Renga: ‘As Close to Triglav’

P1150717 triglav houses medium

Evening, 9 Sept. 2018, Radovljica, Slovenia; a linked verse co-edited by Stephen Gill (Tito), Dimitar Anakiev (Kamesan) & Branko Manojlovic; based partly on a long journey made between summer and autumn. Footnotes are appended.


As close to Triglav1
as we could be …
a cloud or two apart


Autumn begins: my
two guests were looking for a church
but they found me


In the mountain breeze
a campanula2 has turned
deep gentian blue


To my pen as I write
atop the peak —


Very long ginko3
jotting down poetry
using a goldenrod4


Sun-ignited clouds
weighing into
the Julian Alps5


Lying on its side
on a carpet of grass,
a foal in bliss


Snails, cats and me —
in the kiwi garden today
friends from Kyoto


The slower path:
deep in forest
spindle6 berries


A sea wind
blowing through the belfry,
the bells almost tone


It’s getting colder —
next to a Communist shrine
the Crucifixion


Here Soča7 ran red
with soldiers’ blood …
kids throwing stones


The pale weeping tree
planted above
my white dog’s8 grave


Hard for me to grasp
the vanishing of a world:
yerba buena9


Imagine the bulging eyes
that first spied these
viridian lakes10


Wavering beneath me
through sun-dappled shallows,
faces of mosaic saints


My big moustache
too wild it got this morning —
the street is so steep


Through the hushed arteries
of ancient Piran11
to its very heart


A pair of flip-flops
left at the base of the olive —
a story awaits


Those xenophobic
mosquitoes: bite after bite
for fugitives


In Lika valley12
dark-eyed Syrians — a wary
herd of deer



1 Mt. Triglav, highest mountain in Slovenia (and former Yugoslavia), 2864m, visible at rear left in the photo
2  campanula, bellflower
3 ginko, haiku composition stroll
4 goldenrod, tall yellow-flowered genus, solidago, mostly from N. America
5 Julian Alps, easternmost range in the Alps, stretching from Italy into Slovenia
6 spindle, pink-berried shrub genus, euonymous
7 Soča, river flowing to the Adriatic from the Julian Alps, scene of First World War fighting between Italy and Austro-Hungarian Empire
8 white dog, a spaniel from upland Nepal named Gabbitas, buried in England
9 yerba buena, spearmint
10 viridian lakes, Plitvice Lakes in Croatia
11 Piran, old port town in Slovenian Istria
12 Lika, region of central Croatia, bordering northern Bosnia-Herzegovina

P1150613 poets on Talež medium

For John

British renku master, John Carley, who died on 31 December 2013, is commemorated in a new page here on the Icebox: “Memorial kasen for John Carley”. Please click this to read the linked verse composed by 10 international poets led by Eiko Yachimoto using a haiku of John’s as its lead verse. If you have any comments, you can either leave them beneath this announcement or at the foot of the kasen page itself. Enjoy it, please!

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:

Snowflakes Wander

A shisan renku consisting of twelve verses that follow the progress of the seasons: -冬-春-夏-秋. P1190042a-The linked verse was composed on 24.2.13 in an 8-mat room upstairs at Murin-an 無鄰菴, Okazaki, Kyoto on a bitterly cold late winter day of sun and passing snow flurries. Some enjoyed a stroll around the watery, Meiji-period landscape garden we could see from the window. Twelve poets took part and most had at least one of their offered verses chosen.

Snowflakes wander …
grey down snagged on juniper
from the goshawk’s kill

With one brush stroke
the frozen river

the boatman’s monkey

Irritable lady
explains over and over again

Pink plum blossoms
bursting on the bough;
the skirt tighter this year

Rainbow-patterned curves
of painted Easter eggs

My wish to be in Hawaii
attending a wedding –
dreams come true

Sudden showers
lovers run for cover

Since the nuclear meltdown
no more swimming
in the turquoise sea

A candle burns on
changing shadows of itself

Foxes approach:
the harvest moon keeps her eyes
on the rice-cake offering

Ripened fields stretch
to the world’s end.

participants (in random order): Tito (sabaki and host), Jiko (shuhitsu), Mari Kawaguchi, David McCullough, Hitomi Suzuki, Ursula Maierl, Keiko Kurumizawa, Kyoko Nozaki, Michael Lambe, Kazuko Miyazawa, Masako Fujie and Peter MacIntosh

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.

Shimmering Pavements

A shisan renku consisting of twelve verses that follow the progress of the seasons. The linked verse was composed at ‘Kaze no Ma’ (Room of Breezes) after a composition stroll through the heat and squalls of early summer in the eastern hills of Kyoto. Eleven poets took part and all contributed to this linked verse.

Shimmering pavements –
forgotten stones of the city
reflecting the sky

The rickshaw man
just waiting for a heavy shower

Birdsong rings
over the poet’s hut,
dripping eaves

Lifted on a breeze
the scent of boiling mushrooms

At nightfall
a gang of trolls comes forth
to worship the moon

Rabbits hide themselves
among the pampas grass

Seeking the meaning
in this shared cup
of steaming chocolate

Couples along the river
snuggle beneath frozen stars

The highest branch:
tenderly preening each other,
two crows

No traces are left
on the softening path

Ancient marble statues
reveal their eyes:
blue veronica

Deep in meditation
the reading lamp fails.

participants (random order): David McCullough (sabaki), Tito (shuhitsu), Keiko Yurugi (host), Toshi Ida, Mayumi Kawaharada, Michael Lambe, Masako Fujie, Kittredge Stephenson, Hitomi Suzuki, Yoshiharu Kondo, and Peter MacIntosh.

Formal Renku Performance

A number of Hailstone Haiku Circle poets went to Kitano Tenmangu Shrine on October 29th to watch a performance of traditional renku and then a shirabyoshi dancer (Yuriko Inoue) give her own dramatic version of some of the stanzas.  The event was part of the autumn Kokumin Bunkasai being held in Kyoto this year. The sosho (editor) was Seiji Kobayashi and the shuhitsu (scribe), Tadakatsu Wada. In the audience were Raffael de Gruttola, John McAteer, Martin Barrow, amongst others. The last two links (no. 35 & 36) were:

ほのぼのと 明るさ闇(やみ)の 花篝(はなかがり) Dimly perceived / light & shadow / from the night cherry-blossom braziers  (by sosho)

笙(しょう)横笛の 音色(ねいろ)のどけし  The notes of a flute and a bamboo mouth-organ / in tranquil harmony  (by shuhitsu)

Harvest Moon Linked-Verse

Sat. Sep. 13. Six Hailstones gathered at Moya Bligh’s print studio in Western Kyoto – or, rather, outside it on the grass. Sabaki: Jane Wieman. Scribe: Jane (and later Tito). The hokku was of course seasonal; thereafter, we allowed ourselves to explore both actuality and imagination. Your comments as neutral readers, most welcome!

Waxing toward full / the moon glows / above greengold ricefields (JW)

In summer breeze / the smell of grass after rain (AM)

Appeared… disappeared / its horns and tail: / a reluctant snail (T)

From far away / thunder’s ominous grumble (JD)

Lonesome cry / of a shakuhachi / gradually cheering up (MB)

Colored leaves shine / in sudden sunlight (AM)

Winter stalks / the lush season / of “mellow fruitfulness” (JMcA)

Rotten bark crumbling / at the base (MB)

Front door locked / lights turned off, / his wife in a rage (T)

Flitting wings open and shut / – my butterfly heart (JD)

Poets: Jane Wieman, Moya Bligh, Tito, John Dougill, Akito Mori, John McAteer