CHRIS RICE COOPER is a newspaper writer, feature stories writer, poet, fiction writer, photographer, and painter. She maintains a blog at https://chrisricecooper.blogspot.com. She has a Bachelor's in Criminal Justice and completed all of her poetry and fiction workshops required for her Master’s in Creative Writing with a focus on poetry. She, her husband Wayne, sons Nicholas and Caleb, cats Nation and Alaska reside in the St. Louis area.
Wednesday, November 5, 2014
Scripted Interview With Six Kasen Renku Poets . . .
collaborative poets are American poets,Joyce
Brinkman (Indiana and Florida) and Carolyn Kreiter-Foronda (Virginia); and
global poets Catherine Aubelle (France), Flor Aguilera García (Mexico), Gabriele Glang (Germany) and Kae Morii (Japan).
Seasons of Sharing is structured
into the four seasons, each global poet having her own season:“Spring Light” by Catherine Aubelle; “Summer Wind” by Flor Aguilera García; “Autumn Rain” by
Kae Morii; and “Winter Sky” by
Joyce composes the first stanza, the
global poet responds in the second stanza, Carolyn responds to the global poet
in the third stanza, and the global poet responds to Carolyn in the fourth
stanza.This pattern is followed
throughout the poem.All of the poems
were originally written in English.Each
global poet later translated the poem into her native language.
What is Kasen?What is renku?And how are both related to each other and to
Joyce: A kasen renku is a particular form of Japanese renga
(linked-verse in English) poetry.There
are various forms of renku with different requirements, such as number of lines
and/or subjects.A kasen renku has 36
stanzas, for instance, and has certain images that must appear in certain
verses.The renku in our book are
modified kasen renku because a normal kasen renku would move from season to
season in specified verses of the poem.We wanted to concentrate on just one season, but we kept the image
requirements for moon, love and flowers.
What does a kasen renku
give to you that no other form of poetry can?
Carolyn: This form of poetry
encourages us to delve deeper into understanding nature’s enigmas.It challenges our observational skills to
notice what we’ve missed before in a woodland setting, in the midair flutter of
damselflies, or in a sparring contest between blackbirds and grackles.It demands that we select the most expressive
words and order them in a lyrically engaging way that captivates the reader.
Joyce:Kasen renku, because of its rich tradition,
gives us the opportunity to connect with the historic and the immediate at the
Kae:This form of
Kasen renku is excellent.It basically
follows the renku rules, which function even in English. As a result, everyone
can enjoy it.The first phrase is very
important to establish a subject for two guest poets.Three poets in unison wheel their
intentions, feelings, ideas and rhythms.They play a melody, which resonates with each other.Then it returns into each heart as a melody,
along with some codes.At first, no one
can know the ending, but at the end we see a descriptive scenery, story, and
tone.It's a thrilling exploration,
which requires momentary motivation.The meeting in Kasen renku is a very precious treasure for us.
Flor: It makes you feel like
you are part of a very wise and beautiful tradition. It’s all about the
connection created as both readers and writers, which through this form becomes
Gabriele: This form of
cooperative writing demands even more discipline, cooperation and precision,
because some overall vision must be sustained. One author can’t just go off on
a tangent, dancing a quick, hot tango with some darling or other just because
it’s splashy. It’s rather more like a symphony: if you want interesting
harmonies and even disharmonies, there has to be some kind of higher order, you
have to listen deeply to each other, respond in an appropriate and authentic
way. It’s not about individual egos, but rather about coherence, creating a
Catherine: In any form, poetry
broadens the ground to converse, to make connections, even with oneself.
Precisely, a kasen renku brings manifest signs of an inherent bond between the
I felt I could approach the other writers closely somehow,
despite the huge distances and differences among us. This mode of writing
conveys, more than in other forms, the acceptance of spaces, the recognition of
disparities. On another level, that "game" induces partners to write
back and forth. Since I love playing, a kasen renku is definitely a way of
doing so, often unexpectedly, which is even better.
What is your favorite
kasen renku from this collection?
Carolyn:I honestly can’t say that I like one
better than the rest.Working with five
writers, whose voices vary considerably, was more enriching than I envisioned
when Joyce launched this project.I have
always welcomed the inspiration spring and summer bring.
I live in a certified wildlife retreat,
populated by numerous birds, ranging from hummingbirds to Carolina wrens to
egrets, eagles, and owls.Yet while
writing the “Winter Sky” poem, the stillness of winter led me into
uncharted territory inspired by world upheavals.And the season of autumn allowed me to
reflect on the calming effects of a “rainbow’s gemmed light”
and the “wind’s
huge heart.”Each partner’s
lines prompted unexpected surprises in the lines I produced next.
