A Hundred Gourds 4:1 December 2014

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page 3  

The Loaded Brush

The short night –
on the hairy caterpillar
beads of dew.

      Buson, trans. Hass

reluctant sunrise
unfolding the meadow


a quiet whirring…
unknown visitors


* * *

poised over the canvas
the loaded brush


plump blackberries
under a hunter’s moon


white witches caught
in a sepia shot


* * *

lurid pasta
swirl on the plate
stinking of sea


initiate with me
our truest sequence


in the heavy silence
their eyes study
fractals of snow


* * *

The pupils sit down
waiting for the lesson


blown by a breeze
onto the ground –
cherry blossom


Easter Sunday
pigeons feast on seedlings



Mark Baker, Maurice Devitt, Donal Gordon, Giles Newington, Barbara O’Shea, Maeve O’Sullivan (sabaki, editor), Breda Wall Ryan (shuhitsu, scribe)

Composed at the Teachers’ Club, Dublin on Friday 13th June 2014 at a Hibernian Poetry Workshop meeting.

On Friday 13th June 2014, I led a renku with some fellow members of the Hibernian Poetry Workshop which has been running for a few years. Most of the workshop members, although accomplished and widely-published writers of ‘regular’ poetry, don’t write haiku, and none of them had ever participated in a renku before. As a long-standing and widely-published haiku poet and someone who’d participated in several renku, and led a few, I welcomed this challenge but was also a little nervous. Since it was summer, I decided to select a summer haiku from the canon, something from which a number of links could be made. I’m a big fan of Buson’s, so chose one of his, as translated by Robert Hass. Hass subsequently gave us permission – via email - to publish it as part of our renku.

There were seven of us on the night. The first task was to explain how a 12-verse shisan renku works. For this I was helped by the online preview of a draft chapter on “Shisan” in Renku Reckoner by John Carley (forthcoming from Darlington Richards Press). The process was that anyone could proffer a verse, except for the person whose verse had just been chosen for the previous verse. Then we would look at all the offerings and discuss which one might fit the best, with me as sabaki having the casting vote if necessary, and suggesting some immediate edits.

It’s probably fair to say that the most difficult aspect of the process for the participants was not writing a poem collaboratively, which would have been new to most of the renju, or even adhering to the seasonal and other criteria, but grasping the concept of ‘link and shift’ - which is essential to all renku - and consequently avoiding repetition of images, ideas etc. That took a bit of adjustment. On the plus side, we had plenty of offerings for each verse, and, as you might expect from a group of experienced poets, these verses were very lyrical.

The first draft of the renku took about three hours to complete as that was all the time we had. Happily, each of the seven renju had least one verse chosen for the renku. We chose the title and did a couple of edits on the night, then I proposed a few more afterwards, having had time to read back over it. These were done mainly to ensure the integrity of the ‘link and shift’. For example, the original first line of verse 3 (by Barbara) read ‘a quiet hum’, but I felt this sounded too insect-like, thus not shifting away enough from the caterpillar in verse 1, so we changed it to ‘a dull whirring’ instead. Similarly, the original line 2 of verse 8 (by Mark) read ‘a magical sequence’ - too close to the witches in verse 6 – so that was changed to ‘our truest sequence’.

We’re proud of the end result, and delighted that AHG have seen fit to publish it.

Maeve O’Sullivan  

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