Shisan – the Anatomy of a Renku Sequence

VOLUME 3: ISSUE 1
MARCH 2003

 WHCessay – Shisan – the anatomy of a renku sequence

John E Carley, UK

An introduction

For Masaoka Shiki, the archetypal modernist, renku was not worthy of consideration as literature. Renku, he declared, was a pastime – a dated word game – whose only saving grace lay in the fact that its first verse, the hokku, was the precursor of haiku.

But Shiki was young, and in a hurry – keen to assert the pre-eminence of romantic individualism. We cannot know if his early death precluded a change of heart (Shiki had after all participated in, and published, linked verse) but we can learn a little more about renku, and form our own opinions.

What exactly is ‘Renku’?

Linked verse – renga – composed after the school of Matsuo Basho is often referred to as renku. Rather than give a lengthy technical specification this article traces the evolution of one such poem – a Shisan renku – composed in 2002 via email.

Though the medium may be thoroughly modern the poem itself was composed in a traditional manner – participants ‘competing’ to submit appropriate verses (a method called, in the Japanese, degachi) – the whole process under the tutelage of a ‘conductor’ or ‘lead poet’ (sabaki).

Other than the principal drafts of the verses submitted the following material is drawn mostly from the comments of Eiko Yachimoto, our sabaki. Remarks prefaced by the rubric notes or in square [ ] brackets are my own, and are written post facto. I hope you enjoy reading.

John Carley, 2003


On the meaning of Shisan

EY: This form was invented several years ago by the late Mr. Kaoru Kubota. The name Shisan has many layers of meaning. When written using two Chinese characters it may be read as:

Shi or tamawaru meaning, “To be given something noble from the higher existence.”
San as in bansankai meaning, “Formal meal.”

When pronounced, it means four, shi, and three, san, suggesting both:

  • A taboo of versification in the composition of a tanku [the 7/7 ‘short verse’] whose traditional teaching dictates that the closing seven syllables should exhibit a cadence of three followed by four i.e. not in the order of shi, then, san (4 then 3).
  • The multiplication of four times three = 12

Mr. Kubota wanted to give birth to something nice from a taboo word! One could almost give the meaning as “manna that comes in 12.”

The Shisan has four folios, each folio comprising three verses of which one or two are seasonal, and the rest non-seasonal. The poem starts from the season in which it is composed and follows the natural order.

notes: But what about the importance of prohibitions in this style of linked verse? Bans on the repetition of any given idea or word, for instance? Eiko Yachimoto again, explaining that the term, back-link, is an English language usage, and does not necessarily accord with the Japanese tradition:

EY: I would think the rule called sari-girai (how many verses you have to wait from one love section to another, or so & so number of verses from one water related verse to another etc) and the concept of ‘distant reincarnation’ [tô-rin’ne] combined together might be considered as ‘back link’.

In my understanding each poet grasps a given word according to his/her own lights. For the collaboration to succeed one co-ordinator/conductor (sabaki) is needed to balance conformity to the rules with the pursuit of poetry.

notes: The only absolute injunction, Eiko goes on to explain, is the avoidance of uchikoshi. This rule obliges the renku poet to link the current stanza to the preceding stanza, whilst ensuring that there is a comprehensive move away from the content of the stanza before that: the uchikoshi or ‘leap-over’ verse. And so to verse one, the hokku.

Verse One – offers and commentary

gathering storm
the tamarack drops
golden needles…………………kk

EY: dramatic start with rich visual images: I can feel the velvet air and see the lightning…

so different
to the green that never was
the autumn leaves…………….jec

EY: very musical, very original in the way it literally let us see the passage of time, appeals directly to my emotion.

counting Leonids
with the children–
the crickets fall silent…………jrs

EY: I somehow see too many plural nouns in one verse.

dew on the telescope —
the Dolphin circles this field
of crickets and children………jrs

EY: After pondering over four verses, I would like the Dolphin for its freshness. I have just learned that the Dolphin can be seen in the south centre of the autumn sky at around 8pm in September. I, however, would like to rewrite John’s verse as follows:

million dewdrops–
the Dolphin circles
past my telescope……………jrs

Your sabaki now needs your approval for this proposal.

KK:  The simplified version is excellent […] To my ear “a million stars” or “myriad stars” would be other options.

