HOW TO RENGA
|Jump Start to Renga - Jane Reichhold|
|Renga form for writing a traditional kasen winter renga (fill in the blanks)|
|Renga form for writing a kasen spring renga|
|Renga form for a summer kasen renga|
|Renga form for an autumn kasen renga *new*|
ARTICLES ABOUT WRITING RENGA
|Let's Get Real With Renga - Jane Reichhold|
|Readers' Opinions Regarding "Renga" and "Renku" - Werner Reichhold|
|Renshi? Are We Missing Something? - Jane Reichhold|
|THE ORCHID PAVILION - Wang Xizhi|
|WE NEED RENGA! - Ronan and Kenneth C. Leibman|
SAMPLES OF RENGA
|Omelette - with Commentary from authors to each link. Sue Stanford and Jane Reichhold. A chance to see what renga writers think as they write their links. *new*|
|Riding White Roads - 23 people write a hypertext renga with 35 versions.|
|ALL IN A DAY - Jane Reichhold & Werner Reichhold|
|36 Views - Jane Reichhold|
|anarchy - Marlene Mountain and Terri Lee Grell|
|SEA SHELLS IN WHITE - Francine Porad and Arthur Ramos|
|INKSMITH - Werner Reichhold & Jane Reichhold|
|Two Renga with Dharmajim Wilson aka Tundra Wind|
SOME LINKS TO OTHER SITES WITH RENGA
|Kim Hodges Page|
|Hortensia Anderson's Page|
ALL IN A DAY
As if called from afar, waves' cold colors of night suddenly appear to be streaked with warm breath, shapes emerge from shadow sleep, performers step toward the footlights speaking the first words of the link
a face, glowing from inside out, seen through a car's window. To both sides, the windshield wiper cleanses tears away;. "forgive?" short look behind yourself, someone passing, wind or sunrise?
where his family originated in the mountains so it was to the up-lifted country he took his later years to be held aloft by slanted land, to look down on the tops of trees and to go gently only where two feet are given passage. Yet it was here they must drive to carry him down into a grave.
over-flowered, a rectangle turns into a sweet-smelling island. Children stop by picking crocus for Easter. Half open chalice, in the air between petals, still his name
fluttered nearby on the wings of a Muir Hairstreak at home in the Sargent cypress of the Range of Lights, his better name for the Sierra Nevadas, resting place among the granite rocks for even a late moon
places lighted horizontally; the only verticals are the pine trees and the person in between; his channeling into a thread of continuously floating rays wrap them together. Inland breeze, a butterfly moves the pulse of my heart
but because it started to rain, the magical experience was interrupted; he left the woods and by jumping over trenches to take a short cut back to the village, he passed the home of a friend, knocked on the door and joined a homecoming party when all guests together started to work on one watercolor
not being artists -- with no ability to draw or paint -- there was nothing for us to do but to stand outdoors with hands upturned to the designs of the Zodiac
finally, the party of 36 individuals decided each would write one sentence containing the visible space between stars; the intricate mosaic would testify if the many voices potentially enlarge the poetical statement of a single person; one eucalyptus tree smells for others not being there
orange tea and cherry jam at two in the morning by candlelight and rain music unscrambling dream speakers' messages coded in vegetable scraps rotting in the kitchen compost pot next to the jelly jar
a mouse! a gray ball passing the floor as fast as an unwanted memory can appear and leaving under the stairway like the uplighted word on a computer screen when your finger touched the "mouse". From afar a noise of chewing wires plus and minus
revelation -- and the mind is flung into the midst of a previous life in Italy, lying ill and alone on a soiled bed, seeing the door open, and as sunlight streams low across the bare earth floor
one can hear the clippers of a farmer trimming the grape vines intertwined with women's voices loading branches on their donkeys and bringing them home to cook dinner. Kitchen smoke on walls without windows; the door steps' shine of naked feet; cat on Silvana's lap purring
over low fires wine red glow outlined by the velvet night belly of a sooty stove crushing the ribs and elbows of wood into warm powder as is the moon behind thin clouds
holding a fat novel hurts my wrist, eyes take out some of its weight; the book hangs only on the strings of my will to learn; moldy spots digest parts of Homer's sentence; even so the dog chewed the 'you' behind 'I love' there are enough letters left to reconstruct every burning house
upon awakening mornings the first action uses words to redefine the body's limits for the day: this is Tuesday, a poetry reading tonight, the rent is due, will it be clear or cloudy? has the toothache
earthache, opening a slit, the quake lets a seed sprout, breathing skyward to more blue, more white, expanding air becoming wind; a cloud of pollen settles at the airport, upon the first rain, yellow concrete
having planted lettuce starts growing, not in a seed packet, or warm earth, only in a hot-house situation being as with my father in which I became what he needed and very much the opposite was true
is true and every word placed around his memory is one of the sharp-pointed picket that old-timers place around graves to keep grazing cows their munching and several stomachs in places where no one goes even if one could
greener pastures growing grasses like torches holding up flames of mineral dances' bedded nests: bird eggs, thirty six a year, linked lines, ten days close to each other
shells release a cry across the physical barriers, crashing and crushing open again the transparent form as a mirror image continues as the source-point space through shared starlight
mixed, I think: shadows are rejected suns or on the same day; unsatisfied, hunger for identity I experience someone who eats his neighbor's worm in an apple
is for "a" as boy is for "b" and cat is for "c" and "c" is for seeing as animals do the world between the realm of spirits and this is one of things which sensations raised hairs on the nape of the neck and thus the fighting over boundary lines
uncovered thorny raspberries The thicket remains immobile and red long after you have painted spots mosquito blood; uncertain what to eat before the gallery opens - cheese?
