Poetry / March 2014 (Issue 23)

Discussing Principles of Art With Laotians

by Bryan Thao Worra

If we took a cue from one Chinese system of old:

The idea of Suilei Fucai
Should probably be noted as
Si: Colors matching the model.

Gufa Yongbi
Concerns the proper brushes, paeng.
But I know of amazing children in Pakse
Trying their best to paint worlds
With leftover house paint
In the June rain beneath
A leaking ceiling
And nary a nai khu
In sight to guide them.

Yingwu Xiangxing is
About accuracy,
Loyalty, faithfulness
In showing forms.
It is beyond what a photo tells,
Striking deep within to capture
The true beauty of That Luang or
The roar of the Kouangsi waterfall.
It is about truth, theuk tawng
And nothing less.

The principle of Jinying Weizhi
Weighs in about composition.
The best sao-na plant their crops
With a plan, their eyes and hands
As one, so too the nuckawi
Whose plants cause ideas to grow.

If we speak of Chuanyi Muxie
We are talking about traditions
Turning to meu wan ni with a nop
To build a bridge to our visions
With the wisdom of what's worked before.
And might yet again.

And last, that of Qiyun Shengdong;
Harmony, that which leaves us di jai
When the physical moves in unity
With the unseen spirits and energies—
Pha lang ngan that is inexpressible,
Powering a child’s smile
With the same ease as changing a season.

I recently met a man who gave up
The artist‟s way to be a petty politico.

He was going to:
Change the world and be happy.

But I could only pity him
And his doomed laws of state.

No one follows the hoarse orders of
The Yellow Emperor Huangdi
Today, and even his marvelous
discoveries have faded away
Thanks to curious eyes.

But the art of his hour
Still thrives

          With a thousand things to say.


Alas, I fear my mother still would sleep better
If she thought I was a doctor instead.
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