Renku

at the World Haiku Festival 2008 at Bangalore, India 

Our New Nano

A Junicho renku composed at the 9th World Haiku Festival, Bangalore, India on 25 February 2008.

 

spring moon—

looking closer

over the Deccan

 

a song-breath

upon her baby’s eyes

 

at the traffic signal

a few rupees

and a biscuit

 

outside the city

paddy ripe for harvest

 

as I shut the door

the wind chimes chime

this winter night

 

we tried the waltz

but went back to rock

 

a gulmohar

carpets the hillside

scarlet

 

in the downpour

dogs follow a female’s

 heat

 

brother chasing

brother out

across the state

 

lying in bed

I pray for good health

 

a seagull

swoops to lunch

on a different sea

 

on Diwali day

we drive our Nano

 home

 

 

 

ryûseki  

 

 

kala

 

 

 

reshma

 

 

bhavani

 

 

 

harish

 

 

sprite

 

                    

 

rohini

 

 

kamesh

 

 

 

mahrukh

 

 

bhavani

 

 

 

bhavani

 

 

ramesh           

The Renku Trip 

by Norman Darlington

Report written by Bhavani.

 On the Collaborative Linked Poetry of Japan conducted by Norman Darlington on 25th Feb 2008. 
Renku is a form that was the predecessor of haiku in Japanese poetry, with haiku coming from the hokku, or the first stanza, of renku. Hold your horses, this article is not going to be about renku, its form and the technical angle. It is about the other angle to it that I had not appreciated until I was myself part of renku writing experience.

The World Haiku Festival 2008 began with back to back sessions, each new one raising more interest and attempting more effectively to be interactive and participatory. And with 30 or more poets and many enthusiasts around (me included), lively exchanges were seen everywhere.

However it was not until I attended the Renku session led by Norman Darlington as sabaki (leader poet) that I witnessed most convincingly how 'collaborative poetry' can make a world of difference in terms of interaction and exchanges, and, more generally, the whole relationship between and among haiku poets. So much so that I am inclined to think that renku should perhaps be the preliminary session of any haiku festival. Darlington, whose enthusiasm about renku was infectious, was met by responsive and lively participants. Some of us were new to renku and it was we who were most active.

Poetry is typically written in a stylized form — with each poet wrapping himself into his cocoon, into his own way of expression, while still trying to give life and nature a dimension. But, there is another way to look at poetry, as a combination of many perspectives, which not only enriches the poem's end result but also enhances the process of 
writing it.

During Darlington's renku session, which was conducted in the evening of the third day as the last important event of the Festival, there was a degree of genuine dissolution (if that be possible) of ego and also of all the self-protection walls that we ensconce ourselves in! This was indeed where poets from different geographies, mother tongues, motivations and expertise came together to bring out just one piece of poetry, like a single sculpture, which they each helped to carve. Though each stanza had its author's name, the twelve of them (junicho) were mostly a product of truly collaborative work. In the renku session one renkujin would draw the group's attention to an image which he/she depicted in the proposed stanza and the rest of the renkujin would attempt to get into his/her mind and add to the picture by link and shift!

It must be noted that being a traditional form and Japanese at that, there are many rules to be followed in renku. However, when Darlington, our sabaki, explained the rules and conventions, such instructions at first made me feel like instigating a mini-rebellion. They covered anything from themes, length, syllables, seasons to mood. All seemed too much to take in one go! But I soon came to realize that rules only helped to create an orderly chaos. Moreover, the most beautiful aspect of this linked-poetry was the very confusion and impulsive and spontaneous interaction which was actually encouraged and not curtailed.

There are different roles divided among those present, the main being that of the sabaki, who is expected to keep the session moving forward, maintain order and keep in mind the bigger picture. He has to be always mindful of the junicho as a whole as well as paying attention to numerous and subtle nuances and details. Using economics terms, one can say that the sabaki has the macro perspective while the fellow poets have a micro view. Put in another way, the sabaki  sees the forest, leaving the trees to other poets! 

Darlington carried it off with great expertise and aplomb. It is amazing that this little collaborative linked-poetry from Japan was performed with the leadership of an Irishman, attended by Indian poets, live on the Indian soil of Sri Sri Ravi Shankar ji's Ashram. Calling our effort as "Our New Nano" in honour of our other sponsor Sri Ratan Tata, the junicho staged a beautiful and unforgettable finale to our three-day Festival. It was indeed a coming together of creative forces.

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Participants:

ryûseki 

(Susumu Takiguchi –

 England/Japan)

 

kala 

(Kala Ramesh – Pune)

 

 

reshma 

(Reshma Jain – Mumbai)

 

bhavani 

(Bhavani Ramesh –

 Mumbai)

 

harish 

(Harish Suryanarayana -

 Chennai)

 

 sprite 

(Claire Chatelet –

 England/

France)

 

 

rohini 

(Rohini Gupta – Mumbai)

 

kamesh 

(Kameshwar Rao - Pune)

 

 mahrukh 

(Mahrukh Bulsara -

 Mumbai)

 

ramesh 

(K. Ramesh - Chennai)

 

Sabaki: 

Norman Darlington –

 Ireland 

 

The poem is dedicated to

 the generous sponsor of

 our festival, Sri Ratan

 Tata. 
 

© 2008 Participating

 poets. All rights reserved.