marina_bonomi: (book)
Yesterday's Poetry Fishbowl had a fascinating theme: 'Influential women'. A series of prompts combined in inspiring [livejournal.com profile] ysabetwordsmith to write Rarely Well Behaved .

While I like her work and I get her point, I must admit that I have trouble with the last verse, because, well one can be a good girl and sit at the loom because she doesn't know any better, but one can also choose freely to do it, not waiving any right in the process.

So, following the age-old tradition of answering a poem with a poem, here is mine

They say: “ It’s out of fashion”,
“ You are limiting yourself” they say,

“ You could be so much more”,
“you are throwing away our  efforts”.

They feel diminished somehow,
these proud women of progress

that one of us could, knowingly,
choose to be ‘just a housewife’.

But I’m not ‘just’ anything, sisters.
I choose the path I walk on, just like you;

With my eyes open, with my weapons ready.
I know my strenghts, my weaknesses.

I am here, building my home no matter what,
Guarding and preserving what I do love

With all my powers of mind and body
Just like you do, in your own way.

If you fight for the right to choose, sisters,
Then respect mine, just to begin.

Why is for some so hard to believe
That I know what I’m doing,

That home, and husband, and children
Are just what I want and need for myself.

Just as you fight your war outside
I fight for my cause right here

One thought at time, one word at time,
Raising my children to be decent people

Who think, who question, who love,
who can choose their own path

Being there as a mother, a teacher
An equal partner with a brain, a soul

And hands that are at ease in the kitchen
And on the looom, because there is where

My talents lie. Why should I pretend
Otherwise to make you happy, sister?

It was known once, long ago,
The old ones had it right:

“ The woman at the loom, one thread at time,
may weave the fate of nations”.

I'm working on getting some of my works published as e-books, if you like my writings and would like to show support tips are appreciated.
As you may know, a few prompts bouncing back and forth between [livejournal.com profile] thesilentpoet , [livejournal.com profile] ysabetwordsmith and myself started a conversation that originated the Silk Road Allies alternate history project. The project now has a community on Live Journal for discussions, sharing of resources, communal world-building and posting of 'in setting' material (including a couple of new poems of mine, not previously published on LJ).

If you enjoyed our previous works and want to read more come over to [livejournal.com profile] silkroadallies and make yourself confortable, if you think you might like to contribute something to the setting (prose, poetry, visual arts, music and crafts are all welcome) ask to join, membership is moderated but we'll get you approved as fast as we can.

And if you like the idea, but aren't sure about getting involved, signal boosting is really appreciated.

Thank you.







Thinking of Home While on a Mission in the West (1)

This morning, wild geese went East,

At dawn they broke my sleep.

Restless, I can’t dream again,

Alone, I think of Chang’an (2).

(1) Anonymous poem found in the archives of the Chinese embassy in Italy.

(2) Chang’an ( ‘Perpetual peace’, modern day Xi’an 西安 ‘Western peace’), was the capital of more than 10 Chinese dynasties, during its heyday it was one of the most populous cities in the world, this poem dates from the mid-eight century AD, when Chang’an counted a population between 800,000 and 1,000,000 within city walls.


________________________________________________________________________________



This is an apocryphal piece 'in the style of Tang translations', if you wish, that I wrote for the Silk Road Allies alternate history project. While no Tang poem was found in the archives of the Chinese embassy in Italy, the information on Chang'an is true.



If you like my work  and want to contribute, tips are appreciated: they'll go into funding my research for this project and some art commissions to illustrate it.

had been close allies for about 2000 years, how would world history be different?

A few days ago [livejournal.com profile] ysabetwordsmith left a prompt to [livejournal.com profile] thesilentpoet:

In 97 AD, Chinese General Pan Chao sent an embassy to the Roman empire, but little came of it. Suppose China and Italy had united, how would that change things?

