Eight Poets and a Spectator

December 2003

Eight Poets and a Spectator,

comments on Midsummer Madness

The Renku Experience
an’ya, Oregon, USA

Upon being invited to participate in this renku group, I must admit that I hesitated because my only other attempt at renku was as a ‘pointed radish’ in WHC’s tournament. In the end, I decided to give renku another try, admittedly and still not knowing even the first thing about it.

My emotions from week one to completion of our kasen were up, down, and all around, believe me. Although somehow I felt secure knowing that eiko (our fearless sabaki) was leading me gently by the hand down a primrose path, and all I really needed to do, was enjoy the stroll.

I learned that this particular artform is probably the most ‘conceptual’ poetry I’ve ever run across. I also realize that it is totally based on teamwork, and if one has too fragile an ego, or too high an opinion of their own abilities, they will never even make it through one renku. It is an omni-powerful way of finding your place in the universe of writing; it is the ultimate example of interpretive dance via poetry.

Since I was the newest writer of renku on the team, I asked probably more questions than I should have, but eiko (and all the others as well) were patient, supportive, and generous in their answers. Finally about mid-way through, the lights came on for me, and I was able to be a productive part of the group, (at least I was made to feel that way).

eiko is an absolute master at making everyone participating feel special about themselves and their work; she graciously accepts criticism, and even chastised herself at times, always maintaining an air of dignity. She listened intently, and replied to anything anyone said, taking the time to thoroughly explain whatever dilemmas came up, or why she chose to do what she did, or what direction she was headed with the kasen.

All in all, writing renku is something I heartily recommend to anyone, although be prepared to feel ‘bean-size’ for quite a long while, albeit allowing yourself the time and space to grow, in order to reach great personal heights you’ve never been to before.

 

The Word Circus
John Edmund Carley, Lincolnshire, UK

I suppose the truth is that all poets are miserable ingrates. On a bad day. But to take a man’s money, build your house on his land and then use him as the butt of your jokes… Perpetrator: Basho, Matsuo. Victim: Sugiyama, Sanpu. Evidence: Sea Bream, Salted.

Then there’s the one about The Poets, the Nun and the Mosquito Net… but they’re rather busy at the moment so it’s best not to interrupt.

Elsewhere we have physics, first translated as butsuri (the alternative pronunciation for kotowari. (mono no kotowari) hence, by contrast, an insight into the elusive mono no aware.

Perhaps you wonder what I’m talking about? Well, in her own words:

“Sabakis do this kind of thing.”

Sabakis send 250+ emails covering everything from the pace of the preface, to the integrity of a love verse, from the plight of pyjamas to that gentle maturity, that ‘lightness’ called karumi. And they never miss a trick. And they always encourage. And they never get rattled.

Easy. Nothing to learn there then! Basically, what it boils down to is: don’t say ‘beer can’ if you’ve already said ‘hub cap’… and have a flower in it now and again.

Or perhaps not. Perhaps what it boils down to is that we have a fantastic literary genre just waiting to be understood, adopted, enjoyed. Not some odd, foreign, exoticism that we’ll have to transpose, simplify, adapt, rationalise and otherwise drag kicking and screaming from primitive obscurity into the low-voltage, wipe-clean, utility of post modern Manchester [less fortunate individuals: please insert the city of your choice].

As the lady says:

“This isn’t a Word Circus.”

This is literature. World literature. This is your heritage. Claim it.

 

Greasy Fingers
Paul Conneally, Loughborough, UK

-thoughts after completing the kasen renku Midsummer Darkness-

The making of art is generally seen to be something done by individuals, a medium of self-expression, and so collaborative works are not the norm. Coming to renku with this background can be difficult, but the joy of giving oneself up to the process — to the work, is worth all those initial difficulties. After this, we have the problem of wondering if what we have produced as a team will be viewed by others as art or just a game — a pastime engaged in by friends — and, of course, it is both.

