I’ll be your sabaki for this renku that we begin today. Thanks to Jim Kacian and John Stevenson for giving me this opportunity. I’ve learned the art of renku from Norman Darlington, Moira Richards, John Carley and Eiko Yachimoto. I’ve been writing renku from 2005 and I’ve been a sabaki of many renku trips and was the guest renku editor at A Hundred Gourds 5:2.
Renku or renga (collaborative poetry) is a genre of Japanese short forms of poetry. Two of the most famous masters of renga were the Buddhist priest Sogi (1421–1502) and Master Basho (1644–1694). Renga/renku was one of the most important literary arts in pre-modern Japan. When teaching renku to beginners in schools and colleges or during Haiku festivals that we have in India, I felt the shortest renku, junicho, was a wee bit too long, for all we can spare for renku is around 2 hours and John Carley’s Yotsumono [of just 4 verses] is surely not for beginners who need to learn the nuances when going on a renku trip.
Necessity is the mother of inventions— I’ve been thinking for some time now about this problem when teaching renku to beginners and I hit upon a new form of renku! Thus, my version is based on the need to have a shorter version of renku, without sacrificing on the aesthetics of this 400 year-old art form that has come to us from Master Basho’s time— the shofu-style of renku which is essentially anti-thematic. “Rasa” means the emotional essence in Indian aesthetics. “Rasika” is one who enjoys the rasa. So I wish to call this short renku “Rasika”.
Rasika has 8 verses set as in traditional junicho style. The jo-ha-kyu are not clearly demarcated. The number of kaishi (writing sheets) is just one. I’m keeping this renku very flexible regarding the inclusion of the usual 4 seasons in renku, meaning spring, summer, autumn and winter. Since we do not have the space and the number of verses to include all the four seasons, we can pick and choose just 2 or 3. It has the conventional moon and blossom verse and of course the “love verses’ without which a renku seems incomplete.
Important to note: The link and shift is strong, and the shifts can be wide, since it is not a 36 verse structure of Kasen, which can afford to have small shifts. So shall we say, to coin a new phrase, we’ll be following – link and leap!
As often practiced:
Long verses will be of 3 lines [about 14 sound structures or syllables] Short verses will be of 2 lines [about 11 sound structures or syllables counts]
- long – hokku | autumn moon*
- short – wakiku | non-seasonal*
- long – daisan | winter
- short – non-seasonal
- long – end of summer/love (rainy season)
- short – non-seasonal/love
- long | spring blossom *
- ageku | non-seasonal or spring *
The asterisks show the important verses in this renku.
1. Long – hokku | autumn moon
Open to everyone. A three line verse. A regular hokku (haiku), with a good cut (kire). A moon verse. Can be a verse with or without human presence. Around 14 syllables.
I would like not more than 3 candidates per poet and please post them by Monday, 9th October.
The selected hokku will be posted next Thursday morning (Eastern US time) and instructions will be giving for submitting the wakiku.
* The notes for ‘Rasika’ are taken from A Hundred Gourds 4:2 March 2015. My sincerest thanks to Lorin Ford and William Sorlien for all the ‘Rasika’ renku published in the subsequent issues of AHG.