This poem was the result, outlining a whole timeline. If you know me you can imagine the rest, I wanted more and wanted to see what [livejournal.com profile] ysabetwordsmith herself would do with a few prompts related to this alternate-history universe, [livejournal.com profile] thesilentpoet agreed as well.
The result were The Treasures of Marco Polo based on a couple of items listed in an inventory after Marco's death he never spoke about; The Lost and Found Legion about the idea of the embassy and the identity of the ambassador and the , as yet unpublished The Tea Tempest.
I was reading about the real embassy sent by general Ban Chao and how in Chinese documents it is said that ambassador Gan Ying turned back because of the info he got from some Parthian sailors about the lenght of the remaining leg of his trip to Rome and the dangers involved. Fact is that Parthians and Scythians were the middlemen of the silk trade and wouldn't have been too happy if the two empires started dealing with each other directly.

I couldn't help but imagine a pair of Parthians trying the same stunt on a very different ambassador, [livejournal.com profile] ysabetwordsmith 's Cai Luoma, the result was:

Cai Luoma and the Parthians

They tried it on him, the two Parthian brothers.

The older spoke first, in sorrowful tones:

“This sea, o my friend, is so vast and large,

With terrible storms, and many hidden dangers;

It may take years  to cross it at all”.

Then spoke the younger, with honeyed words:

“ This we say to you  in token of friendship,

Your faraway lord, no matter how wise,

Could not have known  the dangers you face”.

Insisted the brothers, concern in their voices:

“Providing for many, your friends and retainers,

Will tax your resources, will leave you stranded,

Turn back while you can, we speak out of care”.


But in truth... )
Read The Treasures of Marco Polo a poem by [livejournal.com profile] ysabetwordsmith based on my prompt about some objects Marco brought back from his travels and their possible history and significance.

The objects are real and documented, the poem is part of an alternate history series in which China and Italy have been closed allies for about 2000 years because they are two of the many things Marco never spoke or wrote about, so we are in the realm of what if...

No need to say that Marco has always been one of my heroes.
marina_bonomi: (book)
Today I had my last encounter with students taking part in my 'Mille Gru' (senbatsuru) school activity.
The thing is split in two two-hour 'labs', as we call them. In the first I introduce the life of Sasaki Sadako and a bit of origami history, then teach them how to fold origami cranes, with the aim to send a senbatsuru (a garland composed of 1000 paper cranes) to the Peace Museum in Hiroshima.

A couple of months later we have an haiku lab. First I introduce the haiku as a poetry form (with examples, of course), then the students, with my input and assistence, build their own lists of kigo, based on season-relevant elements for our part of the country. The students then experiment with writing haiku and, in the last part of the excercise, they read their works and I suggest revisions.The students will keep working on haiku with the help of their Literature or English teachers and some haiku will be 'incorporated' in the senbatsuru  .

Often there are very lively discussions, today's group (a 'seconda media' class, seventh graders for my American friends), were very creative and bold, not already constricted, as has happened with others, by the frames of European 'classical' poetry (which I love, but may be an hindrance in experiencing haiku if you believe that 'poetry has to rhyme'). Here is an example of today's kigo list (interestingly, in each and every group I worked with someone suggested 'Halloween' for autumn)



Today's discussion made me think about how much seasonal associations depend on one's activities and obligations.

'freedom' is a summer kigo
for students


But this time the whole ballad...

木 兰 辞
Mulan ci


唧唧复唧唧,木兰当户织。
Jiji fu jiji, Mulan dang hu zhi.
不闻机杼声,唯闻女叹息。
Bu wen jizhu sheng, wei wen nü danxi.
问女何所思?问女何所忆?
Wen nü he suo si? Wen nü he suo yi?
女亦无所思,女亦无所忆。
Nü yi wu suo si, Nü yi wu suo yi.
昨夜见军帖,可汗大点兵,
Zuoye jian juntie, kehan da dian bin,
军书十二卷,卷卷有爷名。
Jun shu shier juan, juan juan you ye ming.
阿爷无大儿,木兰无长兄,
Ah ye wu da er, Mulan wu zhang xiong.
为市鞍马,从此替爷征。
Yuan wei shi an ma, cong ci ti ye zheng.


