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Winter 2006, vol 4 no 4


Renku Editor's Notes

Dear readers, welcome to the Renku Column, the first from your new editor. Having been an avid reader of the column for the last three years, I'll take this opportunity to express my appreciation of my predecessor, John Carley, for the tremendous work he has done here, in extending renku readership, both quantitatively and qualitatively. One could surely do worse than follow in his footsteps.

For your reading pleasure, we bring you in this issue a Kasen (Japanese and English), a Triparshva (English and German), a solo Shisan, and, for the first time, two Mitsumono. In addition you will find a Kanso (appreciation) of the above-mentioned Kasen, written by the shuhitsu, a role encompassing that of scribe, arbitrator and editor-in-chief, as well as an audio file of the English text of that poem, read by your editor.

Both the Kasen, Springtime in Edo, and its associated Kanso, appear in a limited-edition bilingual booklet published in Japan earlier this year, to commemorate the 300th anniversary of the death of one of the most highly regarded of Basho's disciples, Kikaku. Included in the booklet, and appearing in English for the first time, is Kikaku's An Account of our Master Basho's Last Days, translated by Professor Nobuyuki Yuasa. A copy of this booklet can be obtained directly from Nobuyuki Yuasa, Regalia 1118, 7-32-44 Fujimicho, Tachikawashi, Tokyo 190-0013, JAPAN. Please enclose a postal money order for 1500 Yen to cover postage.

Summer Dawn / Sommermorgen, takes full advantage of the Triparshva's design, to explore and develop the poem's jo-ha-kyu movement. Like the Kasen mentioned above, this poem exemplifies the power of renku to draw together poets from different cultures, its four authors representing three countries and two language zones. In this case, the poem was written first in one language, and subsequently translated into the other. I wonder whether readers fluent in both German and English could guess as to which is the language of original composition.

The Shisan, Passing Shower, is a solo renku, written by the Canadian (until recently American) Brian Zimmer. Although solo renga used once to be commonplace, single-author 'collaborative' works (what an oxymoron!) are nowadays viewed with a soupçon of suspicion in certain quarters. While there can be little doubt that without the heterogeneous stimulus of at least one other poet it can be substantially more challenging to achieve the diversity essential to a succesful renku, such a challenge has its understandable attractions, and may on occasion yield attractive results.

Lastly, we bring you two examples of Mitsumono. In the Shade and High Noon are each three-verse compositions, comprising just hokku, wakiku and daisan. The format is pre-20th century in origin. Whether the Mitsumono should be regarded as a renku poets' exercise or in any sense a complete poem, I leave to the reader's judgement. But in pondering this, it may be useful to consider that until the advent of the Nijuin, Shisan and Junicho forms within the most recent decades, the post-Basho era format of choice continued to be the Hankasen ('Half Kasen'), whose poetic flow comes to an abrupt stop with the 18th verse, right in the middle of the Intensification.

Norman Darlington, Bunclody, October 2006


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