Tanned and Healthy: A Dozen Tan-renga from Asilomar

First published in a trifold broadside titled Tanned and Healthy, 1997. Also published in an article in Frogpond (need to confirm the issue), 1997. Prior to this, tan-renga never seemed to appear in any of the haiku journals, but started to appear regularly after my article was published. I’m not sure that my article was the chief catalyst for this change in the haiku journals, but perhaps it was.

 

A dozen tan-renga from Asilomar, written by Michael Dylan Welch with Jerry Ball, Alex Benedict, Beth Brewster, Jocelyn A. Conway, Helen K. Davie, James Ferris, D. Claire Gallagher, Christopher Herold, George Knox, Liz Knox, John Schipper, and Laurie W. Stoelting. The following poems were composed at the Yuki Teikei Haiku Society’s annual haiku retreat at Asilomar Conference Center, Pacific Grove, California, in September 1996.

 

 

nearing the summit—

this tiny ladybug

      on my shoulder

 

            Michael Dylan Welch

 

circular horizon

and not a cloud in the sky

 

            Christopher Herold

 

            ~     ~     ~

 

a letter from home—

the cat on my laundry

paws the red socks

 

            Michael Dylan Welch

 

another Christmas Eve alone

smell of burnt cookies

 

            Jocelyn A. Conway

 

            ~     ~     ~

 

walking the dune

with a bird book in hand—

bark of a seal

 

            Michael Dylan Welch

 

web-footed tracks through the sand

lead away to the empty sky

 

            Helen K. Davie

 

            ~     ~     ~

 

an old fungus

imprinted with a maple leaf . . .

the story she tells

 

            Michael Dylan Welch

 

of this revealing tattoo—

better to say little more

 

            D. Claire Gallagher

 

            ~     ~     ~

 

last day of vacation—

mailing a postcard

to myself

 

            Michael Dylan Welch

 

the crowd near the train station

reflection in store windows

 

            Jerry Ball

 

            ~     ~     ~

 

beach path—

the flapping of the kite

in the little boy’s arms

 

            Michael Dylan Welch

 

his father     some distance away

with a metal detector

 

            James Ferris

 

            ~     ~     ~

 

    above white breakers

the gull on the rocks—his cry

    drowned out by the surf

 

            Beth Brewster

 

at last the sun sets

into offshore fog

 

            Michael Dylan Welch

 

            ~     ~     ~

 

the bonsai book

falls over in the bookcase—

the bent pine branch

 

            Michael Dylan Welch

 

some things are out of plumb

with the worlds we build for them

 

            George Knox

 

            ~     ~     ~

 

haiku poets

alert for nature’s sounds

but listening for the lunch bell

 

            John Schipper

 

dried stalks along the boardwalk

—do they smell the sea?

 

            Michael Dylan Welch

 

            ~     ~     ~

 

from hand to hand

the pumice stone . . .

distant surf sound

 

            Michael Dylan Welch

 

echoes of the quiet

last night on the beach

 

            Alex Benedict

 

            ~     ~     ~

 

colored grape leaves

closely cover the cheese tray

the grapes all eaten

 

            Liz Knox

 

all the way through the speech

his fly undone

 

            Michael Dylan Welch

 

            ~     ~     ~

 

race day—

one swimmer doesn’t stop

after the false start

 

            Michael Dylan Welch

 

the deaf girl watching smoke

from the starter’s gun

 

            Laurie W. Stoelting

 

            ~     ~     ~
 

What is a tan-renga?

A tan-renga is a Japanese form of linked poem. It’s the smallest linked poem possible—one verse each by two poets. As with renku verses, the idea is to link and shift. Tan-renga consist of a three-line verse followed by a two-line “capping” verse. Typically, the second verse should have some connection (link) with the first, yet shift away from it significantly. A few of the preceding capping verses deliberately do not shift away, showing a more thematic approach to this poetry. Another way to look at tan-renga is as a tanka written by two poets. The “turn” technique commonly used in tanka occurs naturally in the shift from one poet to the other.