I have perhaps led 30 ‘renga’ or collaborative poetry sessions in the last eight months, but would not claim most of these as renku true renku, for me, being works that attempt to explore and connect with the long tradition of Japanese renku — along with the rules and structures of seasonality, its themes — and, having a recognised leader or sabaki to guide the participants.

Most of the renga sessions that I have run have, rather, concentrated on the ‘process’ rather than the finished product — poetry as a team-building exercise. But renku is about teamwork and more: we want to build a structure in verse that stands as a piece of art in itself, and which takes the reader on a journey. For each reader, this journey will be different as he explores the space between the stanzas, and as she make what she can of the ‘link and shift’ inherent to renku. This experience is the same for the individual writers as their ideas are explored, put to one side, amended, rejected and sometimes chosen by the sabaki (or master-poet) as the session progresses.

In this renku, we were lucky to have as our sabaki, Eiko Yachimoto, a kind, thoughtful, knowledgeable and intelligent — not just academically, but emotionally too.

Once the piece is complete for renku writers, the challenge is to then let it go and not worry if some reader or another — or even all find something completely different than meant as the focus of their own stanzas, and not to fret how theirs sit between the two other stanzas. The renku has a life of its own. Our renku will get folks searching for meaning at various points. That is good, for the piece as a whole does work as a carefully constructed collage. Each gap between verses has been shaped by our sabaki — to put her mark, through us, on the whole.

The changes in pace and the more challenging linking of the middle sections followed by our movement to the last verse, or ageku, will, to some readers, be very challenging — even confusing. But what a lovely confusion and compliment to our readers in not serving everything — especially meaning — up on a plate. The best tasting food is often more tasty when eaten with the fingers, each mouthful savoured — the time between each mouthful just making the next even better. So readers, please dirty your hands with our renku. The greasier the better!

 

One e-mail out of hundreds
during the session (excerpt)

John R. Snyder, USA

Dear Renjyu,

Eiko asked me to explain my choice for the number 12 verse, so here goes. Being completely ignorant of the proper way to choose, I had to fall back on my own resources — a very long fall indeed.

First, I read over the renku-to-date a few times to get my bearings, then I read through the offerings, making note of the verses that immediately “grabbed me” in some way.

At this point, I sorted the verses into “yes,” “maybe,” “maybe not,” and “no” categories. Of the five verses I had immediately liked on first reading, only one remained in the “yes” category. I tried to narrow the “yes” category down to one verse, looking especially at the flow and pace of the whole renku, and looking ahead
to see how each verse might lead us to the upcoming moon verse.

After I had finally chosen one verse, I read back over the other verses one more time to see if I could easily “fix” any problems I had seen with them and thereby change my own mind.

As I’ve seen so many strong offerings come in for the various positions, I’ve often felt relieved that I wasn’t going to have to choose between them. I certainly felt the pressure on verse 6. Any number of the offerings could have led us in fruitful directions, and I grieve a bit that we will never get to see how all those other
renku might have turned out!

Here are my comments on the individual offerings:
a thumb-size priest
with his chopstick as an oar /eiko

This is a verse that did not immediately appeal to me, but over the course of my deliberations, I came to love it. I love the humor, the freshness, the way it both links to and shifts from verse 5, and the rich possibilities it offers for the future. I’m not certain what Eiko had in mind, but I imagined a small figurine, maybe a netsuke-like figure. Eiko, you’ll notice that I changed “his” to “a” and “as” to “for” to make it more natural to my ear, but you will be the final judge.
alone again
the distant rainbow dims /js

This beautifully crafted verse immediately went straight to my heart, and I set it aside very reluctantly. I am drawn to the contrast between it and the romantic intoxication of verse 5. Basically, it came down to what I perceived as an issue for the first folio, namely, the possibility that it might become a little too grandiose
or dramatic. In four of the five verses to date, both tone and diction very elevated and the images quite dramatic. I felt a need to balance that with something lighter in verse 6.
listen to the rhythm
of the falling rain… /ey

