A Journal for Linking Poets  TABLE OF CONTENTS

XX:1 February, 2005



or, the haiku of year animals reconsidered
by robin d. gill

Jane Reichhold


Jane Reichhold


A Place for Cow-slobber?
or, the haiku of year animals reconsidered
by robin d. gill

The Most In/famous New Year’s Haiku

Every year in the Sinosphere comes with an animal identity. As with our astrological signs, there are 12 and everyone is identified with one of them, that of one’s year of birth rather than month. There is good reason for going by the year rather than month. In the Sinosphere, birthdays, that is days within certain months were not recognized as benchmarks of aging for everyone took on another year at the same time the whole world did, the start of the year, which occurred on the first day of the first month. (1) With the exception of the dragon, head of the watery tribe, all are recognizable animals, far less eclectic or exotic than our collection of star-born creatures which include an element (Aquarius), the purely human (Gemini), chimerical (Sagittarius), and noxious (Scorpio). 

kesa taruru tsurara ya yodare ushi-no-toshi --- teitoku (1570-1653)
(this morning drips/hangs icicle: slobber ox year)


this morning
how icicles slobber!
year of the cow

Pre-Bashô poets reveled in the jûnishi, 12 "year-animals," if you will forgive a neologism, yet modern saijiki (haiku almanacs) generally ignore them altogether. Why? I believe the reason is that this first haiku master held up the above poem on the Year of the Ox, by Teitoku, as an example of what was wrong with the haiku of his day. Since Bashô put it down as Teitoku no yodare, poets came to refer to it as the same, i.e. "Teitoku’s slobber." We shall call it Teitoku’s slobberal, for had Bashô been writing in English, he might have found a Year of the Dog poem to criticize as "doggerel." I joke, but, seriously, feel that Teitoku’s poem has been given a bum rap. While it may be true that the year-animal is a fiction and a poem treating it shares something with poems that treat Nature in a nominal rather than truthful (makoto) way, and as such, seems contrary to the idea of getting out, or opening up and observing things in the real (?) world, please take note: a lot depends on how one approaches Teitoku’s poem 

dripping icicles
today, call them slobber!
year of the ox

Considered in good faith, we may first imagine Teitoku saw a melting icicle and chuckled at the coincidence. In that case, his experience is as real as any purely natural observation, unless we are to define our associations as unnatural. I, at least, think it as natural for humans to think as to walk. But - here I skate on thinner ice - even if Teitoku just dreamed it all up, why not? Anything that could be true is as good as true for anyone but the poet, and even the poet, as years go by, might come to believe he actually saw it. I realize this attitude which I share with Oscar Wilde is debatable, but there is more, so let me proceed, for I believe Teitoku had a snort to add to his chuckle and I have never seen it mentioned.

icicles dripping
today, call it slobber!
year of the cow

 Who would not agree that melting icicles are a fine moving image of Spring’s coming? Older poetry, which was primarily romantic, associated icicles with frozen streams of tears or tear-soaked frozen sleeves, themselves extensions of the heart, which began to drip as they unthawed in the Spring. There are at least 3 (from a quick skim of my pocket book version) such poems in the Shinkokinshû» (1205 EC) alone. Poem #31 where "the tear icicles / of the nightingale / start melting . . ." (uguisu-no namida-no-tsurara uchi-tokete furu-su nagara ~ ) - nightingales were thought to cry as they sang, so this would explain why they are singing again - song # 633 with its virtual bed of icicles: "on my pillow and sleeves, icicle tears ~" (makura ni mo sode ni mo namida tsurara ~), and this: 

toshikureshi namida no tsurara tokenikeri
koke no sode ni mo haru ya tatsuramu
shinkokinshû poem #1,435
(year-ending/ended, tear-icicles melt/ed [+emphatic] moss-sleeve-to-even, spring [+emph] rise/come-would?)

 a year ends
lachrymal icicles
melt away:

has spring come
to mossy sleeve?
the year ends

my tears once icicle
melt and run
even sleeves of moss
know spring has come


 (expanded translation)

 winter done,
my tears no longer icicles run
even to these sleeves
of monkish moss
flowery spring
would seem
to come

 The ex-minister who wrote the poem became a monk, hence moss-colored sleeves which remind one of likewise mossy rocks below which poets found gurgling water, a sign of Spring; and Spring came with the New Year (or vice versa) as was once the case in the West. But we are not going to discuss the intricacies of the calendar, the world of waka, or the seasonal indicators of the New Year and Spring Seasons, here. I only bring up these poems to redeem Teitoku’s slobberal. It does not bother me at all that playing with year-animals is a head-trip. That’s what we have heads for. But I recognize that such condemnation is useful when a critic fails to find the precise reason someone’s haiku sucks (Please excuse this one-time use of a verb discriminates against babies of all species). Perhaps it is also insufficient to explain the seasonal aptness and good humor of bovine icicles for the Year of the Ox, for some insist upon seeing this delightful image as gross. That is why, the waka matters. It is circumstantial evidence that Teitoku’s slobberal was an irreverent poke at the precious icicle tears of classical poetry. Is it possible that Bashô missed that humor? (Readers who recall Sôkan’s often derided poem that puts a handle on the moon should, likewise, pause, for he was almost certainly poking fun at older hokku that dwelled on the supposed coolness of the moon.  

As far as I know, I am the only person noticing these things. Perhaps I am wrong. There are, after all, countless scholars, many reading in their native language, who have a far greater command of the grammar and the culture of the time. If, against all odds, I have it right, it is only because I hate the way everyone but a few of the top poets are put down by later generations, so I look carefully for the saving grace of each old poem. Where, I ask myself, is the wit? (Of course, I may sometimes give a poet too much credit - when I played with a dozen or so poems (tanka) by one living Japanese poet, her published translator, who readily admitted to enjoying my translations more than her own, questioned: But is there really that much Dorothy Parker in Tawara Machi? I am sure I sometimes improve other poets, too. But translation is rarely perfect. If I err, I would rather err on the side of the poet.)

hi-no-hajime noki no tsurara no tokenikeri futoku? (18c.?)
(the sun’s start, eaves’ icicles’ melting [+emphasis or p. perfect])

 the first sun:
the icicles on the eaves
melt away

the first sun:
icicles on the eaves
are melting!


