Sunday, September 27, 2015

Bonnie McClure on Japanese Linked Verse

Unitarian Fellowship Of Tokyo  NEWS 9/2015


Recent Meeting: September 11

The speaker was our member, Bonnie McClure, graduate student in Japanese literature now studying at Aoyama Gakuin University. She introduced us to renga, or linked verse, the dominant form of Japanese style (waka) poetry in the 13—16th centuries. Very much a group effort where, at a social gathering of poets, contemporaneous short poetry was recited and recorded in turn under strict rules of linkage covering changing themes and vocabulary. One hundred stanzas in total were a common length. Individuality and self-promotion were frowned upon. She quoted various aspects of the poetics including a stress on the Buddhist understanding of “temporality” or mujō and quoted Shinkei  (a famous 15c. practitioner along with his student Sōgi) …”the poet must be practically nonexistent.” Here is a linkage of verses (in this case all by one poet) translated by McClure.



Geese cry upriver

from the village

where they send over the boat – Sōgi


The traveler crossing

over the floating clouds – Sōgi


It seems I have become

lost and tangled

in this world into which I was born – Sōgi



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