A Journal for Linking Poets TABLE OF CONTENTS
XX:1 February, 2005
A PLACE FOR COW-SLOBBER?
FATHER LAWRENCE - PIONEER TANKA POET
A LETTER FROM THE FOUNDER OF LYNX by Jim Wilson
RENGA IN INTEL'S BUSINESS WORLD
A Place for Cow-slobber?
--- teitoku (1570-1653)
(this morning drips/hangs icicle: slobber ox year)
Robin D. Gill (year of the hare) has written 7 books in Japanese and 4 in English including 2 on haiku. His highly acclaimed Rise, Ye Sea Slugs! has almost 1000 translated haiku about sea cucumbers arranged in metaphor-based chapters and the recently released Fly-ku! examines the nature of anthropomorphism in haiku about flies. He will soon publish volume 1 of his saijiki series In Praise of Olde Haiku, a book on the fifth season of haiku, the New Year, and that will be followed shortly by Drinking With Flowers - cherry blossom haiku with soul and without. All of his books include the Japanese for the original poems in place, as was the case with the books of Blyth, yet are inexpensive. In order to do this, he became a publisher. Please visit the web site for information about the above and other books or skip straight to Amazon or Barnes & Noble.
FATHER LAWRENCE - PIONEER TANKA POET
Before most writers in North America even knew about the tanka poetry form, Father Lawrence had published two books of tanka. One in 1978, Soul’s Inner Sparkle: Moments of Waka Sensations, and the second one in 1983, Rushing Amid Tears: Tanka Poems in English, were published in Japan. It was only in 1993, when a growing number of poets were learning about tanka in North America, that AHA Books published Father Lawrence’s Shining Moments: Tanka Poems in English, and brought his work back to his homeland.
Father Lawrence was born in Clarksville, Tennessee on January 22, 1908, and graduated from the Louisville Male High School in Kentucky in 1925. He received his A.B. from Harvard College in 1929, and M.A. in Public Law and Government from Columbia University in 1947. He was a business executive, then served as navel officer (Lieutenant Commander) and diplomat. In 1960 he was ordained as a Catholic priest in the Order of St. Benedict for St. John’s Abbey, Collegeville, Minnesota. It was while he was at St. Anselm’s Priory in Tokyo, Japan that I met him.
I first noticed his tanka poems in the magazine Poetry Nippon, edited by Atsuo Nakagawa, the official organ of The Poetry Society of Tokyo, and wrote to him of my admiration for his work. Soon, a very lively correspondence began. Father Lawrence was very happy to finally find an interest in tanka in America and he did all he could to foster our development. Though he and I firmly disagreed on whether English tanka should be written in 5,7,5,7,7, we never let our differences come between us or our goal of fostering interest in the genre. Through the early years of publishing Lynx, his work was very often included.
The publication of his hardcover book, Shining Moments, was a first for AHA Books, and we were both very proud of the results. It was an honor to work with the other friends and supporters of Father Lawrence's work – Toshimi Horiuchi, Marie Philomene, Atsuo Nakagawa, and Edward Seidensticker – who were eager to have their comments included in his book. Edward Seidensticker had also written the introductions to Father Lawrence’s previous two books and they were old friends.
In 1998, when Werner and I were invited to Japan by Empero Akihito and Empress Michiko to the New Year’s Poetry Party, Father Lawrence was instrumental in making sure our visit was a success and delight in every way. What a joy it was that first night, after the long flight, and nightmare journey through Tokyo’s subway system to be clasped in his strong arms and hear his welcome booming in our ears. During that first bewildering meal of Japanese specialties in the restaurant, he sat by our sides encouraging us, comforting us, and overseeing the evening like a proud papa.
The previous year Father Lawrence had been the second American tanka poet in history to be invited to the Utakai Hajime – The New Year’s Poetry Party (Lucille Nixon had been the first in 1956), so he was able to advise us on the protocol and the importance of the occasion as the result of his experiences.