Another one I immediately liked. I love how it elaborates on verse 5, both deepening and lightening it at the same time. I think it would have made a fine verse 6, however, for reasons I can’t logically justify, I just did not want to hear more about rain at this point in the folio.
the man with a net chases
painted ladies traveling in pairs /an’ya

Dolt that I am, it took me a couple of readings to realize that the “painted ladies” are butterflies (Vanessa cardui, to be exact), so you can imagine my confusion! Once I cleared that up, I really liked this verse for its creativity and humor. I liked the link to the story of Noah and the ark. Ultimately, I had trouble imagining the
butterflies traveling in pairs, although, for all I know this species often does.
in south america
the plane lands on a dirt airstrip /anya

the old fishmonger’s
boarded up with two-by-two /paul

The following two were both favorites on first reading:
“Message in a Bottle”
on the juke box /jec
saying goodbye
under the Bridge of Sighs /js

I was strongly attracted to the drollness and cultural reverberations of the first and the strong imagery and feeling of the second. However, misguided or not, I wanted to avoid another “proper noun” verse following so hard on the heels of verses 3 & 4.
midlife crisis
Eros’ bow unbent /js

Another strong verse that offers lots of interesting hooks for verse 7 (Johnye, you were really on a roll!), but I wanted to avoid reference to a god or goddess so soon after John’s “Diana” verse.

third Tuesday
the nurse draws blood /anya

I really sweated over this one. It’s such an arresting image and such a nicely flowing verse, but I finally had to admit that it was just over my head.

Blessings,
John R. Snyder

 

Moving Along with “Midnight Darkness”
Carmen Sterba, JP

Eiko Yachimoto calls herself our sabaki, but sabaki means one who conducts the poets through the renku. She was much more than that.

Today, I was reading in Haruo Shirane’s Traces of Dreams, and in Chapter Five, “Linking and Communal Poetry” he states that:
The haikai master, who combined the functions of poet, scholar, teacher, literary judge, conductor, and team coach, moved the sequence along at an appropriate pace, helped participants when they were stumped, provided a bridge to the poetic tradition, maintained the mood or atmosphere of the gathering, and ensured the proper degree of variety and change.

This is a great description of what Eiko did for us, and it wasn’t for one day, but for 2 months.

In the kasen, “Withering Gusts” by Basho and his disciples, which appears in “Traces of Dreams”, there is an explanation on the tendencies of the different poets. One had a love of Chinese topics, another had a fondness for the aristocratic world of romances.

Just for fun, looking at this kasen, I would like to comment on some themes that come up more than once among the participating poets of “Midnight Darkness” in the order that they appeared first in this kasen.

Gary Warner chose the theme of family as he starts out this kasen with his hokku about the goslings and their parents, and later with the “family’s Crayola portrait” in blue. He keeps us grounded in the reality that is around us in a humorous way.

Eiko shows us her sense of humor and her skill at linking. Her links are international and cultural: Chinese taichi, a Japanese folktale, and old fashioned cider-making on a farm. I found her link from Kirsty’s “ark” to a thumb-sized person rowing a boat with a chopstick as a great leap of fantasy.

Like Eiko, Paul Conneally’s humor shines, and he also chooses international themes: a British fishmonger, Cio-Cio’s aria from Madame Butterfly, and Japanese pilgrims going from temple to temple. Paul shared URL’s about the references to culture that he came up with that were interesting and educative.

John Snyder has the ability to breathe life into the past of other people’s lives: a deceased artist’s estate sale, nomads in the Ice Age, and a farm family at dawn. If I choose one verse as the most striking, it would be John’s

scattering nomads
he wounded mamoth turns

…which seems to be the turning point in the action of the kasen.

Kirsty Karkow writes about daily life in mysterious ways. Her jam jars are “cooling by moonlight”; her pillows have “the curve of a long night”. Even a visit to a mountain does not focus on the mountain but on movement of someone’s saffron robe. This is mysterious!

