Renga is an ancient Japanese way of writing poetry together. Like many of the trees I have been studying in the past few weeks, it is an ancestor, and its descendants include haiku and tanka, familiar to most poets. It consists of up to 20 verses, alternating two and three lines long.
The poem is written verse by verse. In each round of writing, everyone taking part writes a verse, and the renga master chooses, with a bit of debate among those gathered, which one fits the poem best. We try to flow on from the previous stanza, but also follow a schema, created by the Renga master, which indicates what each verse will be about ( summer, the beginning of love, a tree etc.) By the end, everyone has contributed something to the poem.
Colin Will was our renga master today. Colin used to work at the Botanics, before retiring to life as a poet, so it was lovely to have him lead our afternoon, celebrating the aspen tree. Aspen is a poplar, and appropriately enough the Chinese Pavilion where we spent the afternoon is overlooked by poplars. They applauded our best verses and found their way into the poem.
Thanks to everyone who came and took part – the process was delightful and the result is a mosaic of funny, thoughtful and observant poetry. I hope you enjoy it as much as we did.
It will be posted here as soon as I have been able to confer with the renga master about the exact text.
Meanwhile here’s the tulip tree flower, a kind of Magnolia. Its ancestors predate the extinction of the dinosaurs. It is a huge tree, with limbs like a beech, decked with these extraordinary and beautiful flowers.