Welcome back to our ongoing series about integrating your hobbies and personal life into your writing. If you saw our post last week then you’re well aware of my on-going project which draws on my love of Tae Kwon Do to create form-inspired poetry. This week I’d like to talk to you about my newest poem/video, “Third: Meaning Fire.”
The third form in the taegeuk system is representative of fire. This force of nature is a perfect example of the unification of opposites represented by the Chinese concept of Yin Yang. Fire can be a destructive force (wildfires, drought, volcanic eruptions) but it can also be a force of creation (think about the fires of a forge or the heat of nuclear fission reactors). In this way, fire is a complex symbol, one that can present some interesting problems for the poet.
In the case of Tae Geuk Sam Jang, the principles of fire that are represented in the physical movements of the form include variety (like a flickering flame) and fluidity (combinations represent fire spreading from one place to the next seamlessly). The physical movements, then, showcase the vitality of fire and its destructive power.
As I said in the last post, I learned a lot from writing the first poem in the series. Much like last week’s edition, “Third: Meaning Fire” attempts to draw on the personal to demonstrate how the principles of fire affect my life. What’s different from last week’s poem, however, is that “Third: Meaning Fire” experiments with using two separate voices. One voice is very clearly my own, but the other is something much more primordial: it’s the voice of Fire itself.
I made this choice because I wanted to demonstrate that duality of fire explicitly. If I identify with the principles of fire in some ways, can I truly reject the more unpleasant ones? Or am I supposed to seek harmony in the unification of opposites? According to the principles of Palgwe, the latter should be true.
And you may be asking yourself, what do you mean by identify with the principles of fire? Well, my best friend and resident astrological expert explained to me how the zodiac is divided into four elemental signs (fire, air, earth, and water). As you may have guessed, I’m a fire sign (she’s a water sign if you were wondering. Yes, that does make things interesting.) ANYWAY, she helped me realize the importance of self-examination through a variety of lenses, and I think astrology compliments Confucian philosophy quite well.
One other thing I wanted to mention about this form, the video, fire, and my best friend. You might notice that some of my movements in this video aren’t as fast or crisp as some in the previous two. The reason for that is this was the first form I filmed after having a pretty nasty bike crash that left my knee in sad shape. As it turns out, functioning knees are pretty important for practicing Tae Kwon do. Anyway, the day I filmed this I got really frustrated and all I could think about is how fire can’t exist alone and how it will eventually burn out. When I told my best friend this at dinner she said “you can either pity yourself or just burn brighter.”
And that’s why I love her.
She’s absolutely right. Yeah, I was angry when she first told me, but, the truth is, no one gets to live forever, no one gets to shine all the time–but that doesn’t mean you give up. To me, this form and this poem are about shining unabashedly and passionately until you burn out, about spreading your light to the world even when you think you have none left.
So without further ado, please enjoy “Third: Meaning Fire.“