A Hundred Gourds 1:4 September 2012
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Tomegaki : The Moons of Jupiter

a difficult case –
even the dentist’s mouth
falls open

              Japanese anonymous

Since I’d never heard of Tomegaki before submitting this imachi for publication at A Hundred Gourds, this one may not be up to expectation.

Last year I participated in five bilingual renku, mostly as sabaki, under the general guidance of Dick Pettit. This one, my first in 2012, has no Dutch participants, but instead two top haijin of Great Britain.

The title suggests quite a variety of changes in themes and scenes, ranging from the splendour of nature to the performance of homely or professional tasks, from children's play to children's tales, from monks to teachers, from the serious to the comic, from the mundane to the sublime, from the heavenly vault to outer space, from love and happiness to guilt and regret, from sunshine to rain, from rich colours to the faded.

Readers have enjoyed particularly the progression of the love verses, the last one some recognised as Francesca da Rimini’s complaint in Dante’s Inferno. Hence the link with the cave mouth, through which Dante entered the underworld. And in the dentist’s verse the word filled. As well as the moving finger, which reminded some of Edward Fitzgerald’s ‘translation’ of Omar Khayyám’s Quatrain; The moving finger writes… and of his inspirational source, the Book of Daniel (the prophesy mené mené tekèl upharsin). But quite apart from the literary reference it is nicely unexpected, very visual and loaded with possible emotions and scenarios. So does an index finger that moves from left to right and back signify a no no.

The link between the werewolf and the liar, unsavoury characters, should not be too difficult to uncover. The other will speak for themselves.

The ageku both contrasts and links positively with the hokku: sun / rain & pale / faded, while also promising an improvement although only briefly: rich (colours). As for the scheme, we followed the winter imachi, one of John Carley’s, at Renku Reckoner.

Paul Mercken


Most of the renku I have been involved with in the past have been longer forms, such as the Kasen, which allow for the jo-ha-kyu structure. I was grateful for the guidance of our sabaki as in this much shorter form the development has to be more intuitive. In the finished poem I particularly enjoy the diversity in the voices of the participants.

Alison Williams

Although I have been involved with haiku literature for quite some years I have had very little experience of linked, participatory poetry and so was very grateful for Paul's guidance and advice in his role as sabaki as I was also to have the benefit of Alison's superior experience. I think meeting of the three minds worked particularly well both because the three contributors were so different in what they brought to the imachi and because they were each so attuned to possible shifts that each offered.

Graham High


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