Joyce:I don’t have a favorite poem from the book.As the sabaki of the renku, I had the
responsibility of starting the poems.If
my first verses didn’t set the right tone or inspire the poet who followed me,
the poems would not work properly.I can
say that I am equally pleased with the starts I gave to each poem.
Every poem also found a solid foundation
thanks to the excellent work of Carolyn through all the seasons and on into the
preparation of the manuscript.Carolyn
is the queen of punctuation and a fabulous resource as a partner in verse
the other hand, I can say that there are certain lines in each that are strong
contenders for best verse.
“Autumn Rain” Kae’s reference to the “magnolia buds” in Japan was similar to
what I see in lilacs in Indiana:
Winter will pierce black earth. O!
Magnolia buds—soon spring’s crown.
had given me a book of Gabi’s poems, and I had been impressed.Gabi didn’t disappoint as she joined us with
such lines as “In my cup milk blooms—one tear/ disturbs this chill, murky pond.”With
that line I taste winter in the air and feel it in my soul.
I didn’t know Catherine at all, it was a great delight when she answered my first
“Spring Light” verse with “A thin slit in dawn’s membrane / slakes remote
lines’ thirst with yolk.” I knew
immediately this was a poet with imagination who could make you see the usual
in unusual ways.
Flor’s great closing lines in “Summer Wind" - "Fixed to us: dirt, dust, drama/ of countless rainy seasons," always stay with me.
Kae:Just as all seasons are filled with
beautiful meaning, each Kasen renku impressed me with the rich words, excellent
inspiration, and deep thought of each poet.Each poet has a different cultural background, and I also reveal in my
work a Japanese naturalism, feeling, and poetic style.
The white carnations in the darkness of night
by Joyce, the icicle lights and wounded children's souls by Carolyn . . . the
beautiful figure by prominent poets gave me a deep sadness with the impact of
the word.While writing renku, we were
also the readers around the world, and I appreciate this great project and the
wonderful title: Seasons of Sharing,
by the meaningful inspiration of Joyce.We share the phenomenon of this world.
Flor: I have not had the
opportunity to read all the seasons, but because I love to travel, especially
with my mind, I can´t wait to travel to Japan, France and Germany as I read the
poems in this collection.
I am very grateful to be part of this, and I learned
so much from Carolyn and Joyce. It was as if I was being fed by two wonderful
Gabriele: I live in southern
Germany on the Swabian Alb, where each season has its distinct qualities. I’m a
painter, as well, so I savor each season’s gifts.
So, too, these poems
fascinate me equally. And even though they can be read as individual poems, in
their entirety they are one long piece of music that works as a whole.
Catherine: It seems to me that
every line chips in the whole and assumes its role!
Can you describe your favorite
seasons in your home country and how they are different from other seasons in
other parts of the world?
Catherine (Spring in
My home is in the northern part of France, in a town, not very far from the
In the region where I live, springs are shy. One has to pierce the
membrane around the sun of a chilly morning to discover what transformations
nature is going through. The river Somme surrounded by ponds runs a few hundred
meters away from my house.
The light is special here because of water being everywhere
and the land is flat. Seasons like spring and fall make it even more
The sun is seldom as bright as it is in the south of France,
although one can find its luminosity refracted or enhanced everywhere by a
morning dew, a mist, or a haze above the surface of water…
Flor Aguilera García
(Summer in Mexico):Summer is our season of
rain, and with the rain so much happens. In the city, the rain comes in the
afternoon. We call them chaparrones, these desperately loud torrents, which
last for a half hour and then stop to begin again. In some provinces it rains
through the night and then ends abruptly, almost miraculously in the earliest
Dawn’s bird songs: tweet and
twiddle Fall silent when morning rains.
the coast it rains at night, great thundershowers, which make the sky and the
ocean light up. It’s a tremendous sight.It’s a beautiful season, but can often bring great destruction.
Verses lay down on the roofs.
Hurricane kissed them goodnight.
the morning there are often very soft showers. Because most children are on
vacation from school, they get used to swimming under the rain.
While tanned girls sway their wet
braids Splashing rivers of laughter.
By September the dark clouds
dissipate, but everything has already been touched by the months of rain. The
world is bright green, red, pink, orange and white. Rain is life and it is
death. It happens every year. We expect the rain and many wait for it with
anxiety and with joy. It is our ritual, our only real season.
Fixed to us: dirt, dust, drama of countless rainy seasons.
Kae Morii (Autumn in
Japan):I was born in Osaka, but now I live in Ibaraki, which looks up onto Mt.
