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Winter 2005, vol 3 no 4


Renku Editor's Notes

Hello, welcome to the Renku Column for November 2005. Once again Simply Haiku is proud to present a further selection of work illustrating the international excellence and innovation centered on this most fascinating of literary genres. It is however with deep regret that we must preface our comments with the news of the death of Professor Shinku Fukuda.

This issue contains the text, in English and Japanese, of 'Earnest Desires', a Nijuin Renku composed to mark the occasion of the 5th Global Renku Memorial. This stellar meeting recently took place in Basho's former dwelling in Seikiguchi, Tokyo. It would be difficult to think of a more auspicious setting. As the photograph which prefaces co-ordinator Yachimoto's 'Monologue' illustrates even the weather seems to have conspired to produce a thoroughly relaxed and pleasant atmosphere. Prof. Fukuda was to have attended this gathering, sadly, as Ms. Yachimoto hints, he was already seriously indisposed, instead forwarding candidates for the hokku. Earnest Desires therefore commences with what was to be one of Prof. Fukuda's final works: Requiescat in Pace.

Ever generous in his encouragement of international renku, Prof. Fukuda would have been the first to acknowledge that our second piece, 'Le Marronnier', signals a welcome beginning. Accompanied by English and German translations, 'Le Marronnier' is believed to be the first formal Quebecois renku. Given the core contribution to occidental haikai by earlier generations of Francophone poets and scholars it is a pleasure to see new groups extending the frontiers of the literature.

Moving further south, and into 'virtuality', we have the delightful 'Pussy Willow' - a free Junicho composed via email by two poets relatively new to Renku. The energy and enthusiasm of the exchanges between the two authors is tangible - and an encouragement to others. A quick use of the search facilities linked through the top of this page will soon yield plenty of background information on the 12 verse Junicho format. No excuses - get writing!

The authors of 'Divertimentos' also inhabit a virtual landscape, but one with a distinctly English texture. And not just distinct, but bold too. 'Divertimentos' uses a novel folio structure which, rather like Norman Darlington's recently proposed 'Triparshva' pattern, extends the opening and closing movements whilst keeping the overall poem relatively short. The group also employed an experimental verse selection system, the leadership of the poem passing from member to member with each successive verse.

Such enterprise is surely to be welcomed. It is unfortunate that the initial impression gained by so many of renku is that of an immensely complicated set of rules designed to trap the unwary into revealing their ignorance. Nothing could be further from the truth. Renku is art, and like all art must perpetually exploit the urge to both innovation and reference.

Or is that just an intellectual justification for including our last piece? By almost any reckoning 'Blue Star' is not renku at all. It is however a stunning piece of literature which takes the generally pedestrian 'Cherita' stanza and elevates it to heights previously undreamed of. The reason why 'Blue Star' appears here is that this transfiguration is achieved, in your editor's opinion, through the application of core renku principles: multiplex layers of linking and shifting which reside not in the words on the page, but in the space between the phrases.

It is this white space, this limitless potentiality, that the most skilled poets craft. Why else would Basho have spent so much time in Sekiguchi examining the nature of the transition from one verse to another.

John Carley, Rossendale. October 2005.


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