grease on your white shirt? Grass stains on your jeans? look on the bright side just about everything so greatly reduces serious risks to your health in just one soaping the only thing shrinking faster is the size of his scalp
the psychotic witch whitening the recipe for advanced nutrition. Who wants to cut back on cups of decaffinated tea for breakfast? ask the untested pilot
solutions for backyard chefs aids getting off the hard ground insects and "crawling things" whether sleek and shiny or faster and more efficient since the workshop set on drip irrigation just struck oil
taking the risk chewing buffalo chicken wings front and back on a ranch for the better half interested in menopausal women. Chess shadow, white queen leaving the meadow's black king
because my doctor has been prescribing 16 ways sex can keep one healthy without the bulk, what do you have? When nature comes to the rescue, the moon uses one quarter of the electricity. Sunlight has real lemon juice
almost too precious the vital moisture and the nourishment of their skin brings families closer together on color slides; hand held, projected skin of moisture, transparent
marrying smarter, producing new chemicals, twins still want to read gilded romances. Arrested for dope dealing, in a flash, both write themselves a ticket to Japan; inside experiencing the art of writing tanka to really well-shaved temporary lovers
during the years we've watched grow from tuneful teenagers to TV stars for the shootout at Texas' legal corral poor little rich girl needs salmon fishermen to try to stay afloat
fantasizing about men the harbor saloon goes to the dogs; psychically with the smoothest course she had ever navigated on land. The more she needed, the more dramatic the results she wanted to be good in algebra
now reduce lines, puffiness and circles. It's not a miracle. Or an overblown promise. We believe you're the last single woman on the planet
planting a hybrid day lily mix named and registered, rainbows included. Some mothers, high and mighty, trade winds classified, calling your attention to about 10 cups of water in your pillow to promote cleaner, healthier teeth and gums.
to taste bold a part of growing up is the day you dye your hair you love the color the feeling the change of life doesn't have to change yours.
A Cut-up Collage of Printed Phrases
May 4-5, 1991
Unwind to the music
self priming pump
opens us up
brain rescue throw rope
without damaging fine hand washables
pajamas for men
wet suit rentals
make mom proud by saving whales
for the diver
baked chicken breast
so you don't spear your spouse
Jerry can fix it!
all year long...like she is
so your feet stay dry and comfortable
brain tuner experiences
four feet big
double breasted knit suit
growing concern nursery
light. lighter. lightest.
stainless steel lawn
next to the skin
never have to empty
skin and bones
some guys get all the breaks
processed to remove the "itch"
in blissful privacy
tummy and ease your aching back
...and folds compactly into
its own handy pouch
mix butterflies and bugs in
panties constructed without elastic legs
woodcutter's child within
terrain so new
I want to see my money go up in smoke!
beneath the tent volcanoes erupt
keep your mate in the dark
so you want to fly
swim laps to music, so you don't drown of boredom
if you deserve breakfast in bed let them know
blues in oils
at the pond
a prePONDerance of
time through hairspray and zinc
magnetic tool holder
keep your Roman arc
long reach lighter hands free head lamp
splash sprinkle and snow-proof
more new moon
eliminates the blind spot
the primary layer for women
tick the spider jumps
new thrills for pretty woman
sleeping with the enemy
queen's trainer atop the sport of kings
spring sea fever
meeting with a rare
WE NEED RENGA!
