by Kala Ramesh
When teaching renku to beginners in schools and colleges or during Haiku Utsavs that we have in India, I felt the shortest renku, junicho was a wee bit too long, for all we can spare for renku is around 2 hours and John Carley’s Yotsumono [of just 4 verses] is surely not for beginners who need to learn the nuances when going on a renku trip.
Necessity is the mother of inventions—and ‘Rasika’ happened in November 2014. It is created without sacrificing on the aesthetics of this 400 year-old art form that has come to us from Master Basho’s time— the shofu-style of renku which is essentially anti-thematic. “Rasa” means the emotional essence in Indian aesthetics. “Rasika” is one who enjoys the rasa. So I wish to call this short renku “Rasika”.
Rasika has 8 verses set as in traditional junicho style. The jo-ha-kyu are not clearly demarcated. The number of kaishi (writing sheets) is just one. I’m keeping this renku very flexible regarding the inclusion of the usual 4 seasons in renku, meaning spring, summer, autumn and winter. Since we do not have the space and the number of verses to include all the four seasons, we can pick and choose just 2 or 3. It has the conventional moon and blossom verse and of course the “love verses’ without which a renku seems incomplete.
Important to note: The link and shift is strong, and the shifts can be wide, since it is not a 36 verse structure of Kasen, which can afford to have small shifts. So shall we say, to coin a new phrase, we’ll be following – link and leap!