“Midday Heat: A Twenty-Stanza Renku” by Jonathan Weinert & Debra Kang Dean

Jonathan Weinert & Debra Kang Dean


Summer 2012

[1 Front]


midday heat stands still
a far siren by the lake
we go on dying

to be touched by some coolness
to be perfect reflections

of the open sky
in the mail today an empty box
from no one I know

tough enough to keep mustard seeds,
washed-up shells, and shadows in—



[1 Back]


you moonlight ladies
at ease on a coverlet
of fresh scarlet leaves

remembering how I held you
in early dark that last time

as the plane lifted
through fog I inhaled deeply
a scent still fading

from my raveled right shirtsleeve
and the far end of the world

windswept grains of sand
spiraling counterclockwise
before scattering

as we do, as we will do
in the story’s second half



[2 Front]


when fresh snow outlined the grapes
and healed the tattered
vine leaves on the gray stone fence

cold company we made, friend
Moon, my shadow and me

across a low field
some movement in the windbreak
half-expected cry

of the owl, who replies—
question, is it, or answer

to the question posed
by love’s abiding absence:
how do you go on

beyond magical thinking, what
remains: scents on a pillow …



[2 Back]


so strange, rain drops here—
among billowy clouds this one
sprinkling above me

as fierce green whorls breach earth
having no alternative

you wait, sipping on
rosebud tea in the presence
of blighted blossoms

signifying renewal
or something like renewal

from Rattle #47, Spring 2015
Tribute to Japanese Forms


Jonathan Weinert: “I had no experience with renku until my co-conspirator and teacher, Debra Kang Dean, approached me with the idea of writing one over the summer of 2012. This required some studying on my part, to familiarize myself with the rules of the form. I’ve long been fascinated with how formal restrictions can exert a pressure on the language and imagination, forcing them into unexpected channels. Renku adds requirements on content to the usual structural rules: the moon must go here, a blossom must go there. There was a surprising freedom in following these rules. Surprising, too, was the way that spilling our two voices together produced a third, the voice of an unknown other with a history and a way of seeing that are neither Debra’s nor my own. A renku’s links, it seems, reach both out of the poem as well as across it.” (website)

Debra Kang Dean: “I date the start of my serious engagement with renku to the mid- to late-’90s, when Tadashi Kondo invited me to participate in several renku writing sessions. He described it as being like a mandala that included all parts of experience. In Taiji, there is a phrase—borrowed energy—that suggests one of the pleasures of writing renku. What I particularly delight in is the way it affords an ongoing challenge to think in terms of closing and opening simultaneously, which, in the language of renku is called linking and shifting. The rules of renku are complex, and I don’t pretend to have come close to mastering them, so I approach each chance to write renku as an opportunity to learn by doing. There is a strong sense of call and response about renku but without repetition—that is, something calls out and one responds, and that response calls forth another response, and so on. Therefore, to work with different partners is to have the opportunity to expand the range of one’s responses.” (website)

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