We continue to be inspired by The Cahiers Series, journals that explore translation from novel angles: art to literature and back, music to literature, architecture to words and images, the list goes on. Most recently we picked up Journal #6, “Text on Textile” by Isabella Ducrot, which as you can imagine talks about the nature of textile, the weaving of fabric as well as of story.
In it, Roman textile artist and painter Ducrot talks about textile and weaving as it appears in mythology and art and you get the sense of her relationship to the craft. The Cahier aslo includes a poem specifically written about Ducrot’s process by acclaimed Italian poet Patrizia Cavalli. The poem was translated from Italian into English by Olivia E. Sears and Ducrot’s Italian text was translated into English by Adelaide Cioni and Ornan Rotem.
What struck us most about this edition was the story Ducrot retells from Homer’s Odyssey about Penelope, who “would, by night unweave what she made by day. Attempting to postpone her nuptials, she would undo by torchlight what she had achieved in sunlight.” She continues:
By unweaving that which she has woven, Penelope was using fabric as if it were a clock whose arms she could move back at will…However, trying to unweave a piece of fabric is almost as hopeless as trying to arrest time. Anyone skilled in the craft knows that it is very hard to undo a piece of woven textile without breaking the weft; precisely because it is a continuous thread, the weft is what gives the textile its quality and its durability and severing the weft kills the weave. Perhaps that is why the weft has come down to us as a symbol of continuity.
So if weaving has that kind of permanence then making a textile is not exactly like writing a story. Because words can easily be disassembled without damaging the integrity of a piece. It got us thinking and trying to figure out the correlation between weaving and writing. Of course, one “weaves a story” but it felt like that was not the correct relationship. Then it clicked: textile, with its continuous weft that evolves and grows, from past to present and on, is really more like language than story. So does this mean that textile makers are not writing story but, in essence, are creating language? And with the language of a textile do you create the story of the dress you wear or purse you carry?
As a writer, do you view each word as part of an intricately woven fabric with traces of society, history, and depth, that continues to weave itself even after you use that word? In micro fiction, where it is so important to pay attention to every word chosen, are you conscious of the history each word evokes? And how can the richness of a word or a language serve your piece?