For balance, a couple post-Bashô New Year icicle poems. The first reading of the above brings out the drama of the New Year’s Sun vanquishing last year’s icicles, while the second reading emphasizes the aha! coincidence of the two things. Personally, I prefer Teitoku’s wit to either reading or even the fine observation below, which, as is often the case with the most elegant haiku, suffers great damage in translation: 

haru tatsu ya tsurara no noki no shizuku yori kiin (1763)
(spring-rises=comes/manifests:/! icicles’ eaves’ [water] drops-from)


spring rises
from the dripping of icicles
on the eave

spring is here
in the drip, drip, drip
of our icicles

Imagine a Japanese house and some drops falling directly from icicle to splat on the wooden veranda or on the ground and others sliding sideways a distance along the bottom of the eave first . . . "Spring rises" means spring has come, i.e., it is the New Year. A reader of more lyrical poetic bent than mine is welcome to create a better translation. I have done my duty by showing the other side, the accepted haiku style, and will now cop out and return to Teitoku.

a Floridian Imagining New Year’s Up North in 2009

 Year of the Cow
are those the icicles
Teitoku milked? 

In summation, my heretical affection for Teitoku’s ku comes from my appetite for something more common in old ku than new ku, namely, many layers of meaning, in a word, density. Turning icicles into slobber. What seems at a glance to be pure inanity is actually a creative amalgam of observation (real or imagined) of nature, seasonal fit, cultural synchronicity and iconoclasm. You might say that Teitoku milked the icicles for poetic significance.


The Second Most In/famous New Year’s Haiku

hi no kao ya kesa akane sasu saru-no-toshi --- seishô´ (1633)
(day’s face! morning red-color gleam monkey’s year)

 year of the monkey 

the sun’s face
so red this morning:
hello, monkey!

 The Japanese monkey - actually, macaque - has a bright red face. This is the second most quoted supposedly bad year-animal haiku. Because the poet is not in/famous, it is less commonly reviled. I have yet to find the cow slobber in a children’s book, but this monkey sun occasionally manages to find its way into them (I recall encountering it in one and assume it is also in a few more). The usual criticism that it is "a poem such as a child would make" is correct in so far that this poem lacks the layers of meaning found in a more mature poem. It is closer to a school of simple Taoism I came across in Hawaii, where the devotees (in a loose sense that might be applied to Unitarians) gathered on the Chinese New Year and, at the behest of the preacher (or whatever you wish to call her) bleated like goats/sheep/ram (*2) to start that year off right. I was among them, wondering if we might not also have been given small scraps of rice-paper to eat.


two hands at midnight
on my mickey mouse watch
year of the rat.

jane reichhold
Shiki on-line internet
1 January, 1996


I would defend any putdown of the monkey poem as childish with two words: So what! Aren’t we supposed to be reborn and, therefore childish, every New Year? Must all haiku be grown-up? Is there no room for slobbering icicles, red-faced monkeys and, for that matter, Mickey Mouse?

year of the rat
thank you, no thank you
i tell my cat

 I have written any number of New Year haiku but have not yet gathered my work from the insides of the covers of books and notebooks and scraps of paper and my memory is so poor I can recall only a few and, even them, vaguely. That is to say, I only remember the happening and the idea. Just as Jane’s looking at her watch is itself appropriate to the season (I imagine her, like me, losing track of time more often than pinning it down), gift-giving by cats is a bona fide part of the holiday season, especially if they are semi-feral cats not entirely confident of their lodging. Because strange people come around, routines change and packages (suggesting trips) are made and opened, cats (particularly the females) get anxious, hunt more and ply their patrons with presents. Here is the same idea in different words:

on a certain year

my cat’s gift
auspicious or not
the rat is here

Speaking of the auspicious, traditional Japanese poems about the year-rat/mouse tended to dwell upon white mice, for they were considered to be the familiars (if you will excuse a witchy word) of the God of Grain, which is to say, the plump god of Prosperity and were identified with a bumper crop, itself the symbol of plenty. I have yet to come across any really good Year-mouse ku. I do, however, know many other good mouse ku associated with other New Year themes (dozens will be in my next book) and my favorite is a playful subjective poem by Kyoshi - if Shiki is the father of modern traditionalist haiku, Kyoshi is the god-father and since Shiki died young, the child was raised almost entirely by Kyoshi, which makes him the de-facto father - who is generally identified with the objective depiction of Nature.

hôrai ni jôfuku to mosu nezumi kana --- kyoshi (1874-1959)
(hôrai-in/on "Jôfuku" [it is] called mouse’s)

 and, who are you?

 the mouse
on mt hôrai spoke
"i’m jôfuku!"


Mt. Hôrai was a magical island-mountain where sages enjoyed eternal life. Abstract models of it were set up in the anterooms of Japanese homes for the New Year. Since much of the decoration was edible - in parts of Japan, the mountain becomes a kui-tsumi, literally, a "food-pile" - the mice/rats found it to their liking so, as might be expected from a reality-based form of poetry, there are many mouse/rat+Hôrai haiku (while the Chinese mouse/rat is generic, we shall stick with mouse over rat for the latter has too much unwelcome baggage and I cannot use it without recalling Pound’s translation of a certain Chinese poem). But to return to Kyoshi’s poem, here is a translation closer to the syntax of the original:

on mount hôrai
who says "i’m jôfuku"?
it’s a mouse!

 While Hôrai was originally a Chinese fiction, the magical mountain may have exercised particular fascination for Japanese because of the legend delightfully played by Kyoshi in the above ku. Jôfuku, or Jôfutsu, as the Japanese call him (Perhaps a reader could send me the Chinese pronunciation!), was a Chinese regent (whatever that is) in the era of China’s First Emperor - the conceited egoistic maniac who destroyed previous history to bend reality to his self-assumed name. Jôfuku wisely decided to escape from this insanity and gain immortality in another, more humane way. With a selected party (usually described as 500 young men and women of great beauty), he set off to find the Mountain Island with the elixir of immortality. To make a long story short, Japanese think he may have ended up in their nation and there are competing claims and even graves in different parts of Japan! What fun to have the mouse peep "I am he!"