After the trip to Japan, Father Lawrence and I kept in touch, especially as we both had January birthdays. In the last year though, his secretary wrote his responses. He died, they say peacefully, on November, 3rd at the Holy Trinity Monastery in Fujimi, Nagano. The memorial mass was celebrated at the Meguro Catholic Church in Shinagawa Ward, Tokyo, at 6 pm on Wednesday, November 17th. The cremated remains are interred in the columbarium at the Meguro Church where he had served as pastor.
He was honored as a monk, priest, diplomat, teacher, artist and poet. The World Academy of Arts and Culture granted Father Lawrence an honorary doctorate in 1990. In 1993 the Emperor and the Government of Japan honored Father Lawrence for meritorious service to the nation in higher education with the Order of the Rising Sun, Golden Rays with Rosette. In the same year the president of Saint John’s University issued the Presidential Citation to him for his 85 years of service to mankind and his numerous achievements and exceptional leadership. In 1998, the "Father Lawrence Scholarship" was established to provide for undergraduates at the College of Saint Benedict and Saint John’s University who wish to study in Japan.
In my mind, the word "father" fits him best. He was the kindly, good parent who fostered so much goodwill and education in all his fields of endeavor, but especially in tanka. Here is a tanka Father Lawrence wrote in the early 1990s, which could have been about himself.
A man of vision
A LETTER FROM THE FOUNDER OF LYNX
~ This is the letter Jim wrote for the 10th anniversary of Lynx. ~
Dear Renga Friends,
Jane asked me to write something about how and why I started a magazine devoted to renga. At first I thought I would write an article; but I got tangled up in outlines, side issues, etc. So I decided to simply write a letter to all you folks at Lynx.
My introduction to renga came about in an atypical way. I learned about renga from John Cage's writings and music. Cage liked renga because of its unpredictable nature and also the fact that this form of poetry usually emerges from group interaction. For this reason, though individuals contribute to renga, they can not claim ownership of a renga (when written by a group). This fit in nicely with Cage's esthetic of trying to let "sounds speak for themselves" instead of imposing personal esthetic judgments on sonic material. I liked renga because they remind me of a journey; a drive through a country one doesn't know or a hike through an unknown woods. In 1985 I came across Basho's "Monkey's Raincoat" which I immediately loved. This set of four renga masterfully presents the best renga has to offer. I began to look for a poetry magazine that might focus on renga. I couldn't find one. So I decided, "What the heck, I'll just do it myself."
My inspiration for "doing it myself" came from the world of APAs. APAs began in the U.S. early in this century, perhaps late 1800s. They consist entirely of subscriber submissions. Also, in order to get an APA you have to contribute. This usually keeps the number involved in an APA quite small (I have rarely seen an APA over 30 people). APAs have played a big role in the science fiction world. You might find yourself surprised at how many sci-fi writers started out in APAs. Many sci-fi writers today regularly contribute to APAs. Sci-fi conventions usually have several booths devoted to APAs and their collectors.
APAs usually have a subject, like sci-fi (or a specific topic in sci-fi such as Star Trek), politics, tarot, sexuality, etc. Since the APAs have no editor, they create a forum for free form discussion. I decided to apply the APA format to a renga magazine. I launched the first issue with just a few pages, a few hokku and some responses. Because the first few issues had so few people involved, I used some pseudonyms for some of the responses. I bought a copy of Poet's Market and mailed APA-Renga (as I called it) to all the haiku magazines and associations I could find. Soon, responses began to trickle in. Jane Reichhold, Terry Lee Grell, Ken Leibman, and some others I recall as among the first. Those first issues consisted of unbound xerox sheets that I put in a folder.
After a year or so, my lover Bob, demonstrated how to put the issues into a format conducive to the form of the poetry (the format resembled what Jane does now, except longer). I felt very gratified at the response of individuals. On the other hand, it surprised me that not more people wanted to participate. At the time I started APA-Renga I had no knowledge of the "haiku scene" in the U.S. Haiku had never strongly interested me. After a while I became aware of a kind of self-appointed elite who attempted to control Japanese derived forms of poetry in the U.S. Nothing wrong with that; everyone has esthetic opinions. It bothered me, though, that people seemed to uncritically apply the esthetic of haiku to renga when, I feel, they require very different approaches.