John E. Carley’s verses are emotive. His mountain is “breathless”, his Diana, the huntress is unaware of her danger (the myth and the princess as one). His verses are good for reading:

a snowflake melting
on a salted seabream

…and in the ageku at the end of our kasen:

way after teatime
the sun still in the sky

Johnye Strickland’s theme is similar to Gary’s, yet she focuses on certain
members of a family like “the Slugger’s wife” and the “twin dolphins”. I
appreciate Johnye’s leap from the myth of the huntress Diana to the real
life of a baseball widow.

The verses that an’ya wrote are emotive as she engages herself personally with a horsefly (Issa-like). Her young lovers make smouldering “eye contact”. As with her haiku, there is always a clarity of word choice in the combination of natural beauty and human nature.

As for myself, I realized that in each of my verses there is movement: surveillance cameras, children running, a computer in the act of freezing, and “blossoms delivered by the storm.”

 

Time is a major subject
Johnye Strickland, USA

Two years ago I discovered renku. After two quick short forms, I was hooked. It has been my good fortune to be associated with Eiko in several renku groups, either as advisor (with me as her principal student) or as active participant. It is always both exciting and challenging to try to come up with verses that hopefully would fit in (and get past Eiko’s rigorous scrutiny).

But there is one area that my experience which probably exceeds that of most of the participants I have worked with — that of reader. Not of haiku or renku, but of world literature in general, and of poetry in particular, since I have spent 50 years of my life in this role (39 as a professor of literature).

So, I can now find links that probably would never even occur to the authors, though I might be hard pressed to decide which category they belong to (I still have a lot to learn about this, especially as a writer). I believe each reader brings to a piece of literature a wealth of personal experience — with life, with reading, and with cultural, historical, and psychological/sociological understanding of people, animals, and events.

And until such time as renku becomes entrenched in a canon, and scholars
insist on finding the specific source for each image, idea and linguistic nuance, I think readers should do as Paul suggests, and get their hands greasy finding meanings for themselves.

This renku has broadened my appreciation for what I think Eiko refers to as ‘the renku aesthetic,’ since we have been permitted to watch her collect our degachi verses and put them in her sleeve, to later pull them out in places we never expected to find them. And to my continuing amazement, they seemed to fit well, and to take the kasen in totally different directions than I would have envisioned.

I do think, however, there are a few places in this kasen where the links might be made a bit clearer by more editing. I agree with Gary that the ‘korl woman’ might be a bit of a challenge for the reader who wants to know the real source of the image (the following paragraph quoted by ey from JS’s e-mail at the time of composition):

It seems I have read somewhere (in one of the airline magazines on either a Delta or an American flight, as I recall) that some areas of the world attract lightning repeatedly, possibly because of a magnetic attraction between iron deposits in the soil. [a reference to the lightning in the preceding verse by John C].

I do agree with John that Eiko’s suggestion of using the ‘korl woman’ verse as an introduction to the love verses is a brilliant way of linking — one I never thought of, but it works perfectly with the context of the story in which the statue appears (Life in the Iron Mills, by Rebecca Harding Davis, pub. 1861, at the beginning of the US Civil War, which was fought for the purpose of liberating the slaves, but did nothing for the wage-slaves in the form of immigrant laborers, whose lives were miserable in the mining/milling industries before the rise of the Labor Unions. The character is passionate about his need to create art, and the only material he has at hand is the refuse or slag discarded in the milling process. After cooling, it is a grayish white, in a town that is gray from the coal smoke, mingled with the fog/smog in the air and the barren, grayish muddy soil polluted by the smog. The man is destroyed by insensitive mill owners/overseers, but the korl woman is still, around 25 years later, in the attic room where Rebecca Harding Davis is staying during her visit to the town, and when inspired to tell the tale.

Now I can’t match wits with Dick on naming the types of links, but I can point out what I see as links in the 3 verses he specifically mentions as lacking.