 Yes, Kyoshi’s ku is better than Teitoku’s cow slobber. It has the layers of an old poem. And, it has something else. Behind the apparent joking, we feel regret for the shortness of life. The ku has the sincerity that most haiku editors and experts feel is vital. I am the first to agree that such depth makes the best poems, but think it not only not necessary but not desirable for all haiku to be so. Here is an imaginary end to the Year of the Mouse:

the ox has horns
my mickey mouse watch
raises its hands


Unknown and Possibly Worthless New Year’s Haiku for This Year


Of course, we need a haiku appropriate for 2005, the Year of the Cock? There is no single in/famous example. Let us, instead, see a clutch of them. The first is by Teitoku, again. Yes, I like him.

houou mo ideyo nodokeki tori-no-toshi - teitoku (1570 -1653)
(phoenix too, appear [positive imperative] calm/balmy/halcyon, bird-year)

halcyon spring

 phoenix, you, too
show! how calm this
year of the bird


what a serene
year of the bird - i almost
expect a phoenix


phoenixes, too
come out! this peaceful
year of the bird

There are many ways to pronounce cock/chicken, but the pronunciation tori, means "bird." Teitoku plays on that, even using the Chinese character for the generic "bird" in this ku that brings out the preternatural calm sometimes experienced in early spring. The Year Animals are theoretically the prime animal of their type, king of the tribe. I do not know how that applies to, say, Rabbits and Rat, both rodents, or what Ram rules (the heights?). But the year does boast a Tiger rather than house-cat and Dragon rather than the snapper, so one might argue for the magical phoenix of rebirth over the Cock. Perhaps I should add that the Chinese phoenix, like the Chinese dragon (connected more with water than fire), was not the same as the Occidental one. It was - or, they were - an immortal chimera with a rooster’s beak, crest and waddle, a fishy tail and more strange and beautifully colored stuff in between that lived on the fruit of bamboo (whatever that is!) and no one imagined that "phoenix" burning itself and then rising fiery-eyed out of ashes. It also presaged the birth of an Imperial prince, so the "rebirth" idea is not entirely absent . . .

kyo tatsu ya haru mo hyoko no tori-no-toshi --- kôyô» (1645)
(today stands/arrives:/! spring too chick-bird-year)

 Year of the Cock

 hatched today:
the spring chicken must
be a chick!"

Since "stand" in English cannot also mean "arrive" or "start," the pun in the original was given up for "hatched" and clever nouns resorted to. Regardless, this Year of the Cock ku is not as good as Teitoku’s ku for it lacks a single phenomenological connection to the world. It is what Teitoku’s poems are often accused of being: purely nominal. I include it so readers will know that there are limits to what I will accept as a good haiku, but hasten to add that I do not think poems completely based on logo, i.e. words and ideas born of them, are not bad because of that. If they are bad, it is because they only have a single layer of meaning. That is to say, they are bad for the same reason most poems that are purely an observation of a natural phenomenon are bad. We are quickly bored by them.

kesa-no-haru wa ômugaeshi ka tori-no-toshi --- seishô (17c.?)
(morning’s spring-as-for, parroting? bird-year)

spring again today
so are we now parroting
the year of the bird?

This, too, seems purely word-play, but beats the last ku for it refers to a real phenomenon, the solar spring arriving early, within the old year. Spring-within-the-old-year is a haiku theme, now obsolete since Japanese adopted "our" fixed (or, should we call it "dead?") solar calendar, such "parroting" is found no longer.

 hatsukei mo kesa wa gaten ka tori-no-toshi rizan? (1765
(first crowing/rooster even this-morning-as-for, convincing/right? bird [cock]-year)

 does the first crow
make sense this morning?
year of the cock


this dawn rooster
sounds like he knows
it is his year


does the rooster
sound like he knows?
year of the cock



does that rooster
concur this dawn means
the year of the cock

It is virtually impossible to translate gaten, literally meet/match-point/dot, vernacular for a type of comprehension when one is suddenly convinced on a point because of something newly experienced or known. I am afraid I have not experienced total gaten with respect to the ku. The first reading assumes the poet speaks from the point of view of a person who otherwise hates to be disturbed by an early-bird with a big beak. The rest pretend the cock feels differently while actually reflecting the difference experienced by the poet on this magical first day of year reflecting the first day of the world. That would make the poem pretentious yet genuine, for it is based on a very real emotion. We all have opinions on early morning noise.

tamago nari na sekai ni tatsu ya tori-no-toshi - kosei (1656 )
(egg-become/produce/shape world-on stands! chicken/rooster/hen-year)

 the egg hatches!
rising up o’er the world
year of the cock

 The above is probably the correct translation. I first thought the nari was "form/shape" and modified the "world," but that would require the na to be no. My Japanese friends found such grammar-bending absolutely impossible, so unless there was a mis-transcription from "no" to "na" at some time in history, the following are mistranslations, or if you prefer, different poems altogether:

the sun egg
rising o’er the world
year of the cock

rising over
our ovoid world
the year-cock

No sun is directly mentioned and the world was traditionally square (with a stress on all the sides/directions) on the New Year, so neither reading would be likely even if a mis-transcription had occurred. Be that as it may, I liked the idea of an ovoid world and made paraverses, one for each sex.


year of the chicken 

rising up from
the egg of a new world
rooster, crow!

year of the chicken 

clucking over
the just hatched year-egg
hen, it’s yours!

My ovoid idea is not totally bananas, for round gems (tama) were associated with the New Year and the Spring. A Japanese friend I asked about the poem came up with something altogether different from the reading I believe probably correct and from the ones that are probably wrong: 

an egg does it!
standing up in the world
year of the cock

 I do not think her reading as likely as the one I gave first (which she had not seen), for I suspect there would have been clearer ways to express the idea, which she described as follows:

 "The world" seems a bit hyperbolic, but I imagine the poet trying to balance an egg on his desk, when, voila, it stood! Actually, there is an episode in a work by Nakatani Ukirâ where it is said an egg stands easily on risshun, the solar spring [literally, stand-spring]. Of course, even if it is not the solar spring, an egg can be stood on end if one quietly concentrates. Returning to the poet, I imagine him delighted in successfully standing up an egg, thinking, "Oh, that’s right! This is the Year of the Cock! No wonder it stands!"