THE EXPERIENCE OF WRITING AND READING RENGA CAN BE AN EFFECTIVE ANTIDOTE FOR POISONING DUE TO OVER-EXPOSURE IN THE DELUGE OF OUR COMMERCIALLY POLLUTED COMMUNICATION ENVIRONMENT
We live in a brutally disconnected, crazily fragmented communication environment. Our ubiquitous TV programs are aggressively interrupted with imperative commercial "messages." Our mood while watching drama or comedy is regularly ruptured with commands to BUY this car, that cereal or a new deodorant spray. Newscast items can leap from a brief description of the SR-71 to a segment about some basketball player who has just "settled" for a three million dollar salary. Images of war-mutilated casualties can be instantly followed by pictures of the newest "option" laden cars.
The same disconnectedness and disruptive imperatives swamp us in our print media. It also is jammed with intrusive ads totally irrelevant to their articles or fiction. The unremitting bombardment from such a communication ecology has tricked many of us into letting ourselves be conditioned into simply accepting that our time spent discovering interesting information or enjoying art or entertainment will be violated. Only by a thoughtful, strenuous resistance can we avoid continuing as mere victims.
We have available a defense against such vertigo-producing environment. The haiku community offers an interesting wide-range antidote: renga, an ancient Japanese form of cooperatively produced poetry that is now becoming appreciated by both writers and readers in the West.
Haven't we all experienced the mysterious appearance of a needed teacher unexpectedly coming into our lives <197> maybe a book, a poem, an article or a person with ability to inspire us into developing a solution to our problems. I feel that there is a happy possibility that our society today has available such an analogous gift <197> renga. It is an art form that affords satisfaction from enjoyment of generous COOPERATION and thoughtful consideration for fellow artists. It affords us, as language user, opportunity to enjoy CREATING rather than merely consuming stuff of dubious merit. Participating writers (and readers) work together to create (or recreate if reading) language happenings that stimulate SENSITIVITY through enjoyment of subtly LINKED poetic stanzas. Instead of merely enduring the lunacy-producing disconnectedness in most of our communication ecology, renga participants develop artistic skill and enjoyment through cooperatively producing a subtly ORGANIZED work of art designed to intrigue, excite, or stimulate and challenge the readers as they enjoy not only the lines themselves, but the way in which lines and stanzas are LINKED.
While engaged in contributing to a renga the writers are aware that a careless, uneducated reader could find the completed poem merely a crazy-quilt assemblage of alternating two and three line stanzas. However, they also know that a knowledgeable, sensitive reader will legitimately anticipate a creative, meaningful and enjoyable assemblage of organized stanzas. Writers of renga design their lines so that ANY ADJACENT SET of two and three lines will have a subtle but recognizable relationship.
Further, readers can, with confidence, EXPECT A SHIFT after each stanza that will amplify, intensify or complement the just established mood, image, time, place or other element. Today's reader can also anticipate some interesting experiments that will extend this form just now evolving in the West. Always, enjoyers of renga, both participating writers and readers, celebrate their joint commitment to artistic integrity. They know that any completed work will demonstrate disciplined respect for the form as it also displays a new, exciting and challenging work of art.
Writing and reading renga can afford a vital and unique experience that will help us keep our balance in today's language environment. Besides being enjoyable, it is at least a partial antidote to infection from our often virulent communication ecology. It affords us unique opportunity to design and appreciate artistic, significant LINKINGS within an evolving form of poetry we have adopted from Japan.
From Kenneth C. Leibman
. . . I agree with Jane's stand on renga / renku. Renku, indeed, literally means "linked verse," but the only definition for the word that I can find is "couplet" [A. N. Nelson. Japanese-English Character Dictionary. 2nd rev.ed.: Charles E. Tuttle, Tokyo, 1974].
As for renga: one of the homophones of ga indeed means "elegance" but this is not the kanji in renga. There six "official" homophones of ga, and at least 12 others that are still in literary use. As it turns out, the second kanji of renga is actually ka, the same as in tanka, choka, waka, etc., but as it typical in Japanese, hardens in pronunciation to ga in some combination: it means "poem" or "song." Thus renga is a linked poem, as opposed to renku, a linked verse.
