I’ve been working on a poem about Yu the Great, founder of the Xia Dynasty. The above image is Ma Lin’s portrayal. Yu was famous for, among other feats, controlling the floods. I’m interested in him as a cartography. He wasn’t actually a cartographer, incidentally, but his flood control (via creating new channels and aqueducts rather than dams) fueled a very interesting map wherein the landscape is divided up, grid-wise, into one li blocks.
This is part of a potentially longer project of interlocking and interrelated poems on cartography and cartographers. The Yu poem is, I think, just a starting point. Excuse the hesitation here, as this is a new project and I’ve not yet worked it all out. Just letting it flow some. Part of this may have started with a song, “Cartographers,” that I did for Ptolemaic Terrascope (not out yet). Who knows how the mind works? Not me.
In any case, I’m spending time seeped in (simultaneously) Leonardo da Vinci, Solzhenitsyn’s The Gulag Archipelago, Charles Johnson’s Middle Passage, and Chinese mythology, hydrology, and cartography. The connections make sense to me in ways that I can’t even think of now that I’m looking at them all in a list. Egads.