Please do not get her wrong. In Japanese, a cock is a male chicken and nothing else. The risqué punch-line was hatched from my translation. But as long as we are at it:


 year of the cock
and let us not forget
molly flanders

 No, I cannot recall anything about the novel other than the name of the heroine which etymologically means "soft" and "low."



 Is it not better to introduce children - and, maybe adults, too? - to fun haiku so they learn to like the form, rather than to limit their exposure to subtler poems that may, by boring them, vaccinate them against haiku forever? My words may be misguided for an English language readership, as my opinions come from two discoveries made in Japan. First, all too many Japanese admire haiku but rarely read or make them (I surveyed students at a top Japanese university). Second, readers used by elementary and junior high-school students contain haiku about encountering a violet on a mountain road (Bashô), young sweet-fish two-fingers-long heading up river (Shiki), sun shining on a mountain on the far side of a withered field (Kyoshi), and so on, that is clearly over their heads. Rightly or wrongly, I put the two together and came to my conclusion: lighten up!


Slobber Rewrite

 While I find philosophical complaint such as Bashô’s misplaced, Teitoku’s poem is indeed crude: . A translation of kesa taruru tsurara ya yodare ushi-no-toshi as direct as possible given the languages’ different syntax and aided by punctuation signs gives:

the icicles dripping this morning? slobber: ox’s year

 Keigu wonders if it might not have had a better reception had it been composed instead as follows:

ushidoshi: kesa taruru tsurara ya dare no yodare ran. - teitoku+keigu
(cow year: this morning drip/ping icicle/s!/:/? whose slobber [+humorous emphatic]!?)

 year of the ox

 the icicles drip
whose slobber is it
this morning


In case you are wondering, the reason I do not always use punctuation is because I am not sure whether its presence helps or hurts the appreciation of haiku. Punctuation marks - that includes capital letters for they are used to mark the start of sentences and set-off words as surely as other marks do - definitely hurt the symmetry of a centered poem (I center to create an object because vertical Japanese poems have more of a presence than short horizontal poems). They help one read correctly aloud, but in Japanese one is not really expected to read a poem perfectly from the first glance. Slowing down and even reading over to figure out the best way to read a poem can itself be satisfying. And, finally, though it does not matter for the above poem, the lack of punctuation permits a type of ambiguity common in Japanese poetry where a word means one thing when read with what comes before it and another when read with what comes after it.

 Despite himself using plenty of punctuation marks and taking great care with arranging his irregularly parsed lines, R. H. Blyth wrote something which we tend to overlook in a culture that has come to equate poetry with the voice alone:

"Haiku have no rhyme, little rhythm, assonance, alliteration, or intonation. It is hardly necessary to read them aloud. It may be in olden times chôka and even waka were always recited, perhaps to the accompaniment of musical instruments, strings and percussion, but this is mere conjecture. Nowadays, most Japanese can with difficulty understand a spoken haiku. Written in Chinese and Japanese characters it is grasped by the eye rather than by the ear or mouth. . . ." (A History of Haiku vol.1 1963)

 Blyth’s first sentence is wrong unless taken as hyperbole or to mean that there are no clear schemes of the same that may be taught, but the remainder is basically correct. Or at least it is correct with respect to the moment a Japanese first encountered most haiku at the time Blyth wrote and it is something to think about today. ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Robin D. Gill (year of the hare) has written 7 books in Japanese and 4 in English including 2 on haiku. His highly acclaimed Rise, Ye Sea Slugs! has almost 1000 translated haiku about sea cucumbers arranged in metaphor-based chapters and the recently released Fly-ku! examines the nature of anthropomorphism in haiku about flies. He will soon publish volume 1 of his saijiki series In Praise of Olde Haiku, a book on the fifth season of haiku, the New Year, and that will be followed shortly by Drinking With Flowers - cherry blossom haiku with soul and without. All of his books include the Japanese for the original poems in place, as was the case with the books of Blyth, yet are inexpensive. In order to do this, he became a publisher. Please visit the web site for information about the above and other books or skip straight to Amazon or Barnes & Noble.




Jane Reichhold

Before most writers in North America even knew about the tanka poetry form, Father Lawrence had published two books of tanka. One in 1978, Soul’s Inner Sparkle: Moments of Waka Sensations, and the second one in 1983, Rushing Amid Tears: Tanka Poems in English, were published in Japan. It was only in 1993, when a growing number of poets were learning about tanka in North America, that AHA Books published Father Lawrence’s Shining Moments: Tanka Poems in English, and brought his work back to his homeland.

Father Lawrence was born in Clarksville, Tennessee on January 22, 1908, and graduated from the Louisville Male High School in Kentucky in 1925. He received his A.B. from Harvard College in 1929, and M.A. in Public Law and Government from Columbia University in 1947. He was a business executive, then served as navel officer (Lieutenant Commander) and diplomat. In 1960 he was ordained as a Catholic priest in the Order of St. Benedict for St. John’s Abbey, Collegeville, Minnesota. It was while he was at St. Anselm’s Priory in Tokyo, Japan that I met him.

I first noticed his tanka poems in the magazine Poetry Nippon, edited by Atsuo Nakagawa, the official organ of The Poetry Society of Tokyo, and wrote to him of my admiration for his work. Soon, a very lively correspondence began. Father Lawrence was very happy to finally find an interest in tanka in America and he did all he could to foster our development. Though he and I firmly disagreed on whether English tanka should be written in 5,7,5,7,7, we never let our differences come between us or our goal of fostering interest in the genre. Through the early years of publishing Lynx, his work was very often included.