#27 and #28 are linked by sadness, an emotion clearly expressed in the opera (‘Madame Butterfly’), and implied in the memento of a young child kept by a mother or grandmother who wanted to remember him as he was before he grew up and went away.

The most important link, in my opinion, between #28 and #29 is a subtle one–

‘Time and tide wait for no man,’ a well known literary quotation.

Time is a major subject of #28, with the preservation of the young child’s essence in the bag of hair; and of course tide is featured in #29. And in #29, we find the twin dolphins, the changing tide and the mythic moon which draws them as well as the tide.

On rereading this, I see another link — by contrast: if the emotion of #28 is sadness, then we can posit the mood for #29 to be happiness, as shown by the playful dolphins, who always look happy because they have built-in smiles. And yet another — the discovery by someone of the bag of hair, presumably many years later, would be a special moment — as would be the cavorting of the dolphins under the golden moon (moments worthy of haiku, or in this case, renku).

 

I’m not so worried as I was
Gary Warner, USA

The thing that seemed to be missing in our renku was the shared social history that makes the sharing of context possible. To be honest, I was scared that we might have a renku that practically guarantees that no reader anywhere in the world will be able to read the entire poem without either failing to understand some of the stanzas, or relying heavily on external reference materials. As I’ve worked through the verses though, I’m not so worried as I was when I began.

At one point in our process, I almost wondered if the participants were making a contest of seeing who could make the most obscure link! But then I had to bring myself back to the fact that each of us is from a different history and a different social context from each of the others. Some of the most visible conflicts came into language differences, which I believe the team overcame with remarkable openness and willingness to point out error, and to accept correction.

‘Universal’ may not be the right word, but in the following I examined the nature of links based on universality.

(only those links that fit into x pages are shown below — ey )


v.1 – Although this is set in Birmingham Alabama, the experience of seeing geese reach the height of their parents seems fairly universal.

v.2 – Although tai’chi has a distinct heritage, it is recognized by nearly any person in the modern world.

v.4 – I am still unsure if anyone would “get this” without our on-list conversation about the “bridges” and the “antenna”. . .I think I would be drawn to “spider webs” myself.

v.8 – “korl woman” was a very hard reference for me. I went hunting, and found “Life in the Iron-Mills, or The Korl Woman” by Rebecca Harding Davis, but “korl” was an unknown word to me, and I had never heard of or encountered the book.

v.10 – This was one of those jumbled verses for me. The original of this verse was:
winning the pennant
a standing ovation
for the Knoxville slugger

this got changed to:
winning the pennant
hugs for The Slugger’s wife

. . .and then, because “pennant” was declared to be an autumn season word,
winning a new life
hugs for The Slugger’s wife

. . .which totally lost all meaning for me. Who is winning a life? Why is the wife getting hugged? And by whom?

v.12 – The reference to the story of “Tiny Finger” was missed on most of us, probably, but most cultures also have “Tom Thumb” type characters — tiny people living among normal-sized people, so I don’t think this is a problem. (Tiny Finger, a Japanese Tom Thumb character, asks his mother for a wooden bowl and a chopstick to be used as a boat and oar to take himself to Kyoto to become a soldier. He presents himself to the Lord of the Palace in Kyoto, asking to become a great soldier. He is given a sewing needle as a sword, and is placed in the role of personal bodyguard to the princess of the palace. After he saves the princess’ life, he is granted a wish; he wishes to become full-sized, which he does, so that he can marry the princess.)

The verse can easily be understood on surface level without a knowledge of the reference, but especially following a love verse, knowing the end of the story adds another layer.

v.15 – The lack of knowledge of Mt. Kailas does not hinder this verse. Those who know it will gain an added level. Those who do not will simply assume that it is a place monks might pilgrimage to or live.

v.16 – Universal, with such an interesting link to the previous verse! The DEAD “horse-fly” flies away to its after-life/next life . . .

v.17 – “estate sale”: something that follows the death of an older person in which all their belongings are sold. A great link to follow the horse-fly!

v.18 – “lucy’s land” . . . i still think this the most challenging of all our verses. Perhaps if the second line actually referred to something that occurs IN THE SONG, the reference would at least be detectable. I’m not knowledgeable of the Beatles, but I looked up the lyrics and nothing “sprouts” in the song . . . drainpipes or post boxes or anything else.

