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
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