The publication of his hardcover book, Shining Moments, was a first for AHA Books, and we were both very proud of the results. It was an honor to work with the other friends and supporters of Father Lawrence's work – Toshimi Horiuchi, Marie Philomene, Atsuo Nakagawa, and Edward Seidensticker – who were eager to have their comments included in his book. Edward Seidensticker had also written the introductions to Father Lawrence’s previous two books and they were old friends.

In 1998, when Werner and I were invited to Japan by Empero Akihito and Empress Michiko to the New Year’s Poetry Party, Father Lawrence was instrumental in making sure our visit was a success and delight in every way. What a joy it was that first night, after the long flight, and nightmare journey through Tokyo’s subway system to be clasped in his strong arms and hear his welcome booming in our ears. During that first bewildering meal of Japanese specialties in the restaurant, he sat by our sides encouraging us, comforting us, and overseeing the evening like a proud papa.

The previous year Father Lawrence had been the second American tanka poet in history to be invited to the Utakai Hajime – The New Year’s Poetry Party (Lucille Nixon had been the first in 1956), so he was able to advise us on the protocol and the importance of the occasion as the result of his experiences.

After the trip to Japan, Father Lawrence and I kept in touch, especially as we both had January birthdays. In the last year though, his secretary wrote his responses. He died, they say peacefully, on November, 3rd at the Holy Trinity Monastery in Fujimi, Nagano. The memorial mass was celebrated at the Meguro Catholic Church in Shinagawa Ward, Tokyo, at 6 pm on Wednesday, November 17th. The cremated remains are interred in the columbarium at the Meguro Church where he had served as pastor.

He was honored as a monk, priest, diplomat, teacher, artist and poet. The World Academy of Arts and Culture granted Father Lawrence an honorary doctorate in 1990. In 1993 the Emperor and the Government of Japan honored Father Lawrence for meritorious service to the nation in higher education with the Order of the Rising Sun, Golden Rays with Rosette. In the same year the president of Saint John’s University issued the Presidential Citation to him for his 85 years of service to mankind and his numerous achievements and exceptional leadership. In 1998, the "Father Lawrence Scholarship" was established to provide for undergraduates at the College of Saint Benedict and Saint John’s University who wish to study in Japan.

In my mind, the word "father" fits him best. He was the kindly, good parent who fostered so much goodwill and education in all his fields of endeavor, but especially in tanka. Here is a tanka Father Lawrence wrote in the early 1990s, which could have been about himself.

A man of vision
With a poet's gift to paint
In words filled with life.
Though now in another world
He still inspires those he left.




Jim Wilson

~ This is the letter Jim wrote for the 10th anniversary of Lynx. ~

Dear Renga Friends,

Jane asked me to write something about how and why I started a magazine devoted to renga. At first I thought I would write an article; but I got tangled up in outlines, side issues, etc. So I decided to simply write a letter to all you folks at Lynx.

My introduction to renga came about in an atypical way. I learned about renga from John Cage's writings and music. Cage liked renga because of its unpredictable nature and also the fact that this form of poetry usually emerges from group interaction. For this reason, though individuals contribute to renga, they can not claim ownership of a renga (when written by a group). This fit in nicely with Cage's esthetic of trying to let "sounds speak for themselves" instead of imposing personal esthetic judgments on sonic material. I liked renga because they remind me of a journey; a drive through a country one doesn't know or a hike through an unknown woods. In 1985 I came across Basho's "Monkey's Raincoat" which I immediately loved. This set of four renga masterfully presents the best renga has to offer. I began to look for a poetry magazine that might focus on renga. I couldn't find one. So I decided, "What the heck, I'll just do it myself." 

My inspiration for "doing it myself" came from the world of APAs. APAs began in the U.S. early in this century, perhaps late 1800s. They consist entirely of subscriber submissions. Also, in order to get an APA you have to contribute. This usually keeps the number involved in an APA quite small (I have rarely seen an APA over 30 people). APAs have played a big role in the science fiction world. You might find yourself surprised at how many sci-fi writers started out in APAs. Many sci-fi writers today regularly contribute to APAs. Sci-fi conventions usually have several booths devoted to APAs and their collectors.

APAs usually have a subject, like sci-fi (or a specific topic in sci-fi such as Star Trek), politics, tarot, sexuality, etc. Since the APAs have no editor, they create a forum for free form discussion. I decided to apply the APA format to a renga magazine. I launched the first issue with just a few pages, a few hokku and some responses. Because the first few issues had so few people involved, I used some pseudonyms for some of the responses. I bought a copy of Poet's Market and mailed APA-Renga (as I called it) to all the haiku magazines and associations I could find. Soon, responses began to trickle in. Jane Reichhold, Terry Lee Grell, Ken Leibman, and some others I recall as among the first. Those first issues consisted of unbound xerox sheets that I put in a folder. 

After a year or so, my lover Bob, demonstrated how to put the issues into a format conducive to the form of the poetry (the format resembled what Jane does now, except longer). I felt very gratified at the response of individuals. On the other hand, it surprised me that not more people wanted to participate. At the time I started APA-Renga I had no knowledge of the "haiku scene" in the U.S. Haiku had never strongly interested me. After a while I became aware of a kind of self-appointed elite who attempted to control Japanese derived forms of poetry in the U.S. Nothing wrong with that; everyone has esthetic opinions. It bothered me, though, that people seemed to uncritically apply the esthetic of haiku to renga when, I feel, they require very different approaches.

For example, a good haiku has something complete about it, like a painting or photograph. A renga link needs to have something incomplete about it, something open, so that the next person can fill in, lead on, or respond. A renga does not consist of a series of haiku. For this reason, and others, I currently rather regret the setting up of renga criteria by haiku associations.

But back to APA-Renga. When I first began I thought of doing it every 6 weeks. As more people began to join, it got too big of a project and I reduced the number of issues per year. In late 1988, Bob began to become quite sick with AIDS. Naturally, my time and energy went to taking care of him. I looked around for someone to take over APA-Renga knowing that if I did not do so, I would have to bring it to a close. I called Terry Lee Grell and asked her if she would do it. Terry had participated in APA-Renga from very early on with great enthusiasm and a wild sense of humor. She also had knowledge about typesetting and newspaper production. After several calls and weighing whether or not she had the time, she accepted. I want to take this opportunity to thank Terry for carrying on APA-Renga, which she renamed as Lynx. Terry broadened the appeal of APA-Renga, changed its format, and added many new features, all to the better.

