A Hundred Gourds 4:2 March 2015

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The Heart of an Onion
             — Rasika, a renku of 8 verses.

a journey
to the heart of an onion …


the steady rhythm
on the chopping board


strains of sitar
and my hand in yours
this balmy night


children having left
we recall old jokes


setting moon
trapped in a dewdrop


I am
what I make of dreams


daffodils push through
the thawing earth


the horizon rises
on a frothy wave


Anitha Varma, Kerala, India
Shrikaanth Krishnamurthy, Birmingham, United Kingdom
created and led by Kala Ramesh, Pune, India

Started on 1st December 2014 and completed, 8th December, 2014

Twilight of Dawn
          — Rasika, a renku of 8 verses.

twilight of dawn . . .
a hawk circles above
the treetops


two grey squirrels
surging from branch to branch


dressed in light clothes
the newly weds
thank the bank manager


by now their squabbles
have become legendary


every blue moon
those pesky leprechauns
take bold chances


an advancing wave
wets my mind


ripples of wisteria
the stone Buddha


away from the hustle and bustle
the joy of birdsong


Barbara A. Taylor, Australia
Gisele LeBlanc, Canada
created and led by Kala Ramesh, Pune, India

Started on 5th December and finished on 14th December


Renku or renga [collaborative poetry] is a genre of Japanese short forms of poetry. Two of the most famous masters of renga were the Buddhist priest Sogi (1421–1502) and Master Basho (1644–1694). Renga/renku was one of the most important literary arts in pre-modern Japan. When teaching renku to beginners in schools and colleges or during Haiku Utsavs that we have in India, I felt the shortest renku, junicho was a wee bit too long, for all we can spare for renku is around 2 hours and John Carley’s Yotsumono [of just 4 verses] is surely not for beginners who need to learn the nuances when going on a renku trip.

Necessity is the mother of inventions— I’ve been thinking for some time now about this problem when teaching renku to beginners and I hit upon a new form of renku! Thus it looks like my version is based on the need to have a shorter version of renku, without sacrificing on the aesthetics of this 400 year old art form that has come to us from Master Basho’s time— the shofu-style of renku which is essentially anti-thematic. “Rasa” means the emotional essence in Indian aesthetics. “Rasika” is one who enjoys the rasa. So I wish to call this short renku “Rasika”.

Rasika has 8 verses set as in traditional junicho style. The jo-ha-kyu are not clearly demarcated. The number of kaishi (writing sheets) is just one. I’m keeping this renku very flexible regarding the inclusion of the usual 4 seasons in renku, meaning spring, summer, autumn and winter. Since we do not have the space and the number of verses to include all the four seasons, we can pick and choose just 2 or 3. It has the conventional moon and blossom verse and of course the “love verses’ without which a renku seems incomplete. The link and shift is strong, and the leaps can be wide, since it is not a 36 verse structure of Kasen, which can afford to have small shifts.

As often practised:
Long verses will be of 3 lines [about 14 sound structures or syllables]
Short verses will be of 2 lines [about 11 sound structures or syllables counts]

Rasika Schema:

1. long - hokku | winter
2. short – wakiku | ns
3. long - daisan | su/lv
4. short | ns/lv
5. long | au mn
6. short | ns
7. long | sp bl
8. short - ageku| ns

The renku above are two trials I carried out: The first was within our Indian group: IN haiku. My special thanks to Anitha Varma and Shrikaanth Krishnamurthy for being enthusiastic, or rather for being the more daring renkujin to join me in this experiment. I found that it does work and we finished the renku in a very short time.

I tried this out the second trip with international renkujin immediately. My special thanks to Barbara A. Taylor and Gisele LeBlanc for so enthusiastically joining me on this trp. I now know I will be able to hold renku workshops and, participants can get their first taste of this beautiful art form, without sacrificing any essential ingredient in the art of renku writing.

Kala Ramesh

I want to dedicate Rasika to Norman Darlington, Moira Richards and to the late John Carley from whom I learnt the art of writing renku.


“I’ve been involved with renku and Japanese short forms for almost 10 years and enjoy very much the process of creative spontaneity in collaboration with others. The name, rasika, appeals to me. Was very pleased to participate in this new shorter form, and particularly enjoyed the speed at which we moved through poetic links and shifts. Thank you Kala, for your invitation.”

Barbara A Taylor

"I was very excited when Kala Ramesh invited me to participate in this experimental eight verse renku form. Being quite new to the art of renku myself, I found the shorter "Rasika" much less intimidating than its longer counterparts, yet it still offered the opportunity to immerse myself in the nuances and basic elements of renku writing. I hope it entices many more poets to explore this wonderful art form."

G.R. LeBlanc

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