welcome to the Renku Column of Simply Haiku. It is once more my
pleasure to present another mixture of materials intended to further
the appreciation of haikai-no-renga, and to encourage wider participation.
because the idea of collaborative poetry is still so novel to
occidental readers it is not unreasonable that there is a great
deal of focus on the social interaction that characterizes renku
composition. But there are unfortunate consequences to this perception,
not least that renku may come to be regarded as a mere pastime,
a pleasant literary diversion. Of course badly composed renku,
like any other poor poetry, may fail to express anything other
than the most anodyne of sentiments. But good renku does more
than this. Very good renku is sublime.
then are three poems and a piece of in depth critical analysis.
The reader is invited to consider them as more than caprice.
The Narrow Lane British Haiku Society luminaries Doreen
King and Frank Williams take a relatively free approach to the
20 stanza format popularized by the late Meiga Higashi. The poets
choose to present the piece as a single folio though the jo-ha-kyu
movement, of which more below, is clearly in evidence. The poem
is a remote composition yet a sense of togetherness is tangible.
Japanese renku theory places a great emphasis on the importance
of this za-no-bungei (literature of shared space), a
quality which can be difficult to maintain during the remote composition
of longer pieces, and among more numerous participants.
Long Way Home adopts the three face Triparshva format
proposed in 2005 by Ireland's Norman Darlington. English poet
Rachel Joyne and Barbadian Jon-Ray Leech test the boundaries of
convention in respect of the tone and content of the different
sections. Your editor harbours a great deal of fondness for the
Triparshva, not least because it allows for a fuller
exploration of both jo and kyu than do other
short forms of renku. A descriptive article and typical schema
for the Triparshva will be found in the Summer 2005 edition of
Simply Haiku; go to 'archives' or 'search' on the toolbar
Crowley then presents us with an English text of the kasen
Seeing Miscanthus, a fine example from the Yahantei school
led by Buson. This piece is a jewel in itself but incalculable
value is added by Prof. Crowley's expert critical analysis: Collaboration
in the "Back to Basho" Movement: The Susuki Mitsu Sequence
of Buson's Yahantei School. Simply Haiku is indebted to Prof.
Phil Brown of Ohio State University for permission to reproduce
these materials which first appeared in the autumn 2003 edition
of the journal Early Modern Japan. Archives of this journal
and other excellent resources are freely available through the
Ohio State University KnowledgeBank Program [https://kb.osu.edu/dspace/handle/1811/583].
. Seeing is believing!
in this edition we carry Depopularizing the Popular: Tentori
haikai and the Bashô Revival also by Prof. Crowley.
The article provides further context to Buson's endeavours and
shows, amongst other things, that the tensions between social
interaction and artistic excellence mentioned at the head of this
column were a live issue then as now.
then a note on the jo-ha-kyu movement of a renku sequence:
what is it; and why might it matter? Arising
originally from Noh drama the elements of the phrase are in many
ways analogous to musical annotations such as mosso,
andante etc. Therefore although jo is frequently
given as 'preface', ha as 'development' and kyu
as 'finale', jo-ha-kyu does not just describe that there is a
beginning, a middle, and an end, but rather that a piece of renku
has dynamic range and movement.
his Introduction to World-Linking Renku the late renku
master Shinku Fukuda describes jo thus: 'pleasant or
peaceful themes should be used in this part. We can say, "we
write in a suit and tie". This is why too strong impressions
or controversial themes such as God, Buddhism, love, uncertainty,
recollection, poor health, place names and people's names are
Fukuda then moves on to ha: 'There subject matters to
be avoided (in the preface) are no longer applied. We now can
link boldly with free ideas. Different contents and tastes (...)
should be linked. We can say, "we write at ease without a
suit and necktie'". Interestingly, as he is discussing the
kasen which has two sections of ha, Fukuda-sensei suggests
that the second of these is yet more animated: 'This part is written
more freely, boldly, full of sparkling wit and a variety of bold
kyu Master Fukuda remarks: 'This part should be written
calmly and pleasantly. Here again we can say, "we write in
a suit and tie'".
there are doubtless arguments to be made about the culturally
specific nature of some of the exclusions detailed for the opening
section there can be little doubt that the crucial message here
is that a piece of renku should not be planar, or otherwise uniform
in tone, register and texture. Good renku is more symphony than
syllogism. Not an easy task!
Carley. Rossendale. February 2006