This weekend, at the beautiful Bookshop/Coffee Bar/ Cake Head opening you might have seen me and Kari in that little alley between Carriage House Wines and the Masonic Temple. The two of us were managing a few different projects, one of which was the Community Renga.
In this picture, just past Kari and Brad is me being a Renga Master. A renga is typically a 36 stanza poem that’s done with a group of people, exquisette corpse style (only one line above could be seen). The renga has very specific rules: line syllable length, words that have to be mentioned, and even tone.
Some history: Renga means collaborative poem. The first stanza, called the hokku, became the basis for modern Haiku poetry. The essence of the poem is the idea of change, so there are tone cues that are given throughout. The opening of the poem uses very formal language. One way to think of it is you’ve just arrived at a party and it’s a little awkward, people have on their best faces, they’re making introductions. Then, after a few stanzas, the participants are cued to loosen up a bit, it’s that point at the party where you’re a bit more comfortable, have had a beer, see some familiar faces. Then, the third section, things get wild. It’s all out drunk on language, opinionated, fiery, hanging from chandeliers, saying things that you might want to send an email to apologize for the next day. And then, at the poem’s conclusion, everyone is still drunk, but are saying their goodbyes, a little sentimental, because it’s so sad to leave the party.
Certain lines have to have certain images. In a traditional renga, that would mean the moon or cherry blossoms. In the Hub City Renga the words were: Hub Bub, grain, freight trains, mills, and magnolia. I put the word next to the appropriate line. Each line had the specified syllable length. (5,7,5,7,7). Our renga only had 35 lines.
Did I mention I was the Renga Master?
Another rule: the poem is always begun by the wisest, most respected poet in the room. Betsy said, “Have John do it.”
Without further ado: The Community Renga– written by the Spartanburg Community.
We are gathered here
to taste some new confections,
for books and java,
to shake Spartanburg by both
hands, say our thanks, trade our stories.
Sojourners traveled here
by train, by plane, by buggy
And lo! There’s Hub-Bub
shining jewel near Morgan Square
Its setting, Sparkle City
Rising from old mills
People start to gather ‘round
A new bookstore here
Coffees, hot cupcakes are great
Right next to Cantrell’s Old Store
Copper grain welcomes
people from all over town.
In my head and so are you
as you look at the city.
Kevin’s eyes are shut
Kevin’s green window chicken
pink is like balloon
freight trains blue birds smells like cats
be careful, cats are quite devious
They get in trouble.
That’s my middle name, ya know
Wide like a magnolia
wonderful blossom white
empty bottles bloom
and flower and fade and fall
sweet silence descends
meaningless moonlight in eyes
to float us to what coos new.
Thanks to everyone who participated! And thanks to George for the photos.