In my childhood, our family
dressed in Kimono and enjoyed the traditional poem card game every New Year’s
Now with Mt. Tsukuba in my window,
I’m reminded of ancient poets gathered at the foot of it to enjoy poems.I have visited other countries for poetry.
But please allow me to say:We poets
live in poetry.
Autumn in Japan starts with the various
ringing of insects under the silent starlit night, which deepens our sentiment
after the death of cicadas.The cool
wind over the river swings the silver ears of Japanese pampas grass.Two rabbits in the moon celebrate the rich
rice field.Chrysanthemums perfume the
air, and the trees turn to yellow and red.
The vivid red leaf of the Japanese maple is like a figure of life in the
golden leaves of mountains and temples.And
the autumn deeply breathes with the last glow.
Gabriele Glang (Winter
in Germany): On
the Swabian Alb, about 650 meters above sea level, we have fogs that seem to
last from November through March. You can get a little stir crazy, not being
able to see your front yard.
It can also be very cold for a month or more, so
those fogs - when they finally dissolve for a few hours - leave an inch-thick
rind of frost on everything from telephone lines to spiders’ webs.
On the other
hand, if we’re lucky, we get lovely snows. There’s nothing quite like taking a
morning off to cross-country ski. All I have to do is put on my skis under our
carport, and I’m already making tracks across pristine fields of snow, into the
Carolyn (Summer in
Virginia, United States):Although summers on the
Chesapeake Bay are generally hot and humid, this has always been my favorite
The earth comes alive with
vibrant colors during June, July, and August, and the musical calls of
migratory birds lace the air.I can
kayak on creeks in the early evenings without having to worry about darkness
descending until 9:00 p.m.
educator, I take a much-needed break during the summer.Because I’m less stressed with
daily obligations, I spend quality time creating—either writing poems or
painting abstract works of art. As a result, I found “Summer
easiest to compose.Here’s a
brief excerpt, which illustrates the vibrancy of this time of year.
Joyce (Autumn in
Indiana, United States):Maybe because I was
born in October, autumn has always been my favorite season.I think I’ve become a more disciplined
writer, but early on I did most of my writing in autumn because nature seems to
call me to write.
line from “Autumn Rain” captures the season for me:“Smoke’s aroma coils /from chimneys chastened
since spring. / The bell’s riin-riin fades.” Fall brings me the delights of evening fires
and the last songs of the summer bugs.I
imagine that in Japan the bell cricket’s riin-riin fades from the fireplace
like the chirp of the cricket in my American chimney. Fall’s a season of sounds
and smells. It is a season of color with
“red tears from burning bushes,” when “Water washes leaves / from the gray elm
husband thinks all of the falling leaves and browning earth is depressing, but
I’ve always been able to find this closing of a growth period as a time of
reflection and a time of expectation because I believe “The red
plum’s stone waits. / Watch!Dwell
in expectation. / Iris will return.”
Description and Copyright Information
cover of Seasons of Sharing
logo for leap frog press
Brinkman at the Indianapolis Art Center Park
granted by Joyce Brinkman
granted by Carolyn Kreiter-Foronda
granted by Catherine Aubelle
granted by Flor Aguilera García
granted by Gabriele Glang
granted by Kae Morii
Light” painting attributed to Catherine Aubelle
granted by Catherine Aubelle
Wind” painting attributed to Flor Aguilera García
granted by Flor Aguilera García
Rain” painting by Kae Morii
granted by painting Kae Morii
Sky” painting by Gabriele Glang
from the “Autumn Rain” portion of Seasons of Sharing, pages 54 and
pages 64, in English and then Japanese translation; with red wooden hearts
against blue fabric
Century Illustration featured in a Japanese telephone advertisement
screen of ink and color on gold leaf
to Tani Buncho
Maples in Nara, Japan
Attributed to Catherine Aubelle
granted by Catherine Aubelle and Gabriele Glang
view down into the valley from the Türkheim Alb. This is a late snow - because
underneath, the hillsides are covered with carpets of leucojum vernum, the
spring snowflake - a relative of the snowdrop - which are called Märzenbecher
here, "March cups".
to Gabriele Glang
granted by Gabriele Glang
to Gabriele Glang
granted by Gabriele Glang
Kretier-Foronda at Village Lights Bookstore with the cat Oscar Wilde.
granted by Carolyn Kreiter-Foronda.
of food chain for waterbirds of the Chesapeake Bay.
to Matthew C Perry
Brinkman at Village Lights Bookstore with Anne Vestato, who owns Village Lights
Bookstore with her husband, Nathan Montoya. The cat's name is Oscar
Wilde, another bookstore cat.