On Tuesday the Scottish Poetry Library hosted a renga writing event. Originally we’d hoped to hold it in the Mushroom Trust’s garden in Dunbar’s Close, just over the wall from Canongate Kirkyard. However, several days of rain rendered the grass sodden and too wet to sit on. It was a pity, because it’s a wee gem of a garden, recreating an 18th century enclosed town garden, with parterres made of clipped box, hedges of clipped yew, a nice fig on the wall, a big tulip tree, and a lawn in the lowest garden. And the connection with Burns, Fergusson and Stevenson can feel almost palpable, as I remember from previous events. It’s been well looked after by Edinburgh Council. Sadly, mindless vandalism in the garden has resulted in some of the stone bench seats being overturned and smashed, and graffiti tags in the close entry. This has meant that the garden is now closed to the public, except by arrangement with the Park Rangers. However, they opened it up for us during a break in the writing, and we were able to enjoy it.
The renga itself was a joy. Ten of us took part, and we succeeded in writing our 12-verse poem over a four-hour period. It’s the only collaborative writing form I know, and everybody has to be present to write the finished poem. As we worked through the ‘schema’ we unconsciously influenced each other, sometimes two or more poets coming up with the same image, albeit that they were expressed in different ways. The schema in a renga is usually seasonal, starting in the season it is written, and finishing with a verse in Spring. I decided to overlay a theme of ‘festivals’, so we could start with Edinburgh and run through some of the old Celtic and other festivals, and end with the Japanese Cherryblossom Festivals.
After a light edit last night, the poem is finished, and I’m very happy with it. It will be posted on the SPL’s website, so I won’t post it here, but here’s the schema:
Edinburgh Festival, Lughnasa, no season, Water Festival, Samhain, Moonwatching Festival, Love, Yule, Imbolc, no season, Easter, Cherryblossom Festival.