On Friday, April 20, Write On and Door County Poet Laureate Sharon Auberle held our second quarterly International Poetry Potluck. The country chosen for that night’s potluck was Japan. Participants were asked to bring Japanese inspired food and poetry. As a group activity, Sharon led attendees in creating a renga.
Meaning “linked poem,” renga began over seven hundred years ago in Japan to encourage the collaborative composition of poems. Poets worked in pairs or small groups, taking turns composing the alternating three-line and two-line stanzas. Linked together, renga were often hundreds of lines long, though the favored length was a 36-line form called a kasen. Several centuries after its inception, the opening stanza of renga gave rise to the much shorter haiku.
The Japanese Poetry Potluck Writers are happy to share their renga, as edited by Sharon and Ralph Murre, with our readers. The opening stanza is taken after Basho’s words: “In the eighth month, in the autumn of the first year of Jokyo (1684), as I left my dilapidated hut by the river, the sound of the wind was somewhat chilly.”
In the fourth month, in the Year of the Dog, as we leave our houses
by the lake, the cold wind waits at the door …
Blankets of snow snuggle the flowers,
birds form punctuation marks on the paper sky
that color of blue flame, found only in dreams.
Birches shiver beneath their almost budded branches,
trembling to the music, fading into wind.
Cherry blossoms wait for snow to melt
and the trees trace lace across the white.
At evening, lowering sun warms our cheeks
as it gives way to the moon
wearing her cloak of haze.
Children chase about the village,
and beneath the ice, water pushes restlessly,
time for its shimmer to rise.
You and I wait as Earth goes on turning.
Earth waits as we go on spinning.
~ The Japanese Poetry Potluck Writers
(as edited by S. Auberle and R. Murre)