I can hardly believe that all this time has passed and that Lynx now has had other editors for the last two years. Jane and Werner further expanded APA-Renga/Lynx with articles, book reviews with a focus on other linking forms of poetry. Like a renga, this magazine has gone on its own journey. I wish it well.

See you in 10 more years.

Fondly,  Tundra aka Jim Wilson



Jane Reichhold

In the middle of August, 2004, I got an email asking if I was interested in writing a renga for a business presentation. As it turned out, Louis Burns, the President of Intel was giving a keynote address at a convention in Tokyo, and he, or someone, had the idea of building the speech and the focus of his ideas around the idea of the renga. The speech was already written when someone else got the idea that they needed to have a renga presented before the speech so the audience would all know what this poetry form was. More ideas came forth and it was decided that a renga would be presented in a video on the large screens behind the podium before the speakers entered. Now all they needed was to find someone who knew how to write a renga.

A web search turned up my name and web site. I was told that as they searched farther, my name kept appearing, so on this basis they contacted me. It seemed that they wanted a renga that had supposedly been written by three persons yet because of time restraints they wanted a single author to write it. One voice would be that of a representative of the computer industry, another would be that of a supplier of content (game-writer, movie maker, or musician) and a consumer. In order to have a mix of genders we decided to make two if them males and have the consumer be female. The team making the video wanted to base the whole work on water images so it was deemed that each link would have a reference somehow to water as well as representing the viewpoints of the three "writers."

After several hours-long conference calls with the staff at Pedersen Media Group, I was given the go-ahead, just before Labor Day, to write the renga. From the many questions the others on the staff had about renga and how it was done, I decided to add some explanatory comments to my links.

[Possible titles]

"Three Poets Writing on Water"
"Writing on Water"
"Written on Water"
"Water Words"


A. representing the electronics industry (male)
B. representing the content providers (male)
C. the consumer (female)

[Verse numbers are only for our ease in referring to parts of the poem and helping me keep the rules straight. Italics on the right side are cheat sheets in case you can’t follow my thinking and for ideas I have had for the visuals. I see the visuals as working with and against the words in a way that is renga-like because they use association, contrast and relationship to the words and word-images. I would hope that the photographer would also bring his ideas of how these lines relate to each other and to the story of the poem. Just as the reader actually writes half of the renga poem, so will the supplier of images, in the same way, be writing the rest of it.]



A: colorful leaves
weaving on the radiance
Japanese brocade

We talked about the presentation

starting with a shot of one drop falling

on still water and then being joined

by other drops (as if in a shower).

Added to these drops could be one

golden leaf that lands on the spotted

water and then floats down to a

collection of colored leaves lying

closely together to resemble fabric.

I see the scene getting brighter as

the leaf joins the others so that

here at the end of this verse, it seems

the sun is shining, the shower is over.

To show this, I have used "radiance"

instead of "water" to ease off the images, but

still support the images.




B: light and dark obi patterns
moonlight spangles the ripples

We need to shift here to the moon

reflected on dark water that wobbles

enough to cause light and dark spots

or patterning. The host admits

to problems (light and dark) but the moon

brings another kind of light to the endeavor.

The words "patterns" and "obi" connect the

images of Japanese clothing.



C: over the puddles
the girl goes out to shop

This verse has to end with a

gerund. Perhaps you can see a

connection between this verse and the

last line of the previous verse.

moonlight spangles the ripples /

over the puddles
You can read that line as part of the poem

with the first line of this verse. This

renga technique suggests a photographic

blend. Girl legs should wake up

those who are not interested in poetry.



A: for lunch again today
a cup of organic tea

The connective tissue between these

links is the word "skipping"

that moves from referring to a

way of walking to missing a meal. I

am fairly sure we can get this

wordplay into Japanese. But

even if not, the image of legs moving and

coming to a place where food is served

moves the poem forward properly.



B: first frost
between bridge planks
a swift river

The planks of a wooden table

on which the tea cup is sitting morph

into the planks of a bridge that

are widely spaced enough to

show the dark river water below.

The contrast is between the frost-white

boards and the dark water, relate

to the white tea cup and the dark tea water.

This could be a stark, scary image.



C: in the unexpected snowstorm
squirrels among collected nuts

The poem moves from human food

to animal food, from frost to snow, and

from river to storm as

winter intensifies. Images could

get darker, more threatening. If

the image in the poem is too difficult

to get on video, one can always switch

to a shot of the brush writing down

the poem. This makes a good variation

on the technique of illustrating the

material in the poem. This would work

well to switch from following the narrative

to stepping outside to see it written.


C: a bright spot
in worries of having enough
a TV ad

The first two lines of this link work

with the squirrels among the nuts and

then with the last line the idea switches

to the human world and a TV ad.

It is a renga technique that at

this point one where one poet takes both

links. There should still be the

same amount of a pause between

the verses as previously – only the voice

stays the same.



A: love stories streamed daily
on your very own cell phone

Here again the first line seems

to be related to TV and soap operas

but then it switches from broadcasting

to the personal via some information I

snagged from Mr. Burn’s speech.

B: by the water cooler
he dials her number
and then just waits

The phone connection image continues

but the action moves from passively

listening to a love story to being active

in one. The water cooler is metaphor

for contained or dammed up water (data)

and the fact "she" is not answering

indicates blocked intension. This is the

second of the three traditional love

verses at this point in the poem and

correctly portrays desire and longing.



C: moistening the tip of the brush
another layer of mascara

Consider the first line as the most

overt sexual reference of the poem.

The second line moves the reader from

the imagination and thrill of that picture

to the woman and her preparations

for a date.



A: across town
by a vase of flowers
two tickets

I see this vase as a glass one

to show the water in it clearly.

With the "tickets" image we are

teasing the "Content Providers" and

it is the voice of the Electronics Industry

that invites their interest as well

as being the person who is inviting the

female to entertainment and romance.