The song still gets a great deal of radio time, and is instantly recognizable when it is heard. The most recognizable phrase would probably be “kaleidoscope eyes” but we can’t do that because of a run-on sequence of “eyes” and “tears” later in our renku already.

My wife would probably say I just need to know more about the Beatles!

 

The renga as public performance
Dick Pettit, DK: a judicious spectator

– one often draws on enduring memories for a verse-

I am writing this before being asked to produce. It is very kind of you to have me in as a spectator for the last folio and now commentator, and warming to be welcomed. But I feel like a passing stranger who has been invited in to someone’s Christmas party. People couldn’t be nicer, but I still feel the winter blast I’ve brought in with me. What I have to say about Midsummer Darkness may be censorious, but it comes from principle, as well as from my crotchety self. If to struggle through my self-educated views on renga would be daunting, please skip the next six paragraphs.

I became enthusiastic about renga about ten years ago, though the seed was sown long before by Noboyuki Yuasa’s translation of the first eight verses of “Minase San-gin” in The Narrow Road. In spite of Hiroaki Sato’s analysis in One Hundred Frogs, and my own realisation that it is not just a succession of picturesque scenes, I still think beautiful the first word to use for it.

There are only a dozen or so ‘medieval’ & ‘baroque’ renga available in translation for the English-speaker to form ideas from. I’ve taken mine mainly from what I see in Summer Moon. I’ve written copiously, but mainly solo, as companions and groups were hard to come by, and I’ve only recently joined a renga group with anyone able to act as sabaki.

As a beginner, it seemed the first thing to master was linking. In both the 15th & 17th centuries, there were changes of fashion in linking: fashion, indeed, because many basics must stay the same. I still hold to the most obvious type: links should be heart-links, based on the whole of the preceding verse. “One-word”, “phrase” or “part-verse” links may be forced by the last verse, or come out of variation or lightness, but a succession of them makes the renga bitty or arbitrary. Within each of the two types, there are roughly three sorts of link: “continuation” (story, picture); “parallel/contrast”; and “scent”. Although Basho is credited as the originator of these last, the quotes in One Hundred Frogs show there were such links in the medieval renga. All three types may be close or distant. The three sets of variables, “close/distant”, “heart/word” and “continuation/parallel/scent”, create the ‘speed’ of the renga: that is the ease or difficulty the reader/listener has in realising how he got from one thing to another, and what it is he sees, now he’s here. A very special ‘fast’ link is the kind which changes the picture or meaning of its previous verse (e.g vv 25/6 in MD).

This scheme may have complications and additions. Also, the linking is the medium rather than the message, which lies in the succession of scenes. These can be positive or negative, expansive or contracting, simple, complex or ambiguous, tight or carefree, and so on. Also there are reactions and messages between the participants. The translated renga range from those that have a definite theme and character, for example “Withering Gusts” (Basho, tr. Haruo Shirani) and “Broken under Reeds” (Shinkei, tr. Esmeralda Ramirez Christensen), to the gay and picaresque. There also seems at times to be the pursuit of something which is lost and found; and many no doubt had contemporary messages. A point which the ‘zip’ style of verses makes clearer is that the renga may in part unroll, not only verse by verse, but also phrase by phrase.

This is the renga as public performance. It is also a game in which each player exercises creativity, shows parts of themselves to the others and gives and takes in all sorts of ways. I am sure everyone has felt the exhilaration of the intense involvement which develops in the WHCrenku type renga with a sabaki. So it has great value for the participants, regardless of whether it’s widely appreciated or not.

