Simply Haiku: A Quarterly Journal of Japanese Short Form Poetry
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Summer 2005, vol 3 no 2
  Notes: the 24 hour Hyakuin Renga  
  A hyakuin is the great classical form of renga, used in such famous poems as Sogi’s ‘Three Poets at Minase’ and ‘Three Poets at Yuyama’. To match the renga masters of five hundred years ago is impossible, for we have neither the literary skill nor the cultural depth of allusion, but the more renga I experienced the more I became fascinated by the periodicity of each day, the rhythm of morning unfolding into afternoon. This led me to extend the renga day to its fullest measure and, on three occasions to date, a gang of poets have sat down together at noon and renga’d on through to bleary-eyed noon.

The first of these twenty-four hour performances was hosted by BALTIC. The title defined the structure: ‘four stations: work–rest–eat–sleep’. Within the term of the hyakuin each poet takes his or her share mastering, and they can rest and sleep when they wish – that said, few of us got more than two or three hours kip. What we gained by the close was the sweetest natural high.

The first hyakuin renga was blogged live on the BALTIC website and will soon be published on the renga platform website. The second was held in the jungly Camellia House at YSP on a freezing midsummer’s night. Later that Summer we completed a hyakuin under a clear starry night, sat out on the woodland platform.

Hyakuin brings people close – when three of you are sitting shivering at 3 a.m. and someone rustles out of their sleeping bag and tramps their way towards the platform you want to give them a big hug. All of us recommend it to anyone with a good sleeping bag and charcoal hand warmer.

The schema for each hyakuin was authored by an expert in renga. The thematic stepping stones led us in some interesting and occasionally rather odd directions, but when you're dog tired and have been writing for eight hours non-stop, it can be a relief to have some clear instruction. I have included the schema in the margin. To help the reader gain some sense of the time frame I have also estimated the timings. We kept to a steady pace of four verses an hour.

Alec Finlay

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[images: Morven Gregor]


Related items in this issue of Simply Haiku:
~ Hyakuin: Camellia House – Paul Conneally, Anne-Marie Culhane, Alec Finlay, Linda France,
   Morven Gregor, Jackie Hardy, Alex Hodby, Gerry Loose, Beth Rowson

~ Hyakuin: a 100-verse summer renga schema – Jane Reichold

Copyright 2005: Simply Haiku