JEC:
Kirsty employs the definite article ‘a’ with the phrase ‘million dewdrops/stars’ – a suggestion I support.

Verse One – defined

Shisan:  The Dolphin Circles

a million dewdrops–
the Dolphin circles
past my telescope…………………jrs

EY: Your sabaki has named our Shisan as above […] Please write a wakiku in two lines totalling 11 syllables. I confirm that the moon be included in our wakiku offers.

notes: As an experiment it had been decided that each tanku – short verse – should have a fixed count of eleven syllables. The length of the chouku – long verse – had been left open. However the reader might care to note the presence or lack of proportion in the comparative length of long and short verses that emerges as the poem progresses.

Verse Two – offers

a million dewdrops–
the Dolphin circles
past my telescope…………………jrs

moolight dyeing a cricket
each other’s face………………….ey

amber moon
a pumpkin grin for Halloween…….jec

from Giza’s pyramid
moonlit wings unfold………………kk

moonstruck–I watch
the seventh wave unfolding……..kk

pampas grass in night rain
silver on silver……………………..jrs

On Omote – the opening movement

EY: Before going to each offer, I would like to explain what is expected of the omote (front) folio in all renku forms including Shisan.

The hokku, the verse which gave birth to haiku, may be compared to an engine of a train or to a theatre. A wakiku – the supporting verse – is supposed to enhance the world of the hokku (in our case autumn, night, field…) by providing a stage or backdrop, some further detail or depth of the same world.

The association connecting autumn with the moon has been very strong in the long tradition of Japanese poetry and the moon in renku is sometimes respected even as representing the Muse itself. In other words, the autumn section without moon is not popular.

In Shisan there are only three verses in this opening section and yet all the traditional aesthetics or restrictions for omote are applied to the verses that follow the hokku. Since this is a formal greeting stage, no specific information such as place name, person’s name are introduced. It is too early to talk about love, and not appropriate to be nostalgic. One should not write about illness, death, pilgrimage, travel, religious matters or any cause for lament.

For hokku, we can be completely independent. As long as it has the poetic strength to pull the following verses as an engine, we can write about love, terrorism, wars, proper names etc, etc. Though we can choose to be less forceful if we so wish. Both approaches are perfectly fine for hokku writing.

Verse Two – defined

EY: In a live session of renku everybody gathers to a pleasant place sharing the same time and the same place, so it is not too difficult to observe the traditional rules […] let me post our wakiku, with the slight editing of the hokku so that these be grasped as a closely bonded pair.

Shisan: The Dolphin circles

a sea of dew–
the Dolphin circles
past my telescope…………………jrs

moonstruck– I watch
the seventh wave unfolding……..kk

Verse Three – context

EY: Here comes the golden uchikoshi rule of all renku. We want a clear shift from the heavenly bodies. And we want our Third verse not written from the first-person singular angle. We’ve written two autumn verses already, so the last of this folio is supposed to be a no-season verse.

In writing renku we make a border stripe by switching from seasonal section to no seasonal section… though, in case of the shorter renku, ‘section’ is perhaps not the appropriate word as we might have just one verse.

On Kireji

notes:
Of the submissions for verse three one draft raised questions about the use of cutting characters – kireji – and, by implication, marked juxtaposition, in verses other than the first, the hokku:

a sinuous V of geese —
the plowman’s mind
opens in awe…………………jrs

EY: Kireji creates a grand space and makes the verse self-standing. That’s the reason why the hokku is called tateku (standing verse) as opposed to hiraku (horizontal verses). All the other verses we will be working on during the session (except for the ageku, the very last verse) are hiraku. So, this punctuation: ‘–’, so frequently indicating the kireji in English haiku tradition, cannot be used here.

notes: To which an observer objected that the second verse – wakiku – already chosen, employed just such a punctuation mark in the middle of line one.

EY: In using cutting words, what do you cut? I understand you cut the logic and/or a cause-and-effect thread of thinking. So even though Kirsty used ‘–’ in-between ‘moonstruck’ and ‘I’ in her wakiku, I do not consider it a cut in her verse. ‘–’ here is not meant as the kireji of English haiku tradition, but, I understand, meant to be taken as ‘–’ in the English poetic tradition. We all know the moon presides over the tides of the sea and the poetess is watching the wave unfolding carrying silver moonlight; there is no cut here.

notes: in order to prevent any misunderstanding it was agreed that the simplest solution would be to re-punctuate line one of verse two with a comma.

