Unus Mundus

This was my first experience of practicing the ancient Japanese art of Renga. Peter (@peterwilkins1) found the link to Wikipedia and we became very exited. Before that we had been chatting about the dragon Renku and what fun it had been. We were wondering how many could play this poetry game. The Wikipedia article gave us the information we desired – 3 to 15. We were thinking about who would be interested in participating in a Twitter renga and when we should start. Unbeknown to us, there was someone already there in the stream watching our conversation ready to write.

Louise (@bookwriter222) suggested we do a renga on unicorns. We all read the “How to write” section and decided we would do an 18 verse version – Han-kasen. The formal format is 5-7-5 followed by 7-7. We followed this form pretty much throughout but bent the rules for aesthetic purposes when we needed to.

We wrote under the constraints of time zones. We couldn’t do the writing at one sitting. Louise provided a superb summary when she and Peter picked up the threads on day two: a hazy dawn ~ brings black witch ~ back into the fray ~ our unicorn is in grave danger ~ we race towards the moon. I added one verse on my own to their two. On the third night we completed the renga.

We had no predetermined narrative scenario.  After the event we reflected back on the experience. I think Peter’s observation distills the experience:

peterwilkin1 peterwilkin @bookwriter222 @marousia I think we have [finished] 🙂 Think we wandered through pathless woods at times but the journey was wonderful #unicornrenga

Unus Mundus ~ A Renga where each line represents a verse

A forgotten time/ two moons collide together/unicorn breathes am struggling with moon/flowers thing

Sparks from the moons collision/ kiss unicorn’s velvet horn

Drops of rain glisten / like pearls on flower petals / round unicorn’s hooves

Flowing silver mane whips back/unicorn races the moon

Violets spring up/ wherever unicorn’s hooves touch/ trees whisper secrets

Unicorn hears plaintive cry / bluebird with a broken wing

A bird from heaven/as blue as the sky is old/secrets bind them both

Unicorn lowers his horn/ a single touch heals the wing

Bluebird sings his song / unicorn rears high, his eyes / like pools of moonshine

Black witch readies her poison/a unicorn of beauty

Ground unicorn horn/ prized aphrodisiac/ temptation was great

Unicorn sees moon shadows / of black witch in bluebird’s eyes

Black witch casts a spell/withered petals turn to dust/unicorn shudders

Bluebird’s sweet song fills the air/ Black witch’s spell returns to her

Black witch clutches throat / dissolves in putrid green steam / hail the unicorn

An eternal flame shines bright / in unicorns moonkissed eyes

Unicorn breathes/ on the putrid slime/ turning it to gold

Sunlight and shadows merging / death becomes life. Alchemy



Flames of Creation

@peterwilkins1 and I wrote this over two two sessions over three days.  As Peter says in his blog we didn’t premeditate anything except that our work would be about our shared love of dragons. I have noticed that in the past I noticed that @perterwilkins1 and share synchronicity. We often start thinking and writing about similar topics at the same time.  I was very excited about the prospect of writing with Peter.

Like Peter I am used to collaborative writing in academic contexts. Co-written academic articles need to appear seamless as if they were written by one person. Writing in this way, one learns to adapt and adjust one’s own writing to the style of another to achieve a seamless finished piece.

I think that both of us brought this experience into play when we started our dance with a dragon. I was wondering where the story line would take us and what sort of style we would use. I started with a gogyohka because I thought this form would not restrict our flow with too many formal constraints. I hoped that Peter would approve, his quick response indicated that indeed he did. I couldn’t wait for his verse. Peter continued our dragon tale with a gogyohka.  He has dubbed our form a rogue gogyohka and I think this is very apt. We were also performing renku, a poetry tradition from Japan which has its origins in Renga.

Our writing was  a performance and we were both aware of our audience.  On the second night of our performance I was a little weary emotionally from the onslaught of bad news from the Queensland floods (I live in Australia and spent 7 years living in Townsville).  But I really wanted to write with Peter that night. The first ‘turn’ was mine.  After at bit of searching and banter I looked at the last rogue gogyoka,  “Clouds shudder / the sky / begins to simmer / eons have passed / the moment has come”.

The word “cloud” was a meme I wanted to transform, given the damage in South East Queensland and the images being relentlessly broadcast on TV in Australia. But I wasn’t thinking about this on a conscious level, I just wanted a place to restore my own equilibrium. An image of a red phoenix popped into my mind. And Peter and I continued to waltz seamlessly.

Flames of Creation

White dragon soars / past gilded domes / in the land / of perpetual summer

Fire streams / laced with dreams / roar / into the sunlight

White scales / kissed by sunbeams / spark / with many hues /miniature rainbows

Down below / people gasp / as falling cinders / become golden flowers / in their gardens

The air was thick / smokey frangipani scent / honeyeaters drank / sweet sticky nectar

Like twisting smoke / the dragon turns / its fiery eyes / burn like hot steel

From the east / a fleck appears / a song wafts / on the wind / white dragon smiles

Clouds shudder / the sky / begins to simmer / eons have passed / the moment has come

Red Phoenix arrives / soaring between / golden pink clouds / dazzling / people below

Wing-lash / a storm of flames / and falling ash / the beasts / are dancing

Dragon swirls / a rondo / bows his head / swoops an arc / towards the ground

The hillside / tilts and trembles / as he lands / people scatter / beneath his fiery breath

Mayhem / through the crooked village streets/ white dragon laughs / on a tower balcony / appears a wizard

Avada Kedavra / turquoise comets spin and zing / in the wizard’s eyes / the dragon takes / a mighty breath

And spirals up / flying eastward / diamond tears fall from dragon’s eyes / people scramble / Phoenix drops a feather

Wizard’s wand / catches sunbeams in each swish / skies blacken / thundercrash / the phoenix falls

People gasp / electricity crackles / in their hair / silver sparkles in the air / Wizard smiles

The dying bird / screams in pain / sweet gasps of frankincense / flitter like final kisses / from its beak

Eyes glaze over / Phoenix stretches wings / iridescent flames / magenta, green and white / a pile of ashes

Whilst on a mountain top / in Tyana / an egg cracks / in a nest of / scented embers

A tiny beak / with a golden hook / emerges from the crack / Dragon senses magic / swiftly flies / towards Tyana

Dragon arrives / peels of laughter / cascade down the mountain / then stillness / rebirth

Dragon’s breath / gently tickles feathers / red wings and white entwