Simply Haiku: A Quarterly Journal of Japanese Short Form Poetry
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Winter 2009, vol 7 no 4


Renku Editor's Notes

Welcome to the winter 2009 issue of Simply Haiku's Renku Column, although it'll be co-inciding with the beginnings of my summer and I'll be busy with plans for the big family Christmas lunch... by the pool this year? Or perhaps a party on the beach for a change? Whatever season you're in though, I've a wonderful selection of renku poems and essays to interest and hopefully too, to inspire you.



Into The Infinite Sky: Half-Kasen

I am very pleased to be able to share with you a poem composed in Japan in 1997 and led by the late and fondly remembered, Shinku Fukuda. The participants in the half-kasen, a form of the genre that I've not often seen in more recent times, include other 'legendary' names such as Shokan Kondo and Sanford Goldstein. The latter acted as 'renku commentator' on this poem as well as on others in the AIR anthology Wind Arrow.

Also included here from the anthology is a letter from Kristen Deming in which she remembers the AIR renku parties held at the US Deputy Ambassador's residence in Japan. Her letter evokes the za of the live renku sessions, talks about the way in which the poetry gave those participants new perspective and insight into their cultures and talks of Fukuda Sensei's 'fine toast about his hopes for international renku.' I hope he would have been delighted to know that this particular issue of Simply Haiku includes work from poets in 10 different countries around the world.


Dark Path: Kasen

Malta and Denmark are represented in 'Dark Path' and Francis Attard, in the poem's accompanying commentary, refers to a quote Nijõ Yoshimoto [1320-88] that 'the essence of linked verse lies in making everyday things look fresh.' Petit and Attard certainly achieved this freshness in their kasen and the whole piece reads with lots of wit, fun and with the sense of repartee that is one of the joys of a poem in which the poets are particularly attuned to and appreciative of the other(s).


Dream Time: Shisan

A Serb and a Croat collaborated to write 'Dream Time' in English and employed some editorial advice from an Irishman. The poem is a like a pearl necklace, each bead of verse a gleaming and strongly visual image on its thread.


Long City Sidewalks: Junicho

'Long City Sidewalks' hails from the USA and the poem opens with hot summery images to warm those of you in the north's winter. Then it tilts its readers through a somewhat wacky ride before landing them in a calm spot to reflect on the experience.


Breaking the Stillness: Nijuin

Two poets from England wrote 'Breaking the Stillness' and the title must surely be a huge understatement! The poem is filled with energy and verve, evoked by both the poem's extravagant use and choice of verbs, and by the precipitate actions of many of its inhabitants. The last two verses create quite the most charming ageku I've enjoyed in a long while.


English Grammar: Variety in Renku

Not a poem but an essay that many novices and poets in need of help with the vagaries of English grammar have found helpful in the past. Ferris Gilli reiterates the point that varied verse structure is an important aspect of renku composition and her theories demonstrate a number of ways in which one can achieve this. A useful tool and, as with all tools, one to be applied judiciously.


Yellow Moon: Junicho

This poem counts three Australians among its six poets, most of whom were pretty new to renku at the time. John Carley acted as sabaki and teacher and if you'd like to follow the entire, fascinating and instructional composition process, there's a thread of 300+ posts you can follow on the Issa's Snail website here:

The poem is accompanied by a set of post-composition notes from the sabaki and poets that reflect on the process and product. Great reading for anyone who has not yet attempted the writing of this type of poetry.


As always, happy renku reading, thinking, writing, and one way to do that is to drop by The Renku Group here:

You're invited :-)


Moira Richards, South Africa, October 2009