东市买骏马西市买鞍鞯
Dong shi mai junma, xi shi mai an jian,
南市买辔头,北市买长鞭。
nan shi mai peitou, bei shi mai chang bian.

Read more... )






marina_bonomi: (book)
This is another of my favorite Chinese poems (actually the first stanza, but I want to translate it in full).

It is older than the Tang, in fact it dates from the Northen Wei dinasty (386-534 AD) although the original collection it was part of is lost, and the ballad survived in another, much later, opus. I find it remarkable in many ways.

木 兰 辞
Mulan ci



唧唧复唧唧,木兰当户织。
Jiji fu jiji, Mulan dang hu zhi.
不闻机杼声,唯闻女叹息。
Bu wen jizhu sheng, wei wen nü danxi.
问女何所思?问女何所忆?
Wen nü he suo si? Wen nü he suo yi?
女亦无所思,女亦无所忆。
Nü yi wu suo si, Nü yi wu suo yi.
昨夜见军帖,可汗大点兵,
Zuoye jian juntie, kehan da dian bin,
军书十二卷,卷卷有爷名。
Jun shu shier juan, juan juan you ye ming.
阿爷无大儿,木兰无长兄,
Ah ye wu da er, Mulan wu zhang xiong.
为市鞍马,从此替爷征。
Yuan wei shi an ma, cong ci ti ye zheng.


The Ballad of Mulan

Whirr-clack and again whirr-clack, Mulan weaves facing the door.

(But now) no sound from the loom is heard, only (our) daughter’s sighs.

“ Daughter, what are you thinking of? What are you brooding over?”

Nothing I’m thinking of, nothing I’m brooding over.

Yestereve I saw the army register, the Khan is levying the troops.

The register is twelve scrolls, each one bears father’s name.

Father has no first-born son, Mulan has no elder brother.

I wish to buy horse and saddle, soldiering in father’s stead.



Mulan is an enormously popular character in Chinese folklore, it all started from this ballad, composed about 1500 years ago. From here came a novel written during the Ming dinasty, more poems, theatrical plays, TV series, live-action movies and cartoons, including the Disney one that gave Mulan popularity in the West (the downside of it is that many schoolchildren over here think Disney invented Mulan).

I liked the Disney movie for many reasons, and honestly I don't mind the chronological mish-mash overmuch, after all in China beloved stories are told and retold and undergo many transformations, so long as the 'layering' is evident and the different strata are there if one digs, I have no problems with the process.

But I like the original better, and some of the reasons are right there in the first stanza. For starters, Mulan is no freak: no girl out of place trying to conform to the norms of society and failing. She enters the scene fulfilling the expected duty of an unmarried daughter, weaving for the family, but is pondering on a problem,the call to arms her family cannot answer, and comes up with her own solution.

Mulan doesn't steal out of the house during the night. She has a plan and executes it with the full knowledge and consent of her parents. The Northern Wei was a troubled time, historians say that it's very likely that women (specifically in Northern China where the ballad originated) received weapon training as a matter of course, in Wei statuary there are images of female warriors. So why is she passing herself off as a man? I think (and it's all speculation on my part, mind you) that it may depend on a technicality.
The ballad says that the army scrolls bear father's name and also  Father has no first-born son, Mulan has no elder brother, my guess is that a son could fulfill his father's duty if the latter was incapacitated but there was no written rule about a daughter doing the same, so Mulan assumes a man's identity (later works say she takes her younger brother's name) to avoid a possible refusal.



Even since I was little I've been fascinated by myths and legends about the old gods, not so much by  the
Greek and Roman ones, though. With the exception of Athena I didn't really connect to them.
I fell immediately in love with the Norse and Germanic pantheons, specifically with the figure and the legends surrounding the One-eyed, Woden.

From the start I was enchanted by this complex, sometimes contadictory figure: the one who disguises himself, the lord of the wild hunt (in his Germanic incarnation), the master of rune-magic, the giver of wod   both battle-trance and poetic inspiration (which is in itself a fascinating concept), the one who carries ravens on his shoulders.

Huginn and Muninn (Thought and Memory) where the companions of Woden / Odin along with the wolves Geri and Freki. To the ravens the god had given the ability to speak and they every day flew around and at sunset brought back to him word of the happenings in Midgard.

From my fascination with Woden and my previous post about ravens came out this:

The Ravens’Call

 We are the silent messengers

Sent off to remind you

Of things left in the past

Gathering dust and years


Thought… Memory…

 

We are the soul’s malaises

That prod you on and on

Out of the beaten path

Bleeding on thorns and fears


Thought… Memory…  

 
We are the winged shadows

Who force you to look

Up, for a change, at last

To clouds, and shapes, and dreams

 
Thought… Memory…  

  

...I should learn to keep pen and paper in my room at night, at least when a verse won't let me be I won't have to roam though the house to be able to write it down.
This is the result of last night's roaming, 'The Frog Bride' (or ' The Frog Princess', it was one of my favorite fairy tales, as a child).
As with 'On the run'  comments are really appreciated, these themes and kind of verses are new for me and friends' opinions and suggestions would be welcome.

 


It was so long ago…

 
I sat, happily

Croaking my song of spring

To an empty sky.

The arrow fell

Stiff, cold, alien iron

Writ from above

Still unknown.


He came, young,

Youngest of three

Looking for his gage,

Looking for his bride.

I went to him

To his slumping shoulders

To his hope-lost eyes

To his honest heart.


The Tsar amused himself

Judging the brides.

What has baking to do

With ruling kingdoms?


But for the youngest’ s eyes


I shed my skin


And showed them w
hat baking is,

What weaving is,
what dancing is.


And now, so long a queen


On gilded throne,


Inside how I still long


For the taste of flies.

Since a couple of days I've been reading on and off the RPG manual for 'Changeling the Lost', I've always liked the White Wolf kind of storytelling games, and up to now 'Changeling' looks the best of the bunch to me.
In this version the players aren't fae (the fae are deeply 'other' and loom in the background) but human changelings that have managed to escape the enchanted lands and come back, just to discover that they are deeply changed  and can't possibly fit-in with 'normal' humans. Moreover, did they really escape? Are their former masters looking for them? Or were they let go? And for what reason?

I've been musing about the old folklore regarding the good folk, the many stories and ballads about changelings, kidnappings, pacts and temptations, courtships and riddles, from The Elfin Knight to Poul Anderson's  Queen of Air  and Darkness, and then verses began to emerge and I had to put them on paper.

I'm not quite sure I like them and they left me strangely unsettled, if you feel like commenting I'd love to hear your opinion.


On the Run

I dreamt I was a falcon,
or am I dreaming now?
Wisteria bells are chiming
in the wind from the South.

The hunters are a-gathering
with their red-eared hounds

I dreamt I was a hind
with golden-dappled fur
a silver collar gleaming
on my neck, in the run.

The hunters are a-gathering
with their red-eared hounds

I dreamt I was a hare
with ruby-gleaming eyes
a pale flash of moonlight
hiding in thorny edges.

The hunters are a-gathering
with their red-eared hounds

 Parsley, sage, rosemary and thyme...
how did that ancient rhyme go?
Will holly, birch, rowan and ash
be any avail 'gainst the good folk?

The hunters are a-gathering
with their red-eared hounds



    
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Not really, I'll go for 5-7-5 only if I were writing in classical form and in Japanese (a language I sadly do not know) or, sometimes, in Italian. English has a more spare structure, most 5-7-5 written in English sound bulky or awkward.

Forgotten chores,
In the Christmas sky
first-burning star.

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