Up till recently, I’ve not tried to write full seasonal kasen, or even known of the conventions for various verses, though I have kept the moon and blossoms as markers and points of repose or change. This is common among UK/US writers. The chief advocate for Japanese traditional renga has been William Higginson, but I wasn’t convinced: more a constraint than a liberation. Now, I feel confident enough to try this out, and see what can be done.

All that said, now for “Midsummer Darkness”. My first impression, when the last folio of the kasen was unfolding, was of too many people doing their own thing: eight is a lot to stay in rapport. But repeated readings dissolved this impression: there is a warmth of communication between the verses as well as a disciplined style. The things, which according to my scheme of things are wrong, seemed no longer to matter, and the renga flowed pleasantly on its strengths.

I enjoy writing commentary on renga: I hope it is useful, of course, but it enables me to test out my ideas, and often to modify them. For example, the first seven verses are all parallels, normally too many at once, but here making an exploratory introduction. Verses 7 through 12 of the 1st folio verso are dramatic, but any disturbance is brought down to size by the thumb-sized warrior. Verses 13-18 lose coherence – maybe this is “midsummer darkness”. The disjointedness continues in 19 through 21 of the 2nd folio recto, until the snowflake melting on a salted sea bream (poignant and precise) starts a run of strong verses of varied feeling. Although the two verses at 27/28 are unconnected, the images are strong. But the third unconnected (moon) verse is one too many. However, from 30 to the end there is a mixture of pleased sensation, feeling, precision and humour passing easily from one to another, which is the overall impression the renga makes.

A recurrent thought is that renga can be both a leisure game, pursued with poetic, psycho-therapeutic or even religious intentions; and a performance, like a play or a piece of music. It may seem that players can’t do both at the same time. Yet that is what they do with each verse: a situation, feeling, character, tone of voice, is assumed, but at the same time strongly felt or visualised. I expect others have noticed that one often draws on enduring memories for a verse, especially when stuck. This, though, may then be altered to fit the movement of the renga at that point. So there is an audience, if only imaginary, and among them the ‘judicious spectator’, which I hope I’ve been.

Thanks for the entertainment.


On missing links: (written in response to Johnye’s essay)

To start at the end: ‘Peace and Harmony’. In some sense, yes, but it’s not the
immediate aim. ‘Fie on this quiet life, I want work!’ It’s not good for me; I don’t do it well, but without it., I’m lost. Thanks be to the Creator.

Preamble on Classification of Links. I was forced to this, in self-defence. On the one hand were the vivid and flowing renga of Basho & Co, still not exhausted now, and on the other the renga in several magazines, mostly shapeless, disconnected, self-indulgent, & lacking haiku objectivity — everyone doing their own thing.

So how to point this out without being personally offensive? Answer: a classification which all could agree was basically right (if lacking in refinement), and could be pointed back to as rules which were being wrongly or justifiably broken. This also is why I think heart-links are the first link to try for. Maybe this last needs thinking out a bit more.

‘Midsummer Darkness’: I can now see the links at 9/10/11 (Diana/ Slugger’s wife/ love spills) ; 16/17 (flown away/ estate sale); and 26/27/28/29 (book shelves/ tears ,Cio-Cio area/ blond hair/ tide, golden moon.

A joke explained loses some of its savour, so no apology except for ‘Cho-Cho / blond hair’. Yes, the sorrow is clearly there; but, in mitigation, at that time I thought Cho-Cho* [this was how the name was spelled then – ey] was a character in a Chinese opera only Paul knew of — the very one whose CD I’d decided not to invest in — and so was unsympathetic to his tears.

As it happened, a day or so after writing the crit, The Slugger was mentioned on CNN.

To conclude, ‘Midsummer Darkness’, as a whole, has balance, style, peace, harmony and vivid activity, with striking, ingenious and moving verses. Pity about those links vanished in front of me.

Keep Chiming,

Dick Pettit

 

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