For example, a good haiku has something complete about it, like a painting or photograph. A renga link needs to have something incomplete about it, something open, so that the next person can fill in, lead on, or respond. A renga does not consist of a series of haiku. For this reason, and others, I currently rather regret the setting up of renga criteria by haiku associations.
But back to APA-Renga. When I first began I thought of doing it every 6 weeks. As more people began to join, it got too big of a project and I reduced the number of issues per year. In late 1988, Bob began to become quite sick with AIDS. Naturally, my time and energy went to taking care of him. I looked around for someone to take over APA-Renga knowing that if I did not do so, I would have to bring it to a close. I called Terry Lee Grell and asked her if she would do it. Terry had participated in APA-Renga from very early on with great enthusiasm and a wild sense of humor. She also had knowledge about typesetting and newspaper production. After several calls and weighing whether or not she had the time, she accepted. I want to take this opportunity to thank Terry for carrying on APA-Renga, which she renamed as Lynx. Terry broadened the appeal of APA-Renga, changed its format, and added many new features, all to the better.
I can hardly believe that all this time has passed and that Lynx now has had other editors for the last two years. Jane and Werner further expanded APA-Renga/Lynx with articles, book reviews with a focus on other linking forms of poetry. Like a renga, this magazine has gone on its own journey. I wish it well.
See you in 10 more years.
Fondly, Tundra aka Jim Wilson
RENGA IN INTEL'S BUSINESS WORLD
In the middle of August, 2004, I got an email asking if I was interested in writing a renga for a business presentation. As it turned out, Louis Burns, the President of Intel was giving a keynote address at a convention in Tokyo, and he, or someone, had the idea of building the speech and the focus of his ideas around the idea of the renga. The speech was already written when someone else got the idea that they needed to have a renga presented before the speech so the audience would all know what this poetry form was. More ideas came forth and it was decided that a renga would be presented in a video on the large screens behind the podium before the speakers entered. Now all they needed was to find someone who knew how to write a renga.
A web search turned up my name and web site. I was told that as they searched farther, my name kept appearing, so on this basis they contacted me. It seemed that they wanted a renga that had supposedly been written by three persons yet because of time restraints they wanted a single author to write it. One voice would be that of a representative of the computer industry, another would be that of a supplier of content (game-writer, movie maker, or musician) and a consumer. In order to have a mix of genders we decided to make two if them males and have the consumer be female. The team making the video wanted to base the whole work on water images so it was deemed that each link would have a reference somehow to water as well as representing the viewpoints of the three "writers."
After several hours-long conference calls with the staff at Pedersen Media Group, I was given the go-ahead, just before Labor Day, to write the renga. From the many questions the others on the staff had about renga and how it was done, I decided to add some explanatory comments to my links.
"Three Poets Writing on Water"
[Verse numbers are only for our ease in referring to parts of the poem and helping me keep the rules straight. Italics on the right side are cheat sheets in case you can’t follow my thinking and for ideas I have had for the visuals. I see the visuals as working with and against the words in a way that is renga-like because they use association, contrast and relationship to the words and word-images. I would hope that the photographer would also bring his ideas of how these lines relate to each other and to the story of the poem. Just as the reader actually writes half of the renga poem, so will the supplier of images, in the same way, be writing the rest of it.]
A: colorful leaves
We talked about the presentation
starting with a shot of one drop falling
on still water and then being joined
by other drops (as if in a shower).
Added to these drops could be one
golden leaf that lands on the spotted
water and then floats down to a
collection of colored leaves lying
closely together to resemble fabric.
I see the scene getting brighter as
the leaf joins the others so that
here at the end of this verse, it seems
the sun is shining, the shower is over.
To show this, I have used "radiance"
instead of "water" to ease off the images, but
still support the images.
B: light and dark obi patterns
We need to shift here to the moon
reflected on dark water that wobbles
enough to cause light and dark spots
or patterning. The host admits
to problems (light and dark) but the moon
brings another kind of light to the endeavor.
