Crimson Tallow Leaves

A shisan renku, consisting of twelve verses that follow, through the process of shift-and-link, the progress of the seasons: 秋冬春夏.

The linked verse was composed on 4 Nov. in an 8-mat tea-room at Yasui Kompira Jinja Kaikan on a fine, still autumn day, which included a lunchtime stroll to the Kamo River in eastern Kyoto. Eleven poets took part and most had at least one of their offered verses chosen. The ‘tallow leaves’ are those of the  ナンキンハゼ nankinhaze tree (candleberry). Subhadassi, a visiting British artist with a passion for renga, had visited Mt. Ogura the previous day.

Crimson tallow leaves
light up the paths
towards smoke blue Ogura

from somewhere
the smell of mackerel

singing children
disperse for home
with the temple bell

a stone thrown far
into the moat

after washing my face
at a service station
winter full moon

she cycles through
each season

cherry blossoms
have fallen
into the maiko’s kimono

the newborn arrives
ahead of schedule

on the riverbank
somebody touched my shoulder
weeping willow

echoing down the phone line
his loneliness

they punch back
sturdy sunflowers
holding their ground

the elevator goes up
but doesn’t come down.

participants (not in order of their contributions): Subhadassi (sabaki), Tito (shuhitsu), Mayumi Kawaharada (host), Jiko, Mari Kawaguchi, Hisashi Miyazaki, Ursula Maierl, Gerald Staggers, Kittredge Stephenson, Masako Fujie and Peter MacIntosh.

9 Responses to “Crimson Tallow Leaves”

  1. Hats off to the poets, but especially the sabaki Subhadassi, for assembling such a pleasing poem. The opening side (verses 1 – 3) is really strong and sets the tone for the rest of the shisan very effective!

  2. This hangs together as if a single observer penned it. Reading it I felt transported – and a little thrilled and chilled by the hauntingness. An Icebox treasure.

  3. Very much enjoyed participating in this renku. The final composition is a joy to read.

    The poem presents sights, smells & sounds in a cubist way that lingers long after the first reading.


  4. I enjoyed reading this, although I wasn’t able to find the link between some verses. This, I’m sure, is my fault and not the poet’s.


  5. I throughly enjoyed the first half of this shisan, but the second half lacks the power of the first half. This is mainly because the topics are somewhat limited. When I lead a renku, I use a list of topics and try to include as many topics as possible. There is no religious and political topics, for example, nor topics related with amimals or incescts here. I have been stressing the importance of variety within a renku in my previous comments, but I must repeat it again. Also, as you printed this shisan, I cannot identify who wrote which poem. Why did you put the names of the poets at the end, rather than following the usual practice of printing them after each poem? Renku is an art of collaboration, but within its framework, individual poets must deisplay their unique ctharacter in the choice of topics and the style of writing. I think unity and variety are two pillars of renku, but perhaps you sacrificed variety for unity too much here. There are many fine poems in this shisan, but the sequence needs to do more to bring them out. Yesterday, I led a shisan at an AIR meeing. if you are interested, and if my colleagues agree, I do not mind posting it on the Icebox for further discussion. Best wishes,
    Sosui (Nobuyuki Yuasa)

  6. Thanks Subhadassi, I enjoyed this experience among a culturally diverse group of friends and poets. Thanks also to the planners, and to the hosts (nice tearoom inside the Yasui Konpira Shrine). It was exciting to try to create a “link” from the preceding poem in the time limit imposed at this gathering. More frequent opportunities to participate in these types of renku events can only help us develop the ability to easily call upon our imagination, as well as offer more of the variety of topics Sosui suggests above. Reading this piece brings back pleasant memories of the people present, the place, and what we did that day.

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