Looking Back at Spring

The poem below is a Renga, specifically a Nijuin Renga which means it is 20 stanzas long. The Renga is a Japanese form consisting of alternating stanzas composed of a haiku (syllable count of 5-7-5) followed by a waki (syllable count of 7-7). If these were put together they would compose a Tanka. The point of the Renga is a collaborative effort between 2 and up to 20 poets. It is not meant to be a narrative poem and it shouldn’t tell a sequential story. It is supposed to jump around so that the stanzas are connected in some way but there is a shifting either in perspective or tone or topic. The most popular form, Kasen Renga has 36 verses and was made popular in the Edo period (13th century). The Nijuin Renga is shorter and was developed in the 20th century. It almost goes against the whole purpose to write a Renga as a solo effort. It took me about 4 weeks to just get 10 verses done. It left me feeling rather schizophrenic since I’d write and then put it aside and completely forget what I’d written. In the end that accomplished the shifting that would naturally occur with multiple authors. I started this for NPM but it just wasn’t happening. I then tried to enlist the assistance of a friend but she bailed on me to move to North Carolina (she managed one verse)! So I was forced to finish it alone. It has taken me a total of 8 weeks and I’m done. Not that this poem is polished or completed but I’m completely over this. Onward to summer!!

The naked bough shakes
Blushes with unopened buds
The crow laughs out loud

Young girls knock cherry blossoms
Confetti sifts from the sky

New leaves cannot hide
Bare branches and creaking bones
Old whores wear red lips

Old branches still bear sweet fruit
Saplings must respect elders

Cold slows sap’s flow
Take your time to prepare well
Enter with music

A dead stump can sprout green shoots
Ancient ones place lips to lips

Even the earth sings
Spring demands laughter and dance
Dance nude in moonlight

Be awake and be alive
Winter slumber is over

Old is new again
Dead leaves nourish and protect
Arugula blooms

Pear tree strips last year’s dry leaves
Waves arms in ecstatic dance

Crow watches amused
Weathered oak leers at her trunk
Is impotent now

Strong wind plucks flower petals
The crows laugh at the outrage

Crow-comes-back moon shines
Children gather first flowers
Time for a haircut

Shed heavy coats and mittens
Bodies writhe in the wet grass

Birth pangs pierce the night
Drowns lovers’ climatic cries
Yet the crow still laughs

We are not apart from spring
With abandon dance in rain

Snow melt swells rivers
Mingles with Spring’s happy tears
Trilling tree frogs court

Turn my face to the sun’s warmth
Turn my mind to beginnings

Hiding, lovers kiss
Branches moan embraced by winds
Spring procreation

Do not despair finding love
Even toads find a mate

56 thoughts on “Looking Back at Spring

  1. A Gaia dryad renga; I love it! Big surprise. Well done on finishing; I know what that’s like… to lose steam.
    (I did one, once with an online friend that I admired. She was much steadier at maintaining it. *sigh* )
    And thank you, for definition, once again.
    Yay, you!

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    1. Gosh thanks Janet! I worked on this for so long and felt that it was just not working… I’m thrilled that you think the shift was noticeable and effective!! I hope you are feeling better (and stronger). Have your treatments started yet??

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    1. Thanks tons! The weekend here is very cold – I had to wear a coat tonight to go to the grocery… It rained all day and the wind has been gusting. Sparky is going to sweep the leaves that blew off the trees off the front porch and sidewalk. You’d think it was autumn already!

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        1. The sun finally came out – Sparky is mowing since all the rain has made the grass grow and we are going to get more… Had to do it or end up in trouble!

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    1. Thank-you! I’m tickled that you think it amazing… It was a feeling of victory once I finished – just finishing was good enough for me but all the kudos makes the work worth it…

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  2. I like neither poetry nor ceramics, and yet I love your blog. Amazing. This poem was typical of how you overcome my aversion and lure me in, making me read it a second time to savor the complexities that initially turned me off.

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  3. Wow, just wow… you nailed it Val..👏👏👏i love how it effortlessly flow together, and yet each verse can be read as one separate poem

    And the last verse…epic 🤗🤗🤗

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    1. That you like this one Michelle makes my heart happy. It was a big effort and I’m delighted that you loved it! Yes that last verse was a stroke of inspiration (we had to put wire fencing rolls in the window wells to keep the feral cats from using them as litter boxes and as we were cleaning them out discovered a toad…)

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  4. incredible effort Val and the result is truly amazing! No excuse for not collaborating, you have a plethora of poets here to recruit … 6 ladies did a great creative effort a few years ago 🙂

    Needed the explanation at the beginning or I would have been lost … not a style I’m keen to try but really appreciate your gem

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    1. Thank you Kate! I was thinking my friend would come through but in the end it was just me… Since it was already half done I felt bad asking any of the wonderful poets here to bail me out. Now next time I plan a Renga I’ll be sure to ask for volunteers! I got into the habit of explaining the poem forms for my mother and a couple others. It seems that if you put that out there it can give a point of reference for the reader… I’m honored that you liked this one! Thanks again!

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    1. I am overjoyed that you liked this one and very delighted that you think it perfect! I am guessing that you are able to see more clearly and are back at the computer, yes?? I can’t wait to read some more of the words that flow from you…. I love you!

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      1. Maybe because there was less back-and-forth between the two poetic cultures and maybe because they were never popularized and made mainstream by guys like Ezra Pound. I also think that because Japanese has more than one writing style — including two that are phonetic — it’s probably easier to make a formal approximation in English.

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        1. The only Chinese form that I’ve heard of is the Chueh-chu which has a monorhyme and meter of 7 syllable or 5 syllable lines. Seems that none of the Japanese forms that I’ve seen have a rhyme. I would have thought that the presence of rhyme would have made it more attractive to western poets… But you have whetted my appetite for Chinese poetry by introducing me to your “bean” poets!

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  5. Beautifully written. I love the idea of doing a poem as a collaborative effort – though in practice, I can see how difficult it would be to pull off.

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    1. Thanks Sheryl! The collaborative poem is an endeavor that is hard for many Western poets to come to grips with because credit has to be shared (and too many refuse to do that). Now if I could find some willing participants I’d have some fun!!

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  6. I am a dunce, at noticing subtleties, but I do sense the shift that you say perplexed you for so long. Even with my being far more prose writer than poet, this works very well.,

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