SEA SHELLS IN WHITE
Francine Porad and Arthur Ramos
May 28 - 30, 1993
ocean waves crest
tumble into foam . . .
a shorebird stares
sea shells in white enthroned
beckon the traveler
and matching earrings
fond memories . . .
she wraps her sweater
tighter to her body
the fawn cries out
the wind responds
in the chilly air
a young man frowns
Christmas cactus about to bloom
with sleepy eyes
stolen kisses under prickly boughs
tryst on Whistler Mountain
hard-packed snow trails
an ivory blanket
covers the mountain
downhill racer's paradise
pots on the porch
with flattened runners
brightly adorned barbless hook
the passing steelhead
freckled face & pony-tails
. . . top shelf out of reach
risen Saviour ...
Renshi? Are We Missing Something?
In an article recounting the history of renga in this century, Eduard Klopfenstein wrote in the September, 1990, issue of Vierteljahresschrift of the German Haiku Society, a brief paragraph about the Japanese renga form named renshi.
Mario Fitterer has researched this obscure mention and reported his findings in the article "Was ist ein Renshi?" in the December, 1991 issue of Vierteljahresschrift.
So what is a renshi? To translate Fitterer's text: "The term Renshi comes from the Japanese Poets' Group Kai (the Ruder). In 1971-1977 they accomplished eleven sequences, one of which was "Jinsoku no maki" [The Book of Haste]."
From his study of this work, Fitterer bases his analysis of this new renga-related form which this group (Kai) developed and named renshi.
Though these experiments grew out of the kasen renga, they picked and chose which rules to retain and which to expand. Of the rules they chose to keep were: To set the character of the actor (all of the poem refers to the action of one person, either male or female, of a certain age, occupation, situation), to set a theme for the renga (in this case, a trip), to appoint a renga master who "watches over the progress of the happenings and steps in when problems arise." Evidently some of the renshi were only 18 links long.
The main difference of the renshi to the renga was that the length of the link was released from the strict syllable count. They then allowed the author to set line-length and number of lines per link. This explains the name renshi as "linked poetry." (Ren = connected or linked, shi = poetry, renku, ku = verse, or renga, ga = elegance.)
From June 17th - 22nd, 1985, four persons gathered in Berlin Wannsee to write the first Japanese - German renshi, "Poetic Pearls." The authors were: Makoto Öoka (who wrote the hokku), Hiroshi Kawasaki, Karin Kiwus, and Guntram Vesper.
Only the first five links of "Poetic Pearls" are published with Mario Fitterer's article. A translation of the hokku from Makoto:
"I climb aboard in the heaven of Tokyo and immediately was a fly drunk with the light from clouds wet under the first Berlin rains from that morning on my fingers became the antennae of a bee which touches the rich forests of the map"
Upon reading this, Werner and I realized our ten experiments, two of which we published in recent Mirrors ("We Stayed Mostly in It" and "All in a Day") as prose renga, could be given the Japanese term renshi. However, we are seeking an English equivalent other than linked poetry. As result of our experiences with the experiments, we feel "echo poems" sound the best to us. We are interested in hearing of other such collaborations and knowing how those authors named their works. We would like to encourage others to share their results and experiences. In the next Mirrors is planned an article on mainstream poetry collaborators Ted Barrigen and Ron Padgett and others.
Let's Get Real With Renga
Lord knows there is already an over-abundance of rules for writing renga floating in our all-too real world. There are some aspects of the art that have not been (and probably do not need to be) codified into set-in-cement rules but when all the partners are aware of these considerations the work can become richer and result in a more cohesive poem.
The first, and probably most often ignored, aspect of renga writing is that a renga is a poem which has a beginning, a middle and a closure. Unless partners have a long renga-writing experience, it is too easy to get caught up in the fun of punning, the lightning of linking and the game of wits while forgetting to give some attention to the architecture of the poem as a whole in relation to the situation in which it is begun. These renga can result in formless blah, blah, works where sets of links lack the discipline to work as active building blocks.
There are some thoughts and choices to be made before the hokku is written. Perhaps these can be best stated as questions partners might ask of themselves as well as of each other:
1. What is our purpose in writing this poem?
2. Will it have a theme such as colors, animals, weather, parenthood, grief and loss, or love and happiness, marital problems, current events, politics, aging, health, ways of viewing a common denominator?