Verse Three – offers

a sea of dew–
the Dolphin circles
past my telescope…………………jrs

moonstruck, I watch
the seventh wave unfolding……..kk

syncopating with
simmering red rice
a baby breathing………………….ey

winning score
the spectators surge
to their feet……………………….kk

a particle of some sort
vibrates
in the spider’s web………………..jec

under the kayak
the wings of a bi-plane
barely visible……………………….kk

the work of water
to reveal the ancient
beneath the recent……………….jrs

some tin cans
and a piece of string
vibrating in the wind………………jec

On Shift – categories of content

notes: in considering the most suitable of the submissions for verse three Eiko Yachimoto sought to illustrate some core considerations.

EY: Ideally, I wanted to avoid a strong lexical reference to water, ocean and the sky [already present in the hokku and wakiku].

To help poets achieve shift at the uchikoshi position (verse before last), past renkujin have developed many techniques. We do not need to follow their advice all the time but let us use their yardstick to see how it works.

One such approach is to categorize each verse either as:

  • (1) a landscape verse
  • (2) a verse on other people
  • (3) a verse on oneself

Our hokku – the verse before last – is (3), but it also has got the qualities of (1). Therefore, at its uchikoshi position, (2) may guarantee the clearest shift.

Another yardstick from the old time is to categorize each verse either as:

  • (1) an outdoor verse or
  • (2) an indoor verse

Our hokku is (1) so at its uchikoshi (2) may be better placed to give us clearer shift.

Verse Three – defined

Shisan: The Dolphin circles

a sea of dew–
the Dolphin circles
past my telescope…………………jrs

moonstruck, I watch
the seventh wave unfolding………kk

syncopating with
simmering red rice
a baby breathing………………….ey

Verse Four – context

EY: We have entered into the first of the two development – ha – folios.  Now we can write about extremity if we wish. Please explore new terrain, and that includes a love verse either with winter kigo or no kigo.

On pocket verses

EY: It is important to know that all the verses not used for a particular position are called ‘pocket verses’ and may fit in a later position perfectly with a minimum editing.

I can edit JEC’s spider verse as follows for our #4 verse:

moonstruck, I watch
the seventh wave unfolding………kk

syncopating with
simmering red rice
a baby breathing…………………..ey

a fluff of snow
vibrates in the spider’s web………jec

JEC: Thank you for your edit to verse four. By way of experiment I shift the line break and invert the image order:

in the spider’s web
a fluff of snow vibrates

[…] one effect is to shift the verb to the end of the stanza. It may be that this has implications for the dynamic movement of this first part of ha [the first development movement]

EY: I endorse John’s working text as follows.
Verse Four – defined

Shisan: The Dolphin circles

a sea of dew–
the Dolphin circles
past my telescope………………….jrs

moonstruck, I watch
the seventh wave unfolding………kk

syncopating with
simmering red rice
a baby breathing…………………..ey

– – – – – – –

in the spider’s web
a fluff of snow vibrate…………….jec

On degrees of linkage

EY: I would like to say something on the question on shin-ku (closely linked verse) and so-ku (faintly/remotely/hardly linked verse).

A Renku session being a complex synergy, links between verses are never mechanical, never uniform. Sometimes it is conversational (like question and answer) and other times most readers hardly find any link. In fact your sabaki favours variety in the nature of link too.

As far as I know there is no specific folio where you find shin-ku (tight) or so-ku (loose) more in number than other folios.

notes: Verse five would introduce the topic of ‘love’, further reference to winter being optional.

Verse Five – offers

syncopating with
simmering red rice
a baby breathing …………………..ey

in the spider’s web
a fluff of snow vibrates…………….jec

the other side
of the frozen window pane
Heathcliff’s hatred…………………ey

a dream of youth
we knew the jewelled mountain
for our own…………………………jec

in my cold kitchen,
putting away the spoons,
I think of lying with you…………..jrs

we walk in silence,
a river flowing by
under the ice……………………….jrs

crouched in grimy snow,
his skinny dog wears
a red-white-and-blue bandanna…jrs

the bracing clarity
of love
on this frosty morning…………….jrs

oh, my dear
the softness of your skin
beneath my hand………………….kk

entwined
in his mighty embrace
she thinks of England…………….kk

JRS: Maybe (my first) is too close to the Dai-San [the third verse] since they are both set in the kitchen.

