Simply Haiku: An E-Journal of Haiku and Related Forms
July-August 2004, vol. 2, no. 4

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Renku Editor's notes

Welcome to the July/August renku column. In our archives you will find Volume 2 number 2 of Simply Haiku (March/April 2004) with its short essay on the nature of the Twelve Tone renku (JP: Junicho). This current issue features two such Junicho and the full results, in English and English translation, of the Kamakura Shrine 'One Verse' contest.

'Rainy Season Sky', in Japanese and English, was composed recently in a 'live' session in Yokosuka City, Japan. This is an 'interlingual' poem: one version is not a post-facto translation of the other. Instead parallel texts are developed as the poem is in progress, the interpenetration between languages being fundamental to the shaping of the whole.

'The Fullness of the Moon', by contrast, was composed via email by three poets in various parts of North America and marks the debut of one of the participants in the formal role of sabaki. This column hopes in future to deal more extensively with the question of leadership and verse selection in contemporary renku. For the moment suffice it to say that it is far from easy for poets raised on a staple of romantic individualism to either lead a collaborative piece, or to defer to the choice of others. All who are prepared to contemplate so doing deserve unstinting praise.

 

The Kamakura Shrine One Verse Contest

Devised as an integral part of the 'Shoten' festivities this was Kamakura's first such contest, hopefully the first of many.

More celebration than competition, the organisers were keen to leave the parameters as open as possible and avoid the tendency to focus on merely technical matters. We therefore see an intriguingly broad spectrum of responses to the challenge of adding a third verse to the putative sequence. There is also the opportunity to compare the styles of those persons having English or Japanese as a first language.

Which verse would you have chosen as the winner?

 

Lev Kuleshov & The Mozhukhin Experiment

The sheer range of verses offered in the Kamakura competition raises all sorts of questions about linking technique: should it be directive; should it be open? Apparent, or barely perceptible?

Renku theorists in the 1920's such as Torahiko Terada were excited by the radical montage techniques of Soviet cineasts Pudovkin, Kuleshov and Eisenstein, not least by what was to become famous as the 'Mozhukhin Experiment'.

 

 

The audience:

"...raved about the acting of the artist. They pointed out the heavy pensiveness of his mood over the forgotten soup, were touched and moved by the deep sorrow with which he looked on the dead woman, and admired the light, happy smile with which he surveyed the girl at play."

 

Fascinated by the work of Pavlov on conditioning, Lev Kuleshov devised a short filmatic sequence which cut back and forth between close-up's of the famous actor Mozhukhin and a bowl of soup, a woman's corpse, and a child playing. As the contemporary account above reports, the invited audience were highly impressed with the results of this juxtaposition, commenting especially on the depth and subtlety of Mozhukin's response to each successive stimulus.

In fact there was only one, carefully neutral, shot of Mozhukhin, repeated severally, and the reading of emotion - the links, the response - existed only in the mind of the viewer.

In the sequences above and below Kuleshov is the chap with the brilliantined hair. Somehow even the bowl of soup looks pensive!

 

 

 

 

Ku

There are, as a recent correspondent remarked, an awful lot of 'ku' about. Volume 2 number 1 (Jan/Feb 2004) carries 'Beginnings and Endings', a brief essay on the special compositional characteristics of some of these 'ku'. Please have a look at the archives. Meanwhile here are some outline definitions.

'Ku' simply means 'phrase' as in:

  • hokku - the head verse of a sequence [long]
  • wakiku - the second or 'supporting' verse [short]
  • daisanku - more commonly 'daisan', the third verse [long]
  • ageku - the concluding verse of a sequence [short]
  • chouku - any long verse other than hokku and daisanku above
  • tanku - any short verse other than wakiku or ageku above

The terms 'long' and 'short' in English language renku are generally equated with the three line and two line stanza respectively. The extent to which they should also represent minima and maxima in stress and/or syllable count is a question for another day.

John Carley, Rossendale, June 2004