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
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:
- Each partner chooses 3 or 4 themes/links.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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").
- 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.