B: the juggler catches each bowl
with a wave of applause

This gives the Content Providers

a positive image to identify with while

advancing the story that the couple

have gone to see an old-fashioned

style of entertainment.



C: echoes
of a snow-covered hill
the moon

This is the traditional place for

the moon. It might be possible

to go from an image of a white-crested

wave to a snowy hill before a rising moon

[that looks like the hump of a hill].

If many images have been of moving

objects, the moon verse would be ideal

for an elegant still shot of art [of the moon].

The word "echoes" moves from a sound

image to a visual one, and yet combines

the two senses. Moon and flower verses

should maybe have a few seconds more

of time to give them the importance these

beloved images demand.

A. a light burns through the night
from the hut’s one window

The image of "a light" connects the moon

and the night and then switches from

being the moon that burns all night to being the

midnight oil burned by someone who works very

hard and long hours – the industry personnel!

Actually the images should show solitude,

(a factor of Japanese winter poetry),

rustic living (sabi –wabi – an old, used,

greatly loved cabin in the snowy mountains).

My verse cannot use the word snow again and

has no water image in the lines, but the visuals

could have the snow and or the water as in a lake

that is missing in the poem.


B: under the ice
the slowed river swells
toward spring

We need to continue the season of

winter into this verse and also prepare

the reader for the coming of spring.

This is in the character of industries
being blocked and yet moving toward

desire and spring and breaking out of

their restraints.



C: "Does he think of me?" she asks
the cat laps milk from a dish

The desire of industry wanting business

is reflected by Ms. C’s desire for contact.

The milk in the cat’s

dish connects to the color of ice.



A: spots on a hillside
under each cherry tree
a few moist petals

The use of ‘spots" in the first line

should make the reader think of the

cat’s lapping as having small splashes.

But then the image switches to "hillsides"

which is too big of an image for milk splashes.

The second line brings in an outside

image and a favorite one of the Japanese

– cherry trees. Under the cherry trees are those

spots of milk – now as dewy petals.

Fortunately, Mr. A – the Electronics Industry guy
gets the prized flower verse and can suggest

"wetness" which is a conventional sexual

metaphor. The Japanese translator will

probably use the word for "moist" that suggests

dew, tears and sperm, depending on the reader’s

mindset. "Spots" too, are wide open to interpretation.



B: carried away by the wind
the old man’s dreams of greatness

The answer to what made the cherry

petals fall is given in the first line and then

the subject changes to "an old man’s

dreams" an apt metaphor for fallen blossoms

and for dreams. According to renga rules,

one can only use the word "dream" once

in a renga and never use the word "woman" –

don’t ask me why. Again this link has no stated

water image, but is instead, one without water

to add to its sadness and loss.



B: not forgotten
the art of kite-flying
in the spine

The same speaker – B – gets his two links

here. The last line of the previous link

and the first line of this link changes the

meaning of #18 from a negative to a positive

thought. Still it lacks the water because

he is not in the flow.




C: the beachcomber finds
a message in a bottle

The connection between the verses is in the

child-like pleasures of out-of-doors. The Consumer

Ms. C again is in gathering and reaping mode.


A: information seas
that once separated countries
connect the people

This is an elaboration on the previous

link that expands the size of data from a

message in the bottle to a sea of information.

Where once seas were boundaries to countries,

today with our communication and travel

options, the sea of data connects us.



B: our harbor here is closed
the red flag fear of an unknown

This verse represents everyone’s

fears of connecting.



C: climbing upward
the mountain stream
a summer path

This is a summer image using the paradox of

falling water becoming an upward path

for summer which needs no path – two paradoxes.

This verse invites everyone to move onward and

upward by following the stream of data on one path.



A: swimming laps in a pool
sun sparkles on finger tips

Continuation of the theme of summer.

One man offers to stay home and work harder

while still staying in good shape.

There is a small "joke" of "laps" as

body parts and finger tips.



B: unable to decide
should it be a diamond
or simply a pearl?

A love verse that has the industry

trying to woo the customer with this

or that –they doesn’t know which option

is the best one to take. The pearl

is the watery image.



C: after setting the date
"let’s go shopping!"

C uses every opportunity to go shopping.

If you must have a water image,

there is always Pier 49.



A: they meet again
by the "river of data"
her song

While out shopping, the new couple is joined

by their need for data and things.

You decide of you want this connection

to Mr. Burn’s speech. I can take it out easily.



B: not to be left behind
umbrellas on a rainy night

The ones who would hesitate

get the message and

follow Mr. Burn’s advice given

in his speech

Thus he decides his fate – on a

rainy night. "Rainy night" usually

indicates a sexual encounter.



C: cozy at home
the window to the world
fills with moon glow

The new consumer does not need to go out

into the rain, but can stay home

and be completely entertained – by the moon

in her window, or on her other window – the device

that brings her the world. This is a

moon verse that should be given

extra consideration, be light-filled,

and a bit longer in duration.



A: fishing nets with holes
still catch the autumn sun

A continuation of the use of contrasts,

(out in the rain – cozy at home), (moon – sun),

with the addition of an association (the empty

window – empty holes in the nets)

An autumn verse with the idea

that the electronic technology

wins by being what it is – with

networking. If you must have water

here, you can spray the drying nets

with water so the drops sparkle with the sun.



A: working together
many hands make
the job light

Mr. Technology adds his message

to the autumn scene. No water in the words

here. Still one could find some wet work

shared by several people’s hands such as in

sailing a boat which would lead nicely into the

next link. Also, by having a visual

water image related to non-water image

in the poem, this makes the visuals and poem

work together like a renga. Especially good

with the "working together" idea.



B: lines criss-crossing the globe
a ladder of structure

Finally everyone understands the need

for an agreed upon structure

even for something as nebulous as water,

or data, in order to proceed. The ladder idea

implies climbing, rising, and success

as well as the shape of the lines of latitude and

longitude. On this, the back page of the renga,

the cuts should be crisp and fast – no soft

fades or blends. The renga is written like a

symphony (Japanese style!) with a soft,

gentle opening (first six verses), then the next

twenty-four verses are a mix of every

thing and any thing in tempo. The last six verses are

snappy, rushed, and usually mention locations but

instead of using specific places I felt only the

whole globe was big enough for this idea.