3. Can this theme reflect a situation we now find ourselves in?
4. Does the hokku reflect the time of year when the poem is started?
a. This is the prime reason for the Japanese to insist upon a season word in the hokku. It "hooks" the poem into the reality of the passing seasons and automatically gives the poem a setting in nature.
5. Does the hokku "say something" or have a direct reference to the partner/s?
a. Traditionally, the host of an event invites the honored guest to begin a renga. Thus, the hokku writer often thanked him with a nod of recognition of his position or situation.
b. For these reasons, the hokku was very formal, with elegant references or, as in Basho's time, a reaction against this rule by projecting a joking attitude. However, even Basho still gave a reference to the host.
c. The situation that has drawn this group of poets to gather -- their reason for writing the poem -- can be stated (best if it is done indirectly) in the first two links.
6. If the theme is an abstract premise, it should be stated in concrete terms.
Once over this three-line hurdle, one is ready to understand the three parts of a renga. The first six stanza are usually written on the first page and are called the jo or introduction. These six links should be different from the next 24 links in the following ways:
1. In the hokku is the premise, goal or remarks to the host as explained above.
2. These six links should relate more closely together than any others.
3. This section should be quietest, most proper, almost business-like, even restrained as is often the case when new partners are first getting to know one another.
4. Think of setting a scene in a play by having the links 1 - 6 describe a whole set-up (wide-angle lens photo), a close-up of a detail, a place (city, rural, resort, mountain) which is meaningful to all the partners, and even supporting casts of shepherds, shopkeepers... Remember renga is a poem -- a work of vision, fantasy and heart set in real images.
Another analogy for the three parts of the renga is to compare them to the three distinct periods of a dinner party.
You arrive at the appointed place, the host invites you in with words of welcome, politely asking you how you are, if the trip was long, etc. If it is a special occasion this is stated by wishing Happy Birthday, Happy Anniversary, Boo on the Great Pumpkin Day. Your remarks are cautious, and complimentary. You notice the interesting sights, smells (is dinner in a box or the oven?), feelings (glad to be here or gee, we thought we'd never find the place in the dark) but, all is said very carefully by speaking of other things.
On page two of the renga the persons have been introduced to one another (already the flirt has picked his prey and wants to sit beside her at the table) and here is the inspiration for those love links at #8, 9, 10! The good company, fine food and glasses of wine begin to raise the decibels. The conversation leaps from subject to subject (or aspect to objection), a small debate may ensue, even a few feathers can be ruffled.
Because this section has 24 links (as this part of the evening is the longest) there is plenty of room to show-off, shout, laugh, giggle, snicker, snore, find someone with similar interests (love verses in links #27, 28, 29) or wish it was time to go home. Just as in "dinner conversation" one can remember journeys made, interesting persons encountered, sights, impressions, books read; one need not "stay in the moment" but are allowed to let past meet past.
The back page -- the last six links -- can have as tone and pacing the disjointed, almost hasty dialogues which take place when one guest says, "Well, I'd better be going." Suddenly one must thank the host, make peace with the person who felt you had insulted him, remind someone to send you the book they promised, remember where you put your umbrella, realize this gathering was a very special event and, now that you are parting, you wish the best for each with a degree of optimism (a spring / flower link) and one last reference to the reason for the gathering ("don't count the years! for the birthday celebrant) which ties the last link back around to the hokku.
When one thinks about building a renga with these general floor plans in mind, it is not only easier to write the poem, the construction within the authors' consciousness becomes stable enough to contain the wildest leaps, links and kinks without coming apart at the seams into senselessness or sameness.
While writing a mail partner renga, do take the time to reread the renga and to ask yourself, "What does this poem need?" Lightness? Seriousness? World views? Intimate details? Another mood?
Understanding this scheme can make your appreciation of other persons' renga more pleasurable and gives you insights into the deeper meanings of the links. People just learning to read renga often complain that the form is too vague; so nebulous they cannot get into the work or stay interested in it.
True, renga do not have plots as Western literature often has but the subtle (!) use of the above ideas can give your renga the direction that is sometimes lacking. This concept also explains some of the more obscure renga writing rules such as:
1. On pages one and four, avoid controversial subjects, love, sex, war, religious and intimate affairs (as good manners would dictate at a the beginning and end of a dinner party). But in between, any subject you would discuss in the company of others can be invited in.
2. There should be a mixture of nature and human affairs links (the dinner conversation should be varied; not all grandkids or lawn care).
