Simply Haiku: An E-Journal of Haiku and Related Forms
September-October 2004, vol. 2, no. 5

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Graphic Shisan: Our Path
Tomegaki by Michael Baribeau, Sabaki

A form of renku, shisan is a poetic style of Japanese linking verse. Our Path was composed by Peter Brady, Marlene Egger, and Sprite who focused on the concept of hiraku, that except for the opening verse all verses be like incomplete haiku which are then completed in the subsequent verse.

Since each new verse adds the 'punch line' to the previous verse this overlaps these verse pairs and the meaning morphs or shifts in unexpected ways. This is done to the backdrop of the four seasons beginning in this case with Winter (when we started), ending with Autumn, and even include blossom, love, and moon tribute verses. The interplay of each writer taking turns to build on each others' inspiration took us on this most remarkable journey.

This completed shisan was then introduced to the World Haiku Club's online group WHChaikumultimedia where Ron C. Moss, Linda Papanicolaou, and Maryann Hazen Stearns volunteered for an experiment to render graphics for it.

The approach was not to illustrate each individual verse since their meaning changes with each next verse but instead illustrate their paired relationship by displaying each image between them. In order to maintain continuity they had to abide by shisan
rules such as diversity and to avoid repeating themes. The addition of graphics to this project was expected to make renku more accessible (for the authors and artists as well as readers which was why a free easy to use online photo sharing site was used) but it became much more than that, enriched by each artist's unique perspective.

It was an unusual opportunity in a shisan to combine these two mediums, text and illustration, poetry and graphic arts. The outcome was enormously rewarding, not just for the outstanding results, but for the collaborative process itself, working with such creative individuals. It was an honor to participate.

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