Microcosmos, my latest book, is finally published! Microcosmos is subtitled, The Art of the Solo Renga. It is, as far as I know, the first collection of solo renga in English.
Microcosmos has three sections. The first section brings together my own solo renga written over a period of about 30 years. My solo renga are presented first and foremost as poems; to be read as poems. My target audience is the reader who is engaged with contemporary poetry, but does not necessarily have a specialist’s knowledge of Japanese poetry or renga procedures. In this way my collection of renga resembles a collection of sonnets; when publishing a collection of sonnets the reader does not have to know all the rules and constraints of sonnet composition in order to enjoy the sonnet as a poem. In a similar way I present my solo renga as poems to be enjoyed by the interested, but non-specialist, reader.
The second section is a collection of 100-verse solo renga, known as ‘hyakuin’ in Japanese. The 100-verse form was the form that emerged in medieval Japan and it is the form that all other forms of renga are derived from. It is the 100-verse form that Sogi used to write his solo renga. The second section includes my own 100-verse renga, ‘100 Verses at Sebastopol’.
The second section also includes a 100-verse renga by Edith Shiffert, ‘A Return to Kona’. I believe that Shiffert is the first to write renga in English, the first to use the 100-verse form, and the first to compose a solo renga. Shiffert published this renga in 1964 in her collection of poems that used that title for the renga as the title for the collection. Shiffert, remarkably, takes a syllabic approach to her verse construction. This solo renga deserves to be much more widely known.
Writing in another style, section 2 includes a 100-verse renga by Jane Reichhold, ‘Masks of Madness’. Reichhold’s approach uses a short-line, free verse, approach to lineation, which is a widely used approach among practitioners of Japanese forms in English. Reichhold’s renga also uses a lot of word-play and has a snappy, scintillating quality to it.
Finally, section 2 contains two translations of 100-verse renga by Sogi. These translations (by Earl Miner and Steven D. Carter) are published with the permission of their respective copyright holders. The Sogi renga give the reader an opportunity to experience how Sogi used the renga form in a solo context. In particular, the 100-verse renga that Sogi wrote towards the end of his life, called ‘Sogi Alone’, is a work of great beauty; it is this renga which inspired me to compose solo renga.
Section 3 of Microcosmos contains essays and asides. Some of the essays are on technical matters, such as the way season and time interact in renga. And some are expressions of appreciation.
Microcosmos is available through Amazon and is also distributed through Ingram; so it should be available through local bookstores as well.