KK: if this requires explanation…I can do it!  Or maybe jec?

JEC: Kirsty uses the expression ‘she thinks of England’. The original phrase ‘Lie back and think of England’ was an ironic injunction on ladies to fulfil their role in the creation of a great Empire by bearing sons […] it rapidly become a popular and sardonic euphemism for sexual congress and, by extension, the willing enjoyment of that which is supposedly onerous and objectionable.

Verse Five – the sabaki’s comments

EY: This was a hard decision. If it were a kukai or if we were writing a kasen [a 36 verse sequence], not the Shisan, I would have liked:

we walk in silence
a river flowing by
under the ice

The crystal tone of this verse, as if like a scene from a quietly singing movie, is very appealing. And I feel the subtle link, subtle because the link does not depend on any particular lexicon, but on the overall tone. Yet…in Shisan we have only 12 verses to build our world. We have had enough of water-themes already…

I loved two of Kirsty’s offers. I particularly like the word ‘England’. But both touched uchikoshi rule in me… the softness and the explanation given in reference to England directly connect me to the baby image in uchikoshi.

I do not have any problem taking ‘a dream of youth’, if we had not had the same phrasal construction pattern three times: ‘a sea of dew’ included.

entwined
we knew the jewelled mountain
for our own…………………………..jec/kk

Thus I reached the above verse. In fact I fall in love with the word ‘jewelled’. And the above version does convey the image of ‘a dream of youth’ because the verse is, unusually, in the past tense. The double image of snow flake trapped in the spider web and a woman in a mighty embrace (Kirsty’s contribution) lives on too. (melting image too). And if you could kindly stretch your imagination, you could see Heathcliff and Cathy’s rock in the moor land… or so I wish!

Verse Five – defined

Shisan: The Dolphin circles

a sea of dew–
the Dolphin circles
past my telescope       jrs

moonstruck, I watch
the seventh wave unfolding      kk

syncopating with
simmering red rice
a baby breathing             ey

– – – – – – –

in the spider’s web
a fluff of snow vibrates              jec

entwined
we knew the jewelled mountain
for our own                           jec/kk

notes: With retrospect this draft of verse five was deemed to be rather lopsided. After much discussion a slightly altered draft was to emerge.

Verse Six – context

EY: Now we are coming to the middle point.  I would like our following verse, #6, to be another love verse with no seasonal reference, a close and natural link to #5 please.

On variety

EY: From now to the #12 verse, how many of the following topics (listed at random) can we  somehow incorporate… Let’s have fun hitting two or three with one stone.

·       (1) religion/lament on uncertainty of life
·       (2) travel/vehicle
·       (3) blossom
·       (4) spring time
·       (5) journalistic topic or a light nuance verse
·       (6) summertime
·       (7) bird/four-legged animal
·       (8) smoke/haze/wind/cloud
·       (9) person’s name/ place name
·       (10)occupation
·       (11) old age or illness
·       (12) body parts
·       (13) time of the day – for example: morning, evening etc
·       (14) alcohol
·       (15)fine arts/history….

Verse Six – offers

in the spider’s web
a fluff of snow vibrates              jec

entwined
we knew the jewelled mountain
for our own                           jec/kk

after forty years
the ring too tight to lose        kk

my love like diamonds cuts
through prison walls            jrs

the old train chugs through the Andes
while we kiss                   jrs

my love and I search for jade
in the mountains                        jrs

only this bamboo forest knows           jrs
where we meet

mi corazón scrubbing bathrooms
for the rich                    jrs

notes: The convention used throughout this renku session was that renjyu (contributing poets) might submit any number of verses until such time as all participants had submitted at least one offer, had signalled their intention to ‘pass’, or the sabaki had called a halt to the process. In this instance JEC recorded a ‘pass’.

KK: [of the first verse listed] I wonder if “ring” is too close to the “circles” in the first verse?

JEC: Perhaps such considerations belong more to the back-link theories of recent English language renga rather than to classical or modern renku. The more so as ‘circles’ is neither subject nor object, but a verb. Perhaps if the two usages came in immediate proximity one might raise questions of infelicitous phrasing.