C: "The Winner"
the young beauty wears
a crystal ribbon

This verse sets up the idea that

we are seeing the young girl – the consumer –

who is the winner of a beauty contest. The

unknown is – what is a crystal ribbon?

The fact that C has this verse increases the

feeling that the subject is a girl.

Here, she declares her choice.



A. releasing the new koi
they fill the larger pond

Mr. Technology gives his gift

to the larger world. Now it turns out

the "beauty" is the new koi fish. The

"crystal ribbon" is the ridge of water

its dorsal fin makes. Fish symbolize sex,

long life and great happiness. Technology

successfully fulfills the wider audience’s



B: gently waving
branches of cherry blossoms
seem to say yes

Now the leader of the opposing side gives

his assent by nodding his head in the same way

heavily laden boughs of cherry blossoms

move in a spring wind. The renga winds

down with the peace, more happiness and

accomplishment. The traditional cherry

blossoms must be used in this link.

C: from spring to spring
a brook flows between rocks

Even with difficulties, spring will come

again and the water of data flows onward

as it goes around the rocks in its path. Also

the springs are what feed the brook and the season

spring brings forth waters and all good things.

I am hoping the translator can find an expression

for our spring – spring wordplay. If not,

the verse can be simply seen the springs being

the source of the water that continues to flow. This

would allow the poem to end as quietly as

the Japanese most desire it to be.


As one can well imagine, the verdict was that the renga was far longer than they needed. The video team was planning on about three minutes running time and this was about twice the amount of words that could be spoken. This was okay. I thought I could do a han-renga, but as I worked on it,  somehow I felt the timing was off when one followed the seasons and the subject designations. The poem felt truncated and wrong.

Then I remembered there was the nijuin form devised by the Japanese scholar and poet, Meiga Higashi, in the 1980s and this proved to have the length that was satisfactory to us all. Being the business people they were, the staff felt there were too many "nature-nature" links and they wanted words and images to reference the world of the viewers. So a week later I sent off another "rough draft." Renga writing is supposed to be a collaborative event and now my solo efforts truly became that. Various staff members liked certain links, and rejected others. If my renga was a tapestry, it was unraveled and with the same threads, reassembled with the visions and input of all of us. This version of the renga went through four more revisions and then was presented to the people at Intel for their approval. With a couple more minor changes in single words, they approved it.

Petersen RENGA 4.00
© Pedersen Media Group

A: an old pond
leaves from many trees weaving
Japanese brocades

B: the stream of moonlight
mood from the monitor’s glow

C: your shipment late
the first frost whitens
the empty space

A: I’m swept from the mainstream
here in the backwater of a niche

B: the digital river
supports life and yet spells

C: until then we love our toys
and the Holidays are coming!

A: profit lover
above the freezing water
afraid to leap

B: the pathos of a B movie
inundates our own industry

C: the summer sun
turning up the heat
I am so cool

A: diving into new markets
experiencing the undertow

B: a wider channel
to reach even more people
ah! success

C: the creeks and rivers
of formats and mediums

A: are also barriers
we are choosing a path
in a huge lake

B: when the ice forms nothing
moves in the stillness

C: on cold days
I shop online even more
even easier

A: the computer as a ticket
the first ripple of change

B: the Kamo River
coming to a Noh theater
a joyous season

C: open flood gates channel
water flows in every field

A: with a gentle wave
branches of cherry blossoms
seem to say yes

B: the perfect ending
beginning together

I was told, that due to their involvement with the renga, the office workers at Intel had been so taken with the form that they had started writing their own renga. Unfortunately no one saved their efforts and I never got to see the results, but the idea that renga, even for a few days, brightened the offices of Intel, is a marvelous thought.

Because the presentation was to be in Tokyo, the video team had decided they would have the three actors’ voices speak the renga in English, but on the screen, over the water images, would be the written Japanese kanji. Now we needed a translation. I suggested a Japanese renku writer I knew, knowing that she would understand the form the best and surely be able to render the English in a Japanese version true to the phrasing.

A week later, when we got her work back, we realized that she, evidently thinking she could do better, had rewritten over half of the poem! All the trouble we had gone to getting the approval of the people at Intel was lost. And all the work I had done trying to fulfill everyone’s wishes had been wiped out. Thus, my original poem was now given to a commercial translator. She was used to doing business letters so she rewrote the whole poem into complete sentences with every idea carefully spelled out. I had desperately missed Hatsue Kawamura since her stroke in June, but now grieved the loss of her gentle knowledge of translation all over again, and day after day. I was very unhappy with this version, the video team was already up in Washington state filming the images with the actors, and the date of October 5 was racing toward us.

It was the staff of the Intel offices in Tokyo who finally saved us. They sat down and within a few days had hammered out the Japanese version on which we could agree. With only a few minor corrections, the Japanese was sent off to the calligrapher. Then arose the problem of how to read a renga since the actors had no experience with this. So I made a tape of me reading the renga so they would know how to phrase the lines. Naturally the post office lost the tape and we had to do it all over again by recording off the telephone. The faster we hurried, the slower the work advanced. But with days to spare, the video was finished to everyone’s satisfaction, and sent off to Tokyo.

Later I got an email stating that "the Intel Keynote in Japan went very well and was a huge success. I (my contact person) also heard that they (Intel) were extremely pleased with the Renga concept." A few weeks later a very large check arrived in the mail along with the tape of the video.


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Check out the previous issues of:

LYNX XIX:3 October, 2004
LYNX XIX:2 June, 2004

XIX:1 February, 2004

XVIII:3 October, 2003

 LYNX XVIII:2 June, 2003

XVIII:1 February, 2003

LYNX XVII:3 October, 2002

LYNX XVII:2 June, 2002

XVII:1 February, 2002
LYNX XVI:3 October, 2001
LYNX XVI:2 June, 2001
LYNX XVI:1 February, 2001
XV:3 October, 2000
LYNX XV:2 June, 2000