The shan-shui renga

As my friends know I’m very fond of the Japanese verse form ‘renga’, which is composed by a group of writers working together to produce a chain of linked verses. It’s a very ancient form, but I know from experience that modern writers respond to it with enthusiasm and elegance. More recently I’ve become very interested in Chinese wilderness poetry – shan-shui – which flourished between the 8th and 12th centuries. It occurred to me that it might be possible to combine features of the two, with the group composition and structural elements of renga with the more discursive, personal and philosophical aspects of shan-shui poetry. So I tried the experiment while I was on retreat at Glencanisp recently, and it worked. One of the reasons it worked, I think, is that there are far fewer rules for participants to remember; another is that the longer lines of the Chinese form give more space and freedom.

I’m running the experiment again during the Edinburgh Festival, at two public sessions in the Royal Botanic Garden Edinburgh. They’re both being run on Sunday 8th August, at 2:30 and 4:30. It’s a free event, and all are welcome. I’m drawing up a schema at the moment, in two independent but linked sections, in case people want to come to both. The schema will be about plant hunting, so it’ll be appropriate to the setting, and I’m going to combine Chinese and Japanese landscapes, as the Garden itself has done.

On another matter, the account of my walk up Beinn Dorain is now on The Road North’s website. Here’s the link.


About sunnydunny

Poet, publisher, gardener
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