The Wooden Tub

shisan renku consisting of twelve verses that follow the progress of the seasons: 春-夏-秋-冬.
P1190709a- This linked verse, the last in our Four Seasons series, was composed on 3 May ’13 in a roof-top tearoom (川 Sen) at the Tatsumi Building near Kyoto Station on a bright and breezy spring day. As we worked, we enjoyed a sample of rare imported teas and took lunch outside on the patio roof with its views of Mts. Hiei and Atago. Ten poets took part and most had at least one of their offered verses chosen.

The wooden tub
suddenly overflowing
with violets

Stepping out
in my new sneakers

One of the cans
kicked by the youths
still rattling down the road

Swallows refashion
the rim of their nest

A barque by the shore
ready to take us to
never-never land

Drops from the paddle
form a stream of stars

No cow
in the slightly frosted meadow,
a low moon in the east

Worms eating into
the apple’s core

November wind
blows through the streets –
miniskirt assassin

Boston Marathon bombing
green card applicants’ despair

Curled up for warmth
offering winter prayers –
hungry ghosts drink in the Light

Interwoven hopes,
fabric of a linked verse.

participants (in random order): Ursula Maierl (sabaki), Tito (shuhitsu and host), Hitomi Suzuki, Peter MacIntosh, Haruka Hasaba, Toshi Ida, Kyoko Nozaki, Mayumi Kawaharada, Keiko Okumoto and Richard Steiner.

Other renku in this Four Season series can be read here:

9 responses to “The Wooden Tub

    • John, can you explain what you mean by 1 * 12, please. We followed one of the schema (for a shisan beginning in spring) that I had found on your very helpful Renku Reckoner site. I trust your health is holding up. Haiku and renga certainly keeps many Japanese oldsters young.

      • Hi Tito, I first encountered the Shisan about fifteen years ago. It seemed to be particularly popular amongst members of the AIR renku group. And indeed remains so – I have copy of their 2010 anthology Wind Arrow which is completely dedicated to the form.

        In that anthology, as in earlier materials and instances, the poems are typeset as four groups of three verses each, and it had always been my understanding that the name itself (shi san) was indicative of that intention – that it should be treated as a poem of four movements each of three verses. One effect being to distinguish it from the popular single movement Junicho which obviously also extends to 12 verses.

        This nominal four folio or movement construction is of course shared more substantially by the kasen, tankako, nijuin etc and, as I recall, the suggestion from AIR was that the four movements of the Shisan might effectively adopt the jo/ha+ha/kyu paradgim.

        Personally I find the Shisan difficult precisely because of the break into four movements with the attendant suggestion of pause/relaunch at movement boundaries and the telescoping down of jo/ha/kyu into 12 verses. I was therefore intrigued to see that the poems on site were offered as a single sheet rather than as ‘interupted’ text.

        Best wishes, John

  1. Hello Poets, excuse my belated comment – glitches, bike fall… sigh.
    HOWEVER, our renku “The Wooden Tub” has been reverberating
    within me since we composed it. What a wonderful involvement that was for me. Thank you so much poets, for being so engaged,willing and open in exploring how best to hone, fashion and tweak the verses for the final linked verse. Stephen was a stalwart support for this first-time renku editor. It was quite a learning curve. Exciting – and I appreciate the form far more now. One valuable thing I learned, which may allay disappointment if a verse is not chosen, is that perfectly wonderful verses may simply not fit the (manifold) stipulations of the form (e.g. an image or word may have been recently used elsewhere, and so doesn’t bear repetition). To this end, I am glad that Mayumi gathered verses she loved and published them independently of the renku.

    I was also thrilled that a number of international readers have
    given me feedback that they LOVED our offering, and one mentioned that it read even better on 2nd or 3rd contact.
    What a delight to hear that.