JRS: [of the last verse listed] here’s one I really like, but, alas, it doesn’t link to verse 5

Verse Six – the sabaki’s comments

EY: I am sure verse six links to verse five; one of the traditional link techniques is called ‘sonohito zuke’ (link by describing the person in the previous verse). When these protagonists are not entwined they are moneyless and she has to work – that is how I read this verse. We can cross out the occupation from our list. Besides, to have this Spanish phrase enriches our renku.

Kirsty’s verse links very naturally and closely and I was instantly attracted to it. My concern was not about circle/ring, but was the number in it. Kirsty wrote the most beautiful wakiku and it has a number in it. My following verse has the word – syncopate – that has association with numbers as well…  I wanted to avoid the repetition so that the number 7 [seventh wave] remains as beautiful as it stands now.

Verse Six – defined

Shisan: The Dolphin circles

a sea of dew–
the Dolphin circles
past my telescope       jrs

moonstruck, I watch
the seventh wave unfolding      kk

syncopating with
simmering red rice
a baby breathing             ey

– – – – – – –

in the spider’s web
a fluff of snow vibrates              jec

entwined, we knew
the jewelled mountain
for our own                             jec/kk

mi corazón scrubbing bathrooms
for the rich                     jrs

Verse Seven – context

Would you please write the first verse of the third folio in 3 lines? This can be either spring verse or no-season verse. Please avoid writing from the first person angle. Landscape or Other, please.

notes: On this occasion the first offer to come up on screen was from Kirsty Karkow.

Verse Seven – the sabaki’s comments

EY: Once in a while sabakis decide on the spot like I am doing now! Thank you Kirsty for giving us a grand open landscape: very appropriate to start a new folio. Now we can cross out Vehicle, Place Name, Person Name, Illness (albeit a very very slight one).

Verse Seven – defined

Shisan: The Dolphin circles

a sea of dew–
the Dolphin circles
past my telescope       jrs

moonstruck, I watch
the seventh wave unfolding      kk

syncopating with
simmering red rice
a baby breathing             ey

– – – – – – –

in the spider’s web
a fluff of snow vibrates              jec

entwined, we knew
the jewelled mountain
for our own                             jec/kk

mi corazón scrubbing bathrooms
for the rich                     jrs

– – – – – – –

spring fever
the old Ford grinds steadily
toward Mexico           kk Re: XO Shisan – the dolphin circles –  #7  decided onto #8 <http://www.jiscmail.ac.uk/cgi-bin/wa.exe?A2=ind0210&L=renkujin&D=0&I=3&P=58122>
Verse Eight – context

EY: For position eight, i.e. the second verse of the third folio,  please write a two line 11 syllable spring verse.

Verse Eight – offers and commentary

mi corazón scrubbing bathrooms
for the rich                     jrs

spring fever
the old Ford grinds steadily
toward Mexico           kk Re

a perfect lily
placed before the Virgin                jec

EY: Beautiful! I would like to save this verse as our ageku; lily is a  summer kigo.

a single flower
placed before the Virgin                jec

EY: I am afraid I do not feel the spring time only from a generic flower…

young men grow wise
drinking elderberry wine            jrs

EY: I heard a young man’s voice in uchikoshi…

grandpa trims around
the mockingbird’s first nest         jrs

EY: I like the nest, but I wanted to enjoy the grand scenery longer…

murky politics
facing world religions            kk

EY: I think this is a no season verse?

hazy horizon
monarchs heading northward        ey

Verse Eight – defined

Shisan: The Dolphin circles

a sea of dew–
the Dolphin circles
past my telescope       jrs

moonstruck, I watch
the seventh wave unfolding      kk

syncopating with
simmering red rice
a baby breathing             ey

– – – – – – –

in the spider’s web
a fluff of snow vibrates              jec

entwined, we knew
the jewelled mountain
for our own                             jec/kk

mi corazón scrubbing bathrooms
for the rich                     jrs

– – – – – – –

spring fever
the old Ford grinds steadily
toward Mexico           kk Re

…hazy horizon
is that northbound monarchs?    ey

notes: Whilst the poem was under construction, all texts were considered provisional. At this point the text of verse five, given here in its final version, was in fact still under discussion. Similarly the text of verse eight was to undergo a slight modification.

