* Contests Open for Links * *Winners List *

Maheecoozookay - Doing the Maekuzuke

The maekuzuke, as we have been running it here is not working - as you may have noticed. 'Everybody' wants to start a poem and no one wants to hang around long enough to finish the job by picking a winner. Still I think the idea has legs so we are going to try a shorter version. Here is how it works:

1. Go to the 'Contests Open for Links' where only one poem is listed for one month.

2. Send in your link which 'finishes' the poem. Remember to make leaps - don't stay on the same subject but have one that only associates.

3. At the end of a month all the entries will be posted with one of them picked as WINNER. You will be notified by email if your link won.

4. Also one of the entries sent in will also be picked to start the next month's contest and will be posted. Thus, the game will go on.

The game is old but may be new to you, so please read up on it before starting.


By the 16th century, Japan had gone through several political revolutions which had drastically changed not only people's lives and livelihoods, but also had a pronounced effort in literature. Whereas it was once the nobility who had the power, wealth and time to engage in poetry, and only a few decades ago it was the warrior class who had taken over literature as well as everything else, now the merchant class had expanded in size and influence to the point their needs were now those expressed in the culture. Thus, in Edo, which is now called Tokyo, the formal courtly poems called tanka were replaced with collaborative works where poets joined and taught businessmen that they also had poetry in them.

One of the activities that grew to great popularity was a game begun with the intent of educating the merchants while permitting them to have fun at the same time.

Then, as now, at the end of the work day, men did not head for home (where the wife and several children were squeezed into a small room) but made the rounds of their favorite rice wine bars. To wile away the hours between the drinks and the tedium of listening to the same old stories, poetry contests were organized in the following manner.

A poet was hired to write either a three-line poem (closely resembling what we today call haiku) or a two-line poem (which corresponds to a link in a renga). He (it was always a male) wrote out his poem-part on a sheet of paper. This was posted in the bar with a date when the contest ended.

The patrons would then try to come up with the best possible lines to complete the five lines for a whole poem. Each person could brush on their idea, place a wager (the betting made it even more popular) and the contest fee with the bartender. When the contest closed the bartender paid the poet who had written the original starting poem-part to judge which completing link he felt was the best.

The results were posted, the wagers paid and the winner was celebrated with free drinks. The need for poets to write and judge maheecoozookay (MAEKUZUKE) gave poets a source of income, taught the men a bit about linking poetry and added new interest to the hours spent in the bar.

Considering that maheecoozookay were written (often) under the influence of alcohol and within the barroom atmosphere, the works took on a quality not often found in the more *elegant* forms of poetry. The links were earthy, the thoughts of men, attempts at one-up-manship, vents for anger or dissatisfaction with bosses, fellow-workers, wives and unfaithful sweethearts. Because the links were not signed with their true names (if signed at all; often the bar patrons knew each other well enough there was no need to sign one's link) the anonymity permitted more truthfulness and honesty than the regimented poetry of the academians.

Japanese have always loved repartee and innuendo and wordplay has always been admired in their poetry so the maheecoozookay permitted workers to show they too had something to say and would spin words and meaning with the best of them.

One of the poets who wrote and judged the maheecoozookay contests began to collect the best of the responses into books. Unable to bring himself to use his name as editor of the anthologies, he used his own pen-name Senryu (sen-drew). The popularity of the sale and reading of these books, gave the name senryu to the form. However, as with any literary form, there can only so much be done in the form before it must be changed. Thus, the books of senryu became rougher and nastier -- more biting and satirical until they were virtually unprintable. With this the senryu form fell into disuse by writers. Poets felt themselves to be far above the form. Yet, because this genre of poetry was written and collected it did have an influence on the later form we know as haiku.

Yet today, a Japanese poet will know about senryu but only an amateur would admit to writing one. Some English writers, confused by misinformation by earlier translators of Japanese poetry, are unsure of whether their haiku are really haiku or should be called senryu because the forms are so similar. Both have three lines of 5-7-5 syllables, contain the line break, use phrases and word play and both can have a sense of humor. The only difference is in how one reads a poem. If it is written with double meanings one can innocently read it as a profound experience while the man-on-the-street is laughing deep belly guffaws at a poem explaining a sexual experience.

And, yet today in small neighborhood bars in Japan, the men take great delight in catching each other with riddles and jokes, the basic element of writing maheecoozookay.

Maekuzuke Online

Because online is open to persons of all ages, both gender, and many beliefs, we cannot (and should not) here do the traditional Japanese Maekuzuke. However, we can duplicate the basic procedure, have some fun learning a new way of bending words and thoughts. Learn the methods here and what you decide to do with your knowledge is up to you. Keeping in mind the online audience, these games can be just a witty and convoluted, but saving certain subjects for their places. Also, we won't be taking wagers on who wins! But our winners will get small token prizes!

bulletWrite either a two-line poem of not more that seven syllables in each line or write a three-line haiku containing not more than 17 syllables.
bulletSend your poem on the form below the current poem.
bulletBe sure to include your email address so you can be notified of your win and collect your prize.
bulletCheck back to see if your poem is the one picked to be open for linkage for the next month.
bulletAuthors, your links always remain in your copyright but by sending them to us you are loaning them to us to display and care for in the library.

Hot Key it over to see other Contests Open for Links .

Form to use to send in your link. If for some reason the form fails to work. you can always send your link by regular email by putting MAEKU in the subject line.

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