Judges commentary on HSA Bernard Lionel Einbond renku awards published

The judges commentary on the HSA Bernard Lionel Einbond Memorial Renku Awards Collection has been published.

Judges were Deborah P. Kolodji and Linda Papanicolaou.

Nijuin is a 20-verse renku was created by renku master Meiga Higashi in the last century. Templates by William J. Higginson and by John E. Carley may be found online at Renku Home <http://www.2hweb.net/haikai/renku/shorter_renku.html&gt; and on the Darlington Richards website <http://darlingtonrichards.com/rr/docs/Nijuin.htm&gt;. Both are substantially in agreement about the characteristics of the nijuin form. Though modern, it retains certain analogies to the classic 36-verse kasen: its four sides follow the jo-ha-kyu dynamic, and whatever the season in which it was begun (as expressed in the hokku/wakiku pair) the kyu (4th side) will always concludes the poem with three spring verses, the second of which is blossom. There are two moon verses, one in autumn and the other in a minor season, and love verses that are generally paired in each of the ha (2nd and 3rd sides). But nijuin’s shorter length makes for important differences. With sides that are themselves each shorter than their counterparts in kasen, nijuin allocates one season to each side rather than kasen’s two, and seasons don’t wrap to the next side. This distinction of sides gives nijuin a structural clarity that’s somewhat like the even shorter shisan. In an appraisal that follows his templates, Carley’s reservations were that 4, 6, 6 and 4 verses per side were just not long enough to retain the true feel of the Basho style, while allowing that nijuin “broke the mould. It is clear and straightforward—easily assimilated—and has a certain style of its own. . . [and] is always fun to write.”

Marcus and I had never written a Nijuin before we worked on the submission for the renku awards.

2016 Bernard Lionel Einbond Award for Renku

Honorable Mention:

Northern Lights


Anna Maris (coordinator), Tomeililla, Sweden
Marcus Liljedahl, Göteborg, Sweden

northern lights
on the snow covered lake
a melted rainbow
the line of frosted tour buses
comes to a standstill
scribbled writing
on the back of a postcard
a new set of words
the third star twinkles
on a hotel sign
autumn sky
thoughts wander to the dark side
of the moon
red leaves piling up
around the welcome mat
short days
wrapped in firelight and silk
long nights
his nose buried deep
in the scent of her curls
the terrestrial globe
where would you go?
telling the same old story
as the pinot kicks in
sleepless again . . .
cicadas out of sync
with the neighbor’s bed
summer heat still on my skin
sickle moon
frozen image
the buzz of computer fans
grows stronger
a rush through their veins
fiber optics
on the nightstand
train tickets
to separate worlds
the sky – at the same time
so big and so small
a barren field
with gilded leaves
oh, green shoots, green shoots!
shoot me!
first daisy . . .
a girl rips off
petal after petal
out of the lightest of rains
a perfect arch of colors

• • •

This is what they wrote about our “Northern Lights”:

“The strong images of “Northern Lights” also stayed with me long after I read the poem. Although there were some issues with kigo and linking, the excellent writing and almost frightening beauty of this poem demanded recognition, which is why we also awarded it an Honorable Mention. I found the ending unforgettable in the skillful way the image of the girl ripping petals off a daisy is juxtaposed against the aurora borealis and a link that says “shoot me” brings to mind the daisy and atomic bomb explosion in the famous 1964 LBJ political attack ad against Barry Goldwater. For a renku, I believe these topics are too strong to be in the closing links, even though I admit that I can’t help but love the way this poem ultimately works for the reader.”

“New Year’s Morning” and “Northern Lights” share Honorable mention. Both follow the classic Higashi form, though with quite different stylistic results—and various shortcomings. “New Year’s Morning” is a well-crafted renku with many wonderful images though the linking often eschews the deepening of mood in favor of wit or ironic detachment: a didactic priest, quickie sex, a hyperactive squirrel, a universe that “doesn’t give a shit.” It’s not a world that easily lets us in except on its own terms.

Northern Lights,” by contrast, draws us immediately into a frozen landscape of tour busses gathered to view the aurora borealis. I do feel there are weaknesses in the season references, beginning with the hokku’s analogy of the aurora as a “melting rainbow,” a blending of two spring kigo, while the wakiku’s season reference “frost” treads too closely to the hokku’s “snow covered lake”. In the 2nd side “red leaves piling up” may signal autumn for us, but red leaves and fallen leaves are winter kigo in the saijiki, so this is a season image that should be used with care. Similarly, the next verse has double kigo: “short days”, a winter kigo, and “long nights,” which is autumn. At times it seemed as if the writers were deliberately toying with season confusion, and the verses became puzzles to be worked out before the renku could continue. Two final points in the 4th side: 1) The penultimate verse is a flower verse rather than blossom. Blossoming fruit trees—cherry, plum, peach, apple etc., bear much more resonance than flowers and while many published nijuin have flowers, all of Higginson’s and Carley’s templates code for blossom and I assume that Master Higashi’s intent was traditional. 2) The ageku closes back to the hokku with a rainbow. I really wish they hadn’t done that, though I still think the poetry of the writing deserve honors in this year’s Einbond contest.”








About Anna Maris

I am a Swedish haiku poet. This blog is about my haiku life.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: