05 March 2015

Poetry Thursday - a trail of crumbs

First crumb - a link on the Quiltart list to the work of Michael James, which had fallen off my radar. On his site I was struck by the unusual colours in this, and the way the light seems to come through the work -
The Concept of Qi, 2008, cotton and dyes, 50.5"h x 52"w
It being Thursday, I needed to find a poem for the blog, and this would be a great illustration for such a poem ... so I started looking for a poem about "qi" ... which led to the second crumb - the work of Qi Baishi (1863-1957), purveyor of "poems in a brush stroke", for example (what, after much looking, to choose??) -
Gourds (via)
Third crumb - what is "qi", actually? The ancient Chinese described it as "life force" which permeated everything and linked their surroundings together. Moving into the scientific realm, qi becomes an elemental force: "Fairly early on, some Chinese thinkers began to believe that there were different fractions of qi and that the coarsest and heaviest fractions of qi formed solids, lighter fractions formed liquids, and the most ethereal fractions were the "lifebreath" that animates living beings." But the scientific view is that "Qi is a purely hypothetical concept."

Fourth crumb - the traditional Chinese character for "qi" -
That took me to the Chinese dictionary which still sits centre-front in my field of vision, right next to various thesauruses. (Sidetrack: get camera, take picture, download, tweak, upload ...) -

What looks to us like a short, simple word is manifest in my dictionary in 37 different characters, gathered into four different pronunciations (tones), with a variety of meanings including: a period of time; deceive; seven; wife; strange; ride (eg a bicycle); awaken; get up; abandon; utensil; and, right near the end of the list, "our" qi - whose meanings include air; gas; breath; smell; airs, manner; spirit, morale ... and as a verb: make angry; get angry; bully, insult. Isn't language a wonderful thing?

How many crumbs have we pecked at on this trail? I turn back to go find today's poem - and see that the crumbs that should lead me back have, like Hansel and Gretel's, disappeared.

1 comment:

The Idaho Beauty said...

Well, poem or not, I found this post of interest, especially since it started off with my fave Michael James. I've followed him from the beginning, his being the first how-to quilt book I ever bought. His career and his mantra to "just do the work" have been a constant inspiration to me. Even as he dismayed me when he chose to take such a different stylistic path, I found comfort in the knowledge that one could deviate and try something new, one could let go of the increasingly complex designs and return to basic shapes. I have to say I rather love his recent works such as this one, and probably for the very reason you state. They glow from within or look backlit. They are nothing like the work that brought him fame, yet they show how true to himself he has stayed.

Thanks for the link to his website - haven't been over there for awhile.