On the ageku

notes: The concept of ‘pocket verses’ had already been introduced in the resolution of verse four.

EY: As I mentioned above, I would like John’s ‘perfect lily’ as our ageku [the final verse]. You might think I am cheating. Well, it is considered less sinful or within allowance to write an ageku beforehand. Ageku is described as a temporary end mark to a forever linking chain of verses and they say that an ideal ageku should have completely different quality from the rest of renku, which means uchikoshi is not a strongest concern there. Ageku is supposed to be written by a mature poet too.

On direct naming, and variety

notes: Alternative drafts of verse five, and the phrase ‘spring fever’ in verse seven had given rise to a side discussion.

EY: To write a love verse without using the word love seems to be encouraged in renku tradition. The same applies to the names of the seasons:  since we have used the word ‘spring’, we cannot use the word ‘summer’ when we come to write a summer verse. To put it the other way around, we can use the word ‘spring’ in verse seven because we did not use the word ‘autumn’ and the word ‘winter’ in our previous folios.

notes: It had earlier been suggested by the sabaki that a journalistic verse might find its place at some point in the poem. Sadly much of what makes the news is bad news. John R. Snyder has kindly allowed the full text of his comments to appear here as they have a direct bearing on the scope of renku technique.

JRS:

smoke on the prairie:
funeral pyre for peace
or phoenix rising?                      jrs

I apologize if this is not an appropriate offering or if it is not even a poem. I am devastated today by the deaths of Senator Paul Wellstone and his family in a plane crash in Minnesota. In my opinion Wellstone was one of the few people left in American government who consistently placed conscience and ethics above short-term political gain. He was a scholar, a man of peace, a man of conscience, a man of the people. I can only hope that Wellstone’s death, like those of Gandhi, King, and Oscar Romero, will spur more of his complacent countrymen to wake up and carry on his work.

Verse Nine – offers and commentary

spring fever
the old Ford grinds steadily
toward Mexico           kk Re

…hazy horizon
are those northbound monarchs?    ey

like ghosts
Muslim terrorists move            kk
toward the theatre

EY: it is so difficult to write a journalistic verse, the situation moves so fast…

smoke on the prairie:
funeral pyre for peace
or phoenix rising?              jrs

EY: I wish I could make this as #9, but we do not want to repeat the open space of verse #7 here.

a sari flashes
down the street
sandals clack on cobbles           jec

EY: It is a nice link to the butterflies. However the Shisan is such a short renku and Mexico and India in one Shisan maybe a little too much.

devastated
I write a poem:
Paul Wellstone died today

EY: John S, let me draw out a three line verse from your e-mail. Please accept my condolences (…) If any of my renjyu have a problem or a question regarding #9, just stop me and I will reconsider.

KK: #9 is excellent in my eyes

JRS: Eiko, thank you for verse #9. Coincidentally, there is an echo of the “mi corazon” verse in the mention of Paul Wellstone […] a strong advocate for the working poor.

EY: Thank you. Could you please write a 11 syllable non season verse to start our last folio.

Verse Nine – defined

Shisan: The Dolphin circles

a sea of dew–
the Dolphin circles
past my telescope       jrs

moonstruck, I watch
the seventh wave unfolding      kk

syncopating with
simmering red rice
a baby breathing             ey

– – – – – – –

in the spider’s web
a fluff of snow vibrates              jec

entwined, we knew
the jewelled mountain
for our own                             jec/kk

mi corazón scrubbing bathrooms
for the rich                     jrs

– – – – – – –

spring fever
the old Ford grinds steadily
toward Mexico           kk Re

…hazy horizon
are those northbound monarchs?    Ey

devastated
I write a poem:
Paul Wellstone died today

Verse Ten – context

notes: The pre-selection of the ageku had placed special compositional constraints on verse ten, the first of the closing folio. Not only must it link to the preceding verse (#9) and shift from the verse before that (#8) it would also need to ensure that it did not place the ageku (#12) in such a position that it appeared to generate gross uchikoshi: ‘regression’.