The words "patterns" and "obi" connect the
images of Japanese clothing.
C: over the puddles
This verse has to end with a
gerund. Perhaps you can see a
connection between this verse and the
last line of the previous verse.
moonlight spangles the ripples /
over the puddles
with the first line of this verse. This
renga technique suggests a photographic
blend. Girl legs should wake up
those who are not interested in poetry.
A: for lunch again today
The connective tissue between these
links is the word "skipping"
that moves from referring to a
way of walking to missing a meal. I
am fairly sure we can get this
wordplay into Japanese. But
even if not, the image of legs moving and
coming to a place where food is served
moves the poem forward properly.
B: first frost
The planks of a wooden table
on which the tea cup is sitting morph
into the planks of a bridge that
are widely spaced enough to
show the dark river water below.
The contrast is between the frost-white
boards and the dark water, relate
to the white tea cup and the dark tea water.
This could be a stark, scary image.
C: in the unexpected snowstorm
The poem moves from human food
to animal food, from frost to snow, and
from river to storm as
winter intensifies. Images could
get darker, more threatening. If
the image in the poem is too difficult
to get on video, one can always switch
to a shot of the brush writing down
the poem. This makes a good variation
on the technique of illustrating the
material in the poem. This would work
well to switch from following the narrative
to stepping outside to see it written.
The first two lines of this link work
with the squirrels among the nuts and
then with the last line the idea switches
to the human world and a TV ad.
It is a renga technique that at
this point one where one poet takes both
links. There should still be the
same amount of a pause between
the verses as previously – only the voice
stays the same.
A: love stories streamed daily
Here again the first line seems
to be related to TV and soap operas
but then it switches from broadcasting
to the personal via some information I
snagged from Mr. Burn’s speech.
The phone connection image continues
but the action moves from passively
listening to a love story to being active
in one. The water cooler is metaphor
for contained or dammed up water (data)
and the fact "she" is not answering
indicates blocked intension. This is the
second of the three traditional love
verses at this point in the poem and
correctly portrays desire and longing.
C: moistening the tip of the brush
Consider the first line as the most
overt sexual reference of the poem.
The second line moves the reader from
the imagination and thrill of that picture
to the woman and her preparations
for a date.
A: across town
I see this vase as a glass one
to show the water in it clearly.
With the "tickets" image we are
teasing the "Content Providers" and
it is the voice of the Electronics Industry
that invites their interest as well
as being the person who is inviting the
female to entertainment and romance.
B: the juggler catches each bowl
This gives the Content Providers
a positive image to identify with while
advancing the story that the couple
have gone to see an old-fashioned
style of entertainment.
This is the traditional place for
the moon. It might be possible
to go from an image of a white-crested
wave to a snowy hill before a rising moon
[that looks like the hump of a hill].
If many images have been of moving
objects, the moon verse would be ideal
for an elegant still shot of art [of the moon].
The word "echoes" moves from a sound
image to a visual one, and yet combines
the two senses. Moon and flower verses
should maybe have a few seconds more
of time to give them the importance these
beloved images demand.
The image of "a light" connects the moon
and the night and then switches from
being the moon that burns all night to being the
midnight oil burned by someone who works very
hard and long hours – the industry personnel!
Actually the images should show solitude,
(a factor of Japanese winter poetry),
rustic living (sabi –wabi – an old, used,
greatly loved cabin in the snowy mountains).
My verse cannot use the word snow again and
has no water image in the lines, but the visuals
could have the snow and or the water as in a lake
that is missing in the poem.
We need to continue the season of
winter into this verse and also prepare
the reader for the coming of spring.
This is in the character of industries
desire and spring and breaking out of
C: "Does he think of me?" she asks
The desire of industry wanting business
is reflected by Ms. C’s desire for contact.
The milk in the cat’s
dish connects to the color of ice.
A: spots on a hillside
The use of ‘spots" in the first line
should make the reader think of the
cat’s lapping as having small splashes.
But then the image switches to "hillsides"
which is too big of an image for milk splashes.
The second line brings in an outside
image and a favorite one of the Japanese
– cherry trees. Under the cherry trees are those
spots of milk – now as dewy petals.