3. In moving through the seasons, more links (3 -5) are given to spring and autumn and less (2 -4) to winter and summer (talk most about the pleasant things).
4. Insects are referred to only once (after you've mentioned the worm in the salad, drop the subject).
5. Subjects should not be repeated -- unless there is a theme and then there should be various aspects presented using synonyms and references (this IS poetry). Never use a noun twice on a page and avoid repeating it in the rest of the poem. (Once you've told the blonde joke, repeating it five more times will not make it funnier.)
Though you may be thinking that you are more interested in innovations and working to reform the renga, an understanding of these principles can be a starting point for making meaningful changes for new works.
Jump Start to Renga
Renga is a form of linked poetry which evolved from tanka, the oldest Japanese poetry form. The word is both singular and plural as in our English "sheep" and "deer" so you don't have to learn two foreign words.
In renga's eight hundred year history it has gone through many fashions and changes of goals and ideals. When it first began the trick was to turn the reader's thinking to admire a pun or jest as a three-line verse (of 17 syllables) was continued with a two-line verse of 7 and 7 syllables. If you have the feeling this is related to haiku, you are absolutely correct. The beginning three lines of a renga become haiku when they were snipped off (500 years after it began) by Basho (whom you know already).
As you read some of the renga the important thing to watch is what happens BETWEEN the links. Think of each stanza as a springboard from which you are going to jump. As your mind leaps (and you think you know where the poem is going) you should be forced to make a somersault in order to land upright in the next link. It is the twist your mind makes between links that makes renga interesting.
Some leaps are close (as in the beginning and end of the poem) so the subject is moved only slightly ahead. In the middle of the poem renga whizzes can pirouette until your head spins -- and that is just what is desired.
Take your partner by the hand. Start tapping your feet. Bow. And away you go. Well, renga is not really dancing in the barn or ballroom concept, but it does witness to the dance of minds. Therefore you should take it seriously as you remember it is game with words.
Readers' Opinions Regarding "Renga" and "Renku"
In a long, painful process, the Japanese and our society are in a development to overcome the old mode of "class-thinking" and the elements of false devotion to artificial "authorities". As renku is practiced in Japan, with a master determining which links are to be used and which for some unknown reason are not acceptable, renku represents to most of us a kind of a "smile and stick theory" of writing. Thus the way the Japanese work with collaborative writing is so far from the English-language methods that it would be wrong to adopt their term for our way of working. Beside this, many of us express a strong feeling that our work should not be seen as merely entertainment (as they tend to view it) but as a valid literary effort; a wave of new sensibility spreading between partners deep into collaborative work.
In Japan, the renku-clubs are still into authoritarianism and follow rules and restrictions unacceptable for American writers as the visit from Tadashi Kondo and his group demonstrated two years ago.
Our writers simply have no interest in such methods. Instead they want to believe in "the people as poets". Their inner voices have already guided them into highly interesting results by writing renga or related poetical forms and they want to go on with this.
William J. Higginson's remark about "experimenting" with renga shows that he doesn't get the point. ("Renga" and "Renku", Lynx 8:2, 1993) The works of American and Canadian authors can be called experiments only in the true sense that all new work in poetry, music or in the arts is an experiment of higher spirits reaching out for a medium, for people on earth to realize them. We have studied the historical form and adapted it to our way of writing. From our many completed renga we have built a body of English work that exceeds the amount of published Japanese renku in this century. English language renga have evolved into an English language literary genre. To name it something else it is not, is an effort to devalue this accomplishment.
The fact that the writers in Japanese-styled renku-sessions are supposed to look up to an "authority", often not a prolific writer himself, who sits in front of a group putting their links together in a way the writers may not agree with, makes Western writers feel uneasy or even frustrated and stops their creative thinking immediately.
Some teachers have a strange affinity to devise two terms for one concept in order to divide to conquer and then to play judge over the "nothing different". That doesn't work anymore. Writers have learned much and will no longer allow others to decide what "the teachers" want to be seen as "higher" or "lower" or less admirable in order to curry favor or to disparage others they wish to degrade.
In his book, The Haiku Handbook, published in 1985, William J. Higginson explains old and new renga on fifteen pages. There he also refers to writing renga in 1980, 1981 and 1982 with Tadashi Kondo and a group in Japan and adds that renga writing is going on over there. In all those explanations and examples in the The Haiku Handbook Higginson didn't mention the word renku once!
