Simply Haiku: A Quarterly Journal of Haiku and Related Forms
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Spring 2005, vol 3 no 1

The Renku Column ~ Renku Editor's Notes

Welcome to the first Renku Column of 2005. It is confession time! When it was first proposed that Simply Haiku might carry a dedicated renku feature there were some doubts expressed as to the feasibility of the project. There is no question that English language renku is a nascent genre - was it perhaps too young, too tentative, to support a quarterly schedule of sufficient quality?

Well ... the reader will be judge. For all that electronic publishing is regarded as somehow second choice by some, Simply Haiku has sought to maximize the benefits of the medium. The Archives and Search links at the head of this page give access to a wealth of information on both formal and experimental contemporary renku.


It's always good to know what makes an artist tick. In Bell Crickets Karina Klesko & Linda Papanicolaou not only give us a truly excellent take on the idea of 'linked image', they also provide a thought provoking artistic statement of the origins and intention of the piece. Clicking the thumbnails on the main page will open a higher resolution image in a new window.

Don't forget to read the text!


Is the world of renku dominated by men? At the risk of being branded a traitor to his own gender this writer sincerely hopes not.

Whilst not exactly Sapphic the Graphic Shisan above just happens to be written by two persons of the female persuasion. And so it is with our next piece, though this time it is san gin—three voice. In First Snow Adelaide B. Shaw, Hortensia Anderson and SH's own b'oki give us a free interpretation of the Shisan pattern.

Does this poem have a certain character because of the composition of the team? Maybe. Why not read the poem and see. Certainly there is no doubt as to the quality of the writing.


What, in haikai, is the sound of one hand clapping? Why, the audience response to the wordless poem of course!

Seriously - in the late 20th century English-language haiku came perilously close to disappearing up its own paradox, abandoning all aspects of natural prosody in the pursuit of some vanishingly fine semantic nuance.

It is a strange paradox that theorists eager to propound the dubious 'one breath' hypothesis were otherwise so dismissive of the poetry of utterance. Assonance?! Alliteration?! Bah!! … jettisoned along with Syllepsis and Solipsism.

Those of a forensic disposition will detect in this the bones of an unresolved mystery—The Disappearance of the Five-Seven-Five—frustration at the deadlock over questions of form giving rise to the rejection of considerations of language.

So? Who cares? Not the noetic haijin clearly; their irreducible oblations exist in isolation, be they carved in a grain of rice or sprayed across the hide of a passing pachyderm. But we linked-verse wallahs - haikai's lowly bean stringers—we have to consider stanzas in relation to each other and, for all that we might wish to cleave to the ethereal, the problem child of euphony/cacophony will keep raising its wooden little head.


No need to speculate; we know what Basho did (or we do if we read a decent translation). Permutations of the core meters of 5s and 7s are the spars that allow a sequence to fly. The longer/shorter stanza movement is the link-shift motor's running gear. Echoes populate the space between voices, build expectations, partially resolve.

The poetry of Basho is not oral poetry; it is far more than that. But sound is important in classic renku. At every level a Shofu kasen demonstrates what Pound called 'melopoeia'. The fate of any prosody shorn of such essentials is likely to be brutish, futile and short.


But how can we consider these vital issues if our language can't accommodate 5/7/5 ? No problem. Step forward Messrs Zipper and Richardson with the offer of a truly wordless poem in which the sound of the utterance is everything!

Elsewhere in this issue is a background piece giving more information on the genesis, composition and execution of the Jazz-ku. For our present purposes it is sufficient to remark on the power of the sound of the human voice. Surely as we experiment with English-language renku we ignore such a force at our peril.

~ John Carley, Rossendale. February 2005

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