Fortunately, Mr. A – the Electronics Industry guy
"wetness" which is a conventional sexual
metaphor. The Japanese translator will
probably use the word for "moist" that suggests
dew, tears and sperm, depending on the reader’s
mindset. "Spots" too, are wide open to interpretation.
B: carried away by the wind
The answer to what made the cherry
petals fall is given in the first line and then
the subject changes to "an old man’s
dreams" an apt metaphor for fallen blossoms
and for dreams. According to renga rules,
one can only use the word "dream" once
in a renga and never use the word "woman" –
don’t ask me why. Again this link has no stated
water image, but is instead, one without water
to add to its sadness and loss.
B: not forgotten
The same speaker – B – gets his two links
here. The last line of the previous link
and the first line of this link changes the
meaning of #18 from a negative to a positive
thought. Still it lacks the water because
he is not in the flow.
C: the beachcomber finds
The connection between the verses is in the
child-like pleasures of out-of-doors. The Consumer
Ms. C again is in gathering and reaping mode.
This is an elaboration on the previous
link that expands the size of data from a
message in the bottle to a sea of information.
Where once seas were boundaries to countries,
today with our communication and travel
options, the sea of data connects us.
B: our harbor here is closed
This verse represents everyone’s
fears of connecting.
C: climbing upward
This is a summer image using the paradox of
falling water becoming an upward path
for summer which needs no path – two paradoxes.
This verse invites everyone to move onward and
upward by following the stream of data on one path.
A: swimming laps in a pool
Continuation of the theme of summer.
One man offers to stay home and work harder
while still staying in good shape.
There is a small "joke" of "laps" as
body parts and finger tips.
B: unable to decide
A love verse that has the industry
trying to woo the customer with this
or that –they doesn’t know which option
is the best one to take. The pearl
is the watery image.
C: after setting the date
C uses every opportunity to go shopping.
If you must have a water image,
there is always Pier 49.
A: they meet again
While out shopping, the new couple is joined
by their need for data and things.
You decide of you want this connection
to Mr. Burn’s speech. I can take it out easily.
B: not to be left behind
The ones who would hesitate
get the message and
follow Mr. Burn’s advice given
in his speech
Thus he decides his fate – on a
rainy night. "Rainy night" usually
indicates a sexual encounter.
C: cozy at home
The new consumer does not need to go out
into the rain, but can stay home
and be completely entertained – by the moon
in her window, or on her other window – the device
that brings her the world. This is a
moon verse that should be given
extra consideration, be light-filled,
and a bit longer in duration.
A: fishing nets with holes
A continuation of the use of contrasts,
(out in the rain – cozy at home), (moon – sun),
with the addition of an association (the empty
window – empty holes in the nets)
An autumn verse with the idea
that the electronic technology
wins by being what it is – with
networking. If you must have water
here, you can spray the drying nets
with water so the drops sparkle with the sun.
A: working together
Mr. Technology adds his message
to the autumn scene. No water in the words
here. Still one could find some wet work
shared by several people’s hands such as in
sailing a boat which would lead nicely into the
next link. Also, by having a visual
water image related to non-water image
in the poem, this makes the visuals and poem
work together like a renga. Especially good
with the "working together" idea.
B: lines criss-crossing the globe
Finally everyone understands the need
for an agreed upon structure
even for something as nebulous as water,
or data, in order to proceed. The ladder idea
implies climbing, rising, and success
as well as the shape of the lines of latitude and
longitude. On this, the back page of the renga,
the cuts should be crisp and fast – no soft
fades or blends. The renga is written like a
symphony (Japanese style!) with a soft,
gentle opening (first six verses), then the next
twenty-four verses are a mix of every
thing and any thing in tempo. The last six verses are
snappy, rushed, and usually mention locations but
instead of using specific places I felt only the
whole globe was big enough for this idea.
C: "The Winner"
This verse sets up the idea that
we are seeing the young girl – the consumer –
who is the winner of a beauty contest. The
unknown is – what is a crystal ribbon?