People who read his article in Lynx, are shaking their heads. How is this possible? How gullible does he think we are? Five years after he wrote only of renga in his Haiku Handbook he now wants to change the name of an 800 year-old genre! The readers are asking if the whole attempt to install another word for renga in the U.S. was only a tactic from Higginson and the Kondos to regain territory they lost to the vast, different and serious efforts of North American authors and their publishers who established renga and related forms in and outside the haiku scene.
Higginson's article sounded as if many renku have been published but to our knowledge as of today (1994) there is no book published in English of renku. How can a genre be as popular as he claims it is and yet is not published or translated? Are the results of renku-sessions unpublishable? Another point. The just-published New Princeton Encyclopedia of Poetry and Poetics, for which Earl Miner is an Associate Editor, is now available and in none of the entries referring to renga does Miner mention the word renku.
How to stop all the confusion around the historical word renga (as Hiroaki Sato so rightly called the situation in his previous article in Lynx 8:1)? We wish to invite Bill Higginson and Tadashi Kondo to translate, let's say, one hundred out of the six hundred renga written during the last twenty years into a Japanese-English bilingual treasury of what we have accomplished in renga on this side of the Pacific. Japanese friends are highly interested and may wish to gain more insight into what has happened in the development of renga in North America. The book could be a winner, here and abroad, to bring our cultures closer together. AHA Books would support such a venture.
There is no doubt that a certain proudness takes place for what the American and Canadian writers already have accomplished by writing renga. They think of many new interesting plans they wish to realize soon. Mirrors and Lynx help to publish their work with up to ten renga or related efforts per issue. Even prose-poems as renga have appeared. Friends around the world are watching this development with admiration and have already started writing renga with us.
THE ORCHID PAVILION
In the ninth year of the reign Yung-ho [A.D. 353], at the beginning of late spring, we met at the Orchid Pavilion in Shan-yin of Kweich'i for the Water Festival, to wash away the evil spirits.
Here are gathered all the illustrious persons and assembled are both the old and the young. Here are lofty mountains and majestic peaks, trees with thick foliage and tall bamboo. Here are also clear streams and gurgling rapids, catching one's eye from the right and left. We group ourselves in order, sitting by the waterside, and drink in succession from a cup floating down the curving stream; and although there is no music from string and wood-wind instruments, yet with alternate singing and drinking, we are well disposed to thoroughly enjoy a quiet intimate conversation. Today the sky is clear, the air is fresh and the kind breeze is mild. Truly enjoyable it is to watch the immense universe above and the myriad things below, traveling over the entire landscape with our eyes and allowing our sentiment to roam about at will, thus exhausting the pleasures of the eye and ear.
Now when people gather together to surmise life itself, some sit and talk and unburden their thoughts in the intimacy of a room, and some, overcome by a sentiment, soar forth into a world beyond bodily realities. Although we select our pleasures according to our inclination -- some noisy and rowdy, and others quiet and sedate -- yet when we have found that which pleases us, we are all happy and contented, to the extent of forgetting that we are growing old. And then, when satiety follows satisfaction, and with the change of circumstances, change also our whims and desire, there arises a feeling of poignant regret. In the twinkling of an eye, the objects of our former pleasures have become things of the past, still compelling in us moods of regretful memory. Furthermore, although our lives may be long or short, eventually we all end in nothingness, "Great indeed are life and death." said the ancients. Ah! what sadness!
I often study the joys and regrets of the ancient people, and as I lean over their writings I see that they were moved exactly as ourselves, I am often overcome by a feeling of sadness and compassion and would like to make those things clear to myself. Well I know it is a lie to say that life and death are the same thing, and that longevity and early death make no difference. Alas! as we of the present look upon those of the past, so will posterity look upon our present selves. There, I have put down a sketch of these contemporaries and their sayings at this feast, and although time and circumstances may change, the way we will evoke our moods of happiness and regret will remain the same. What will future readers feel when they cast their eyes upon this writing!
Translator's notes: Incidentally, the manuscript of this essay, or rather its early rubbings, are today the most highly valued examples of Chinese calligraphy, because the writer and author, Wang Xizhi, is the acknowledged Prince of Calligraphy. For three times he failed to improve upon his original handwriting, and so today the script is preserved to us in rubbings, with all the deletions and additions as they stood in the first draft.
Note taken from a report of Christie's Auction House in New York in December, 1992.
