seven renshi


The other week I had the pleasure of meeting several poets in Kyoto for a shinnenkai party at which, in addition to plenty of eating and drinking, we wrote seven collaborative renshi (連詩) poems and a host of haiku (俳句) as well.  There are several ways to write renshi, which are often referred to as “linked poems,” but in this particular case the pages were folded in such a way that each person could only see the line that had most recently been added and not the rest of the poem.  In other words, conscious links were able to be made from line to line, but the poem as a whole was unable to be seen until after the entire poem had been completed.  Finally, the poems were given titles.

What’s so special about renshi is the way in which the poem as a whole unfolds its own inner poetic logic.  Since the poem is written without an express set of intentions informing the poem, it would seem as if the poem as a whole should seem a bit random in character — like a version Frankenstein’s monster that has been so hastily cobbled together that feet have been attached where hands should be, while the eyes are looking out of the back of the head.  However, somehow the inner poetic logic of each line guides the next just enough that the poem as a whole feels perfectly complete, one part running naturally into the next as if some secret steersman were guiding the whole affair safely down the river.

The party was held at the beautiful machiya house of Stijn Caron, a writer from Belgium, and his lovely wife.  The writers involved in the renshi game included Keiji Minato (湊圭史), Atsusuke Tanaka (田中宏輔), Yoko Danno (團野葉子), Sumikura Mariko (すみくら まりこ), Taniuchi Hiroshi (谷内洋), Stijn Caron, and myself.  Several people in this group are associated with the Japan International Poetry Society (JIPS), and in addition Yoko Danno is one of the editors of Ikuta Press, while Sumikura Mariko and Stijn Caron are both working on an upcoming Japanese-English review of poetry that will be called AMA-HASHI (天橋).

Here are the seven poems that we wrote, in no particular order.  (At times I have made some very minor emendations.)


Snow has hidden everything.
Everything above the land, everything under the land
alive and breathing like stars in the sky.
“Let’s eat stars!” (Nanao Sakaki)
Because we are going to be seen, heard, touched.
It matters!
Ice-cream is already melting.

Eternity, an Hourglass

On the rack, all the magazines
stand neatly and
appear soon
like an angel,
looking for a word to explain “eternity.”
The sun over an empty desert, dripping heat —
let’s have a glass of wine for a change.

Under the Vague Light (Let’s Spin Happiness)

Life is long, art is short, or vice versa?
Or is art a long dress that spins and spins in happiness?
Someone says the life is like the vegetable soup, but I say the vegetable soup is like the life.
And all the letters in my mind, hard boiled,
read many times, prove my theory.
Under vague light of the dawn
tomorrow meets yesterday.

Sweet Things Fill Our Lives

What do you want except for nice foods and nice drinks?
A red bicycle and women’s shoes, maybe,
all brightly shining.
Light and shadow,
you and I,
a pair of immigrating birds
drop over the horizon, into a dream of night.

Dream of Hourglass

At the thinnest point of the hourglass
this morning I found four crocuses blooming under snow
which is the green pulse of spring, I thought.
What have you seen, the most beautiful scenery?
Why do you always ask me questions?
My answer is always the same, you know.
All ends beautifully.

Colors for Dinner

The flavor of imaginary jade
becomes the sound, it stays in the mind.
What was on the table separates —
two sets of dishes for us,
happiness on the table,
dice on a dice,
white on white.

Sand Life

A lines of trees make shade.
I’m hiding myself in the shade,
until every sand in the hourglass falls
and the mist disperses.
Sunlight, finally,
we are family — brothers, lovers, parents and children, enemies —
because the sand will never touch.

9 Responses to “seven renshi”

  1. I did enjoy reading our renshi again! It was a lovely evening, warmed by the joy of collaboration, although it was cold outside. Thank you very much, Trane, for recording the occasionn so nicely! I feel happy to have been a part of it all. Yoko

    • 2 Trane DeVore

      Hi Yoko-san — Being there and having a chance to write together was totally my pleasure. Writing in company with just a touch of 日本酒 to add to the 墨 is the way to do it! Who knows when the next time will be, but I’m looking forward to that chance, whenever it can be caught.

  2. 3 Sky

    These are beeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeyuteeful!

    • 4 Trane DeVore

      I’m glad you like them — we had such a wonderful time writing them. I think it helped that there had just recently been a big snow; somehow the swirling flakes fit in perfectly with the mood of language drift.

  3. Thanks for the nice message. I’ve reposted it on my blog.

    • 6 Trane DeVore

      Great! I’ll link to the haiku as well, which I’m glad that you added. Thanks again for playing host as such a wonderful event.

  4. 7 田中宏輔




    ぼくの Facebook に貼り付けさせていただきました。

    • 8 Trane DeVore

      こにちわ田中さん! Commentはありがとう。 きっとfacebookの友達に成る! 

  5. ちょっと訳してみました! いかがでしょうか。


















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