The fact that C has this verse increases the
feeling that the subject is a girl.
Here, she declares her choice.
A. releasing the new koi
Mr. Technology gives his gift
to the larger world. Now it turns out
the "beauty" is the new koi fish. The
"crystal ribbon" is the ridge of water
its dorsal fin makes. Fish symbolize sex,
long life and great happiness. Technology
successfully fulfills the wider audience’s
B: gently waving
Now the leader of the opposing side gives
his assent by nodding his head in the same way
heavily laden boughs of cherry blossoms
move in a spring wind. The renga winds
down with the peace, more happiness and
accomplishment. The traditional cherry
blossoms must be used in this link.
Even with difficulties, spring will come
again and the water of data flows onward
as it goes around the rocks in its path. Also
the springs are what feed the brook and the season
spring brings forth waters and all good things.
I am hoping the translator can find an expression
for our spring – spring wordplay. If not,
the verse can be simply seen the springs being
the source of the water that continues to flow. This
would allow the poem to end as quietly as
the Japanese most desire it to be.
As one can well imagine, the verdict was that the renga was far longer than they needed. The video team was planning on about three minutes running time and this was about twice the amount of words that could be spoken. This was okay. I thought I could do a han-renga, but as I worked on it, somehow I felt the timing was off when one followed the seasons and the subject designations. The poem felt truncated and wrong.
Then I remembered there was the nijuin form devised by the Japanese scholar and poet, Meiga Higashi, in the 1980s and this proved to have the length that was satisfactory to us all. Being the business people they were, the staff felt there were too many "nature-nature" links and they wanted words and images to reference the world of the viewers. So a week later I sent off another "rough draft." Renga writing is supposed to be a collaborative event and now my solo efforts truly became that. Various staff members liked certain links, and rejected others. If my renga was a tapestry, it was unraveled and with the same threads, reassembled with the visions and input of all of us. This version of the renga went through four more revisions and then was presented to the people at Intel for their approval. With a couple more minor changes in single words, they approved it.
Petersen RENGA 4.00
I was told, that due to their involvement with the renga, the office workers at Intel had been so taken with the form that they had started writing their own renga. Unfortunately no one saved their efforts and I never got to see the results, but the idea that renga, even for a few days, brightened the offices of Intel, is a marvelous thought.
Because the presentation was to be in Tokyo, the video team had decided they would have the three actors’ voices speak the renga in English, but on the screen, over the water images, would be the written Japanese kanji. Now we needed a translation. I suggested a Japanese renku writer I knew, knowing that she would understand the form the best and surely be able to render the English in a Japanese version true to the phrasing.
A week later, when we got her work back, we realized that she, evidently thinking she could do better, had rewritten over half of the poem! All the trouble we had gone to getting the approval of the people at Intel was lost. And all the work I had done trying to fulfill everyone’s wishes had been wiped out. Thus, my original poem was now given to a commercial translator. She was used to doing business letters so she rewrote the whole poem into complete sentences with every idea carefully spelled out. I had desperately missed Hatsue Kawamura since her stroke in June, but now grieved the loss of her gentle knowledge of translation all over again, and day after day. I was very unhappy with this version, the video team was already up in Washington state filming the images with the actors, and the date of October 5 was racing toward us.
It was the staff of the Intel offices in Tokyo who finally saved us. They sat down and within a few days had hammered out the Japanese version on which we could agree. With only a few minor corrections, the Japanese was sent off to the calligrapher. Then arose the problem of how to read a renga since the actors had no experience with this. So I made a tape of me reading the renga so they would know how to phrase the lines. Naturally the post office lost the tape and we had to do it all over again by recording off the telephone. The faster we hurried, the slower the work advanced. But with days to spare, the video was finished to everyone’s satisfaction, and sent off to Tokyo.
Later I got an email stating that "the Intel Keynote in Japan went very well and was a huge success. I (my contact person) also heard that they (Intel) were extremely pleased with the Renga concept." A few weeks later a very large check arrived in the mail along with the tape of the video.
Deadline for next issue is
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LYNX XIX:3 October, 2004