Renhai Reflections 24: On the Edge (Reverse Renhai)

A few weeks ago I got to thinking about the process of how we have been writing Renhai. In those early days, over a year ago, it made the most sense to start with the middle verse and work out, as if the Renhai was a seed that was sprouting. I wondered, "Did it have to be this way? Could a Renhai actually be written in a reverse manner?" I subsequently sketched out a way it could be done and Hortensia, who wrote
"Miles Around" with me, agreed to give it a try. We were delighted with the experience. Here is the result:

On the Edge
A Renhai by Hortensia Anderson (ha), and Vaughn Seward (vs)
Written Sep 13 - Oct 10, 2008

Autumn equinox —
golden sun pours over
the crimson maples. /ha

Floating scented candles — /vs
Peach oil streams into the bath. /ha

Mountain waterfall —
a leaf at the very edge
clings to a rock. /vs

Theme: Pouring
Season: Autumn
Link 1 to 2a: Sun / Candle (flames).
Link 1 to 2b: Sun / Peach (colour & shape).
Link 3 to 2a: Floating (Leaf / Candle).
Link 3 to 2b: Waterfall / Bath (water related).
Link 3 to 1: Under, below.

The process we used in writing this Reverse Renhai is described in the following steps:
  1. Each partner chooses 3 or 4 themes/links.

  2. Each partner chooses one theme/link they like from their partner's list. In this case Vaughn chose "Pouring" from Hortensia's list, and Hortensia chose "Under, below" from Vaughn's list.

  3. Each partner writes a 3-line haiku referencing both themes/links (i.e. "Pouring" and "Under, below"). Vaughn wrote the verse about a leaf clinging at the edge of the waterfall and Hortensia wrote about the sun pouring over maples. These verses were written in parallel but they could have, of course, been written in succession. However, I think it is more fun to write the two 3-line verses independent of each other.

  4. The partners jointly choose one of the themes/links to be the central theme. In this case Hortensia and I chose "Pouring". The other theme/link automatically becomes the link between the two 3-line verses (in this case "Under, below").

  5. Each partner writes a single line that references the theme and links to their partner's 3-line haiku. In our case we decided to link our lines to both of the 3-line haiku (as was first done in the "The First Time" Renhai with Betty Kaplan). The resulting two lines together form the middle verse. In this case it is important that the two lines be written one after the other so that the middle verse is formed as a proper 2-line haiku. In this case Hortensia wrote about the poured peach oil and Vaughn then wrote about the scented candles.
The end result is a Renhai that is indistinguishable from a "normal", forwardly written Renhai. As with yesterday's Renhai the final arrangement of lines and verses was adjusted according to our poetic tastes.


J. Andrew Lockhart said...

this one is so peaceful...

Borut said...

Good read, in spite of intricate structure!:) Thinking of it, if thinking it can be called, what comes to my mind is The Perfumed Garden, the Persian Kama Sutra of sorts, first translated into English by Sir Richard Burton more than a century ago, and, of course, Issa, his:

From one bath-tub
To another bath-tub, -
All stuff and nonsense.

- trans. R. H. Blyth


kouji haiku said...

that output's just beautiful. :O

polona said...

interesting approach (as i said before, plenty of room for experimenting in this form) and excellent work, both of you!

jem said...

What a versatile form that it can be written both ways round.

I love the pouring sun image, indulgent and tactile. Also great that clinging leaf - I am left suspended by the end of your writing.

Janice Thomson said...

What a beautiful Renhai that assaults the senses - wonderful!

Masago said...

Thank you all!

Devika said...

Hi Masago

I am late here...
but none the less --liked all, the last one especially...figuratively seen myself in the leaf there many a time, then I saw the title :-)

I saved the text seperately, it forms my study material, thank you! :-)