, Japan, or some mixed fantasy world...
ysabetwordsmith From: ysabetwordsmith Date: April 7th, 2011 10:48 pm (UTC) (Link)

Re: Thoughts

>> I've read them, and you're right about the descriptions. I can easily see the events unfolding as I read <<

Yay! Then I've done my job right.

>> I had intended to ask if you ever got the illustration for "unfolding wings" done, but it sounds like you haven't.<<

So far, the only illustrations are from djinni's Free Icon Days. I think the scene in "unfolding wings" would suit your style well, if you feel like exploring it.

>> One thing I've never been clear on is whether these poems take place in China, Japan, or some mixed fantasy world...<<

The setting is a mixed fantasy world. It draws inspiration primarily from Chinese and Japanese cultures, with a few bits from other cultures in that part of the world. So it's Asian inspired fantasy, the way most fantasy is loosely patterned after European cultures. *ponder* And judging from the scenery and character action, they're probably on the mainland rather than an island, although they're within reach of a coast. We've seen mountains and rivers already. It seems to be an old and stable culture.
From: angela_n_hunt Date: April 7th, 2011 01:58 pm (UTC) (Link)
Ah.

Oh. So sweet and so perfect.

I love these.
ysabetwordsmith From: ysabetwordsmith Date: April 7th, 2011 09:52 pm (UTC) (Link)

*bow, flourish*

Happy to be of service!

The plot is thickening nicely. It's not quite soup yet, but we sure are getting there.
From: angela_n_hunt Date: April 7th, 2011 10:08 pm (UTC) (Link)

Re: *bow, flourish*

It sure is! And it smells delicous from here! :D
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