"Ellsworth again defeated all competition to purchase lot 3, a Song rubbing kaishu [standard script] calligraphy by the great 4th century master Wang Xizhi, for US$99,000. Since calligraphy is a classical and conservative art form, it is not surprising that many works relate to either Wang Xizhi or to the most important event in calligraphic history, "The Orchid Pavilion."
Since 900 B.C. the Chinese had preserved poetry and examples of calligraphy by etching them in stone. Over the years rubbings were made from these stones which constituted a kind of "publishing." Now most of these stones have been lost but examples of the rubbings remain. The above translation by Lin Yutang in Gems from Chinese Literature, in Hong Kong in 1901, was taken from a rubbing. Thanks to Jim Stanley for the loan of this treasure.
Marlene Mountain and Terri Lee Grell
March 17, 1990 - October 23, 1992
m) news headline about sonia: forget lib, she wants anarchy
g) planet of the apes asunderground a wimmin's place
m) unable to grow a baby he's chosen war is hell of a good time
g) battle of the bulge in his pants fading
m) secretary's day a flower and more dicktation for the typissed
g) stuck in the missionary position for wages less than sin
g) touching myself in the mirror a linked form endangered
m) less energy now to push beyond `signs' to quit
g) not in kansas anymore belly up in the poppies deep sleep
m) propaganda treekilling a career to hell with owls
g) soldiers count grains of sand wise men flee
m) i have come to destroy the works of god*
g) paper chase at the Wailing Wall missives falling through the cracks
m) sex tourism yeah tour them jerks off the pretty face of earth
g) before leaving her lover drops a quarter -- flash
m) not over the blues i find a hole with a green sock to it
g) new world order red sand pouring through the hourglass
m) friendly fire from smart (ass) bombs
m) home front dangerous cholesterol level the poems hang inside
g) winterful of guilt spring cleaning the vacuum breaks
m) both right hands washed 100s of 1000s cling to his `slippery slope'
g) straight flush one tied behind her back didn't stop her
m) embarrassed again to admit i write haiku with no chance to explain
g) just to reach out and touch the ankles of the old guard
g) don't call it spinning a web to trap flies call it networking
m) you're very welcome i could not have made it this far without myself
g) all wrapped up in her mother lays the flag on the coffin
m) red dot on white ache of clean heculture to control dirty shenature
g) explaining to my daughter the shape of the tampon
g) turning my head away from the homeless woman she laughs
m) still able to admit anger is art
g) content in a room with a view my grandmother dying
m) hard now to say earth fire water air
g) now's the time haiku spelled backwards is not 'renku'
m) new paintings: femail boxes and junk male
*after jesus: "I have come the destroy the works of the female"
as quoted by Clement of Alexandria in the Gospel According to the Egyptians. R.E. Witt, Isis in the Greco-Roman World,
London, Thames and Hudson, 1971.
A Solo Renga by Jane Reichhold
Failing a drum
heart and fingers beat
filled and overflowing
the flute empties its notes
noon heat shimmers
cool from crevices
pattern of dry river weaving
brown gray snake skin
the messenger braves the cold
first the fear and then the power
seeing shadows stretch the night
the scorpion untouched
by its own poison
babies in her wolfish belly
which one will kill her?
when old and lame
the wise woman knows best
the grace of dancing
prayers stir the dusty earth
bells set the air to jingling
no one speaks
the body begins to tremble
the burn and salve
electric fingers light the way
to collect the boji stones
gauzy gowns long gone
angels now wear T-shirts
someone else's name
on your chest
lost on the threshold
first step in the labyrinth
in your hand
the curve of latitude
and longitude meeting
in the apple's center
capsules of sunshine darken
taking the shape of tears
mad with love
only sea skin fabrics
cloth the depths
full of fishes worms and worries
we walk the aisles of grocery stores
chanting to the goddess
tiny banners of blood
tying us together we cry
breached beseeched at childbirth
helmet and gun in empty shoes
of a soldier son
shell home at last
the hermit crab slips in
the sea recedes
into a bright hole
white ash circles the embers
of the all-night vigil
staring at nothing to see
leaving three hairs braided
in the cedar a thank-you note
from the flute
breath, blessing and perfume
of warmed wood
manifesting in the fog
pyramids of slanted sun
the lens disk
focused as close as
we come to stars
sisters hand in hand
with rainbow brothers
the music fades
the lights come up
and credits roll
inside the darkness of night
all the things we are.
Copyright © by AHA Books and Jane Reichhold
Copyright © by Designated Authors 1995.
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