Simply Haiku: A Quarterly Journal of Japanese Short Form Poetry
Contents Archives About Simply Haiku Submissions Search
Autumn 2009, vol 7 no 3


Renku Editor's Notes

Welcome to the August 2009 issue of Simply Haiku's Renku Column. Not only do I have once again, a mix of poems and essay to share with you, but content that spans some 250 years!


Chased by Footprints: Kasen

These first two pieces are excerpted from Narrow Road to Renga, the collection of kasen and other forms of the genre that Jane Reichhold published in the USA twenty years ago. Her book comprises introductory essays and dozens of poems Jane wrote both solo, and together with other enthusiasts around that country back in pre-email days.

I’ve selected a kasen that I particularly enjoyed for its sense of fun and wacky humour as well as for the easy and varied linking that connects the verses. Readers of Jane’s large body of work on various aspects of Japanese short form poetry will recognize her accessible teaching style in the bit from the book’s introduction. Enjoy!


Snow Shower: Kasen

Cross an ocean and fast-forward a couple of decades, to another kasen—written this time via a dodgy email connection and with participants from two different countries with two different mother tongues. Sadly one of the poets, Sys Matthiesen, secretary of the Danish Haiku Group and author of many children's books, has since died and is obviously much missed. I never met her but her verses in Snow Shower show Sys to have been an acute observer and skilled translator of the minutiae of the world around her.


A Cup of Steam: Triparshva

Most of the participants in A Cup of Steam are likely to be well-familiar to readers of this column, not least because two of them are its erstwhile editors. Herbert Jonsson may be less well-known—his doctoral dissertation, Haikai Poetics was accepted by the University of Stokholm in 2006 and it comprises a comprehensive study of some aspects of the renku poetics of Yosa Buson and his followers. It makes for absorbing reading—google it.

The poem itself was published in print in Sweden by the Swedish Haiku Society in 2008. Its tomegaki written by John Carley opens up one aspect of modern renku that probably bears a lot more examination, discussion, airing or just dusting off by practitioners. I'm always interested to consider essays or opinion pieces on any aspects of the craft of renku for this column, whether accompanied with a poem or not.


Morning Glories! (Asagao ya): 12 verses

John Carley appears again in the issue to bring his translation of a poem written by Chiyo-ni and Suejo, two Japanese women poets and more or less contemporaries of Matsuo Basho circa 1700. We've included the original Japanese, for those who are able to read that.

The poem is interesting in that it seems one of the few such short poems extant from that period in Japan. Also, a significant proportion of the verses seem to allude to the Tale of Genji which is at odds with most modern understandings of the 'rules' of this genre.

Once again John's accompanying notes are nothing if not thought-provoking.


A Wolf Tastes Air: Junicho

And not least, I offer a poem composed in part by someone who has not appeared in this section of the Simply Haiku journal before, although I'm pretty sure Martin Cohen's work would have frequented its haiku section. He is so well-known for his two-line work that I wasn't surprised to see he'd written all the short verses in this collaboration with Barbara A Taylor. I look forward to seeing more haiku poets being lured to try the charm of renku—please send your work over if you do!


Happy reading, happy thinking, happy writing,


Moira Richards, South Africa, July 2009


Copyright 2009: Simply Haiku