Wednesday, November 5, 2014

Scripted Interview With Six Kasen Renku Poets . . .

Christal Cooper 2,400 Words

Seasons of Sharing

       This past September of 2014 the Kasen Renku Collection Seasons of Sharing was published by Leapfrog Press( 

      The 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 Gabriele Glang.

      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 haiku?

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 same time.

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 indistinguishable.

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 seamless whole.

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 participants. 

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 cant 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 “rainbows gemmed light” and the “winds huge heart.”  Each partners 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 making. 

On the other hand, I can say that there are certain lines in each that are strong contenders for best verse.

In “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.

Carolyn 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.

Since 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.

And 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 gourmets.

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 France): My home is in the northern part of France, in a town, not very far from the Channel. 

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 particular. 

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 morning.

Dawn’s bird songs: tweet and twiddle                           Fall silent when morning rains.                                                   

In 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.

In 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. Tsukuba.   

In my childhood, our family dressed in Kimono and enjoyed the traditional poem card game every New Year’s day.   

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 snow-silent woods.

Carolyn (Summer in Virginia, United States):  Although summers on the Chesapeake Bay are generally hot and humid, this has always been my favorite season.  

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.  

As an educator, I take a much-needed break during the summer.  Because Im 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 Wind” the easiest to compose.  Heres a brief excerpt, which illustrates the vibrancy of this time of year.

Sonorous ode—these
deciduous limbs tossing
their indulgent fruit.

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.

This 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 tree’s branches.”

My 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.”

Photo Description and Copyright Information

Photo 1
Jacket cover of Seasons of Sharing

Photo 2
Web logo for leap frog press

Photo 3
Joyce Brinkman at the Indianapolis Art Center Park
Copyright granted by Joyce Brinkman

Photo 4
Carolyn Kreiter-Foronda
Copyright granted by Carolyn Kreiter-Foronda

Photo 5
Catherine Aubelle
Copyright granted by Catherine Aubelle

Photo 6
Flor Aguilera García
Copyright granted by Flor Aguilera García

Photo 7
Gabriele Glang
Copyright granted by Gabriele Glang

Photo 8
Kae Morii
Copyright granted by Kae Morii

Photo 9
“Spring Light” painting attributed to Catherine Aubelle
Copyright granted by Catherine Aubelle

Photo 10
“Summer Wind” painting attributed to Flor Aguilera García
Copyright granted by Flor Aguilera García

Photo 11
“Autumn Rain” painting by Kae Morii
Copyright granted by painting Kae Morii

Photo 12
“Winter Sky” painting by Gabriele Glang

Photo 13
Excerpt 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

Photo 14
Image “Moon, Love, And Flowers”
Photo by Christal Rice Cooper
Copyright granted by Christal Rice Cooper

Photo 15
Female common bluetail damselfly
Attributed to fir0002 |

Photo 16
Two left black hand jewelry stands holding a cardboard red globe and six wooden hearts painted red.
Photography by Christal Rice Cooper
Copyright by Christal Rice Cooper

Photo 17
Catherine Aubelle
Attributed to Gabriele Glang
Copyright granted by Catherine Aubelle and Gabriele Glang

Photo 18
Carolyn Kreiter-Foronda
Copyright granted by Carolyn Kreiter-Foronda

Photo 19
Joyce Brinkman holding her cat Bobb
Copyright granted by Joyce Brinkman

Photo 20
Photograph of Magnolia hypoleuca, taken in Machida city, Tokyo, Japan. (cropped and resized)
Sphl put it under the GFDL, cc-by-sa-2.5, cc-by-sa-2.1-jp

Photo 21
Fake rose petals blossoming in a mug of fresh cold milk with blue fabric backdrop.
Attributed to Christal Rice Cooper
Copyright by Christal Rice Cooper

Photo 22
Kae Morii
Copyright granted by Kae Morii

Photo 23
Village Lights Bookstore’s front window fearing Seasons of Sharing books.

Photo 24
Flor Aguilera García
Copyright granted by Flor Aguilera García

Photo 25
Gabriele Glang painting.
Attributed to Catherine Aubelle
Copyright granted by Catherine Aubelle and Gabriele Glang

Photo 26
Mouth of the River Somme and the English Channel
August 4 2012
Attributed to Kim Traynor

Photo 27
Somme River
GNU Free Documentation License

Photo 28
Catherine Aubelle painting
Copyright granted by Catherine Aubelle

Photo 29
Flor Aguilera Garcia
Copyright granted by Flor Aguilera García

Photo 30
Photo of falling rain in downtown Leon, Guanjuato, Mexico
Photo taken on may 8, 2012
Copyright granted by
Wikinedia Commons CCBYSA3.0

Photo 31
Kae Morii
Copyright granted by Kae Morii

Photo 32
19th Century Illustration featured in a Japanese telephone advertisement
Public Domain

Photo 33
Mt Tsukuba
Six-fold screen of ink and color on gold leaf
Attributed to Tani Buncho
Public Domain

Photo 34
Fall Maples in Nara, Japan
Public Domain

Photo 35
Gabriele Glang
Attributed to Catherine Aubelle
Copyright granted by Catherine Aubelle and Gabriele Glang

Photo 36
The 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".
Attributed to Gabriele Glang
Copyright granted by Gabriele Glang

Photo 37
Fields-turned-cross-country skiing heaven
Attributed to Gabriele Glang
Copyright granted by Gabriele Glang

Photo 38
Carolyn Kretier-Foronda at Village Lights Bookstore with the cat Oscar Wilde.
Copyright granted by Carolyn Kreiter-Foronda.

Photo 39
Diagram of food chain for waterbirds of the Chesapeake Bay.
Attributed to Matthew C Perry
Public Domain

Photo 40
Joyce 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.
Copyright granted by Joyce Brinkman.

Photo 41
The Constitutional Elm
Attributed to William Forsyth
Painting conducted in Corydon, Indiana
Painting located at Indianapolis Museum of Art
Public Domain

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