…hazy horizon
are those northbound monarchs?          #8

devastated
I write a poem:
Paul Wellstone died today       #9

—————

verse ten verse
verse ten verse ten             #10 current

eleven verse
eleven verse eleven
eleven verse            #11

a perfect lily
place before the virgin ageku

Verse Ten – offers and commentary

the line moves fast
breakfast dishes clatter hard        ey

notes: A subtle irony: this last movement ‘kyu’ may be given as ‘rapid close’.

my copper coin flattened
by the train that passed             kk

EY: the uchikoshi verse asking a question to oneself, I avoided this verse to be read as a first person verse. I liked the metallic directness of this verse which enhance the previous verse..

notes: The following amendment offered by JRS

my copper coin flattened
by the rush hour train                 kk(jrs)

EY: includes a certain time-of-day category to our renku.

the old man brews
his late wife’s favorite tea            jrs

the old man pours
his late wife’s favorite wine            jrs

his mind ablaze,
the old poet cannot sleep                jrs

EY: it is always best to avoid using the identical word already used; ‘old’ appears in verse #7.

folding his paper
he leaves it on the seat                   jec

EY: this I wanted very strongly… The shift of viewpoint from which to look at the accident implied in the previous verse is so well exercised here. The wave spread from his sudden departure realistically felt…  And yet I wanted to honor our beautiful ageku.

flicking through the channels
the kids hunt Homer                    jec

EY: honestly, John, I can only guess what this verse is telling […] I thought Homer, if it is capitalized, is a proper noun and we have already had that category.

JEC: I was attempting […] an extension of the ‘world’ of the preceding verse. So the children catch sight of the news of Senator Wellstone’s death whilst flicking through the television […] in search of the popular cartoon series The Simpsons.

EY: Thank you also for the explanation on the channels. I thought of some thoroughfares like the English Channel! […] I looked up -Simpson- and he is the Scottish physician who used anesthesia for the first time!

JRS: LOL!

Let us go then, you and I,
When Homer’s napping, lazy guy,
Like a patient etherized upon a table (…)
(pace Eliot)

Verse Eleven – the rapid close!

EY: Dear renjyu and those who followed us through, I would like to complete our Shisan basically as below. This is the fast finale folio! This is still a working text and we now start finalizing it through mutual editing and discussion.

…hazy horizon
are those northbound monarchs?        ey

devastated
I write a poem:
Paul Wellstone died today            jrs

– – – – – – –

a copper coin flattened
by the train that passed          kk

white lines
of evening shower
distract board members’ attention      ey

a perfect lily placed
before the Virgin                    jec

notes: The poem had taken two weeks to complete… give or take a time-zone or two. Could it really be over?

Well, yes and no. The ‘jewelled mountain’ verse, which, for the sake of brevity, has been given throughout in its settled form was still under discussion.

That last line of verse eleven too attracted attention… was it slightly too long? A trawl through the archives of the JISC mail engine reveals almost a dozen different drafts of verse eleven that now exist as notional states only.

The final, agreed, text of the poem appears below. But what of the other verses, all those offerings lovingly, painfully even, drafted and crafted – only to be passed over… rejected. Were they wasted?

EY: Let me introduce one little anecdote I heard recently from my renku friend when we were waiting for a train on the platform in Tokyo.

a renkujin:  Won’t you give renku at least a try? We feel a quiet enthusiasm spreading these days.

a Very Famous haijin:  Well, if I toil, I would rather write something which could leave my name in history.

The final draft

Shisan: The Dolphin Circles

led by eiko yachimoto
started 14 October, 2002
completed 29 October, 2002

a sea of dew–
the Dolphin circles
past my telescope                       jrs

moonstruck, I watch
the seventh wave unfolding       kk

syncopating with
simmering red rice
a baby breathing                     ey

– – – – – – –

in the spider’s web
a fluff of snow vibrates         jec

entwined, we knew
the jewelled mountain
for our own                             jec

mi corazón scrubbing bathrooms
for the rich                          jrs

– – – – – – –

spring fever
the old Ford grinds steadily
toward Mexico                         kk

…hazy horizon
are those northbound monarchs?    ey

devastated
I write a poem
Paul Wellstone died today             jrs

– – – – – – –

a copper coin flattened
by the train that passed           kk

white lines
of an evening rain-shower
draw the board’s attention        ey

a perfect lily
placed before the Virgin             jec

verses contributed by
john carley
kirsty karkow
john r. snyder
eiko yachimoto
on The Renkujin Palace

Advertisements
This entry was posted in Renku, Vol 3-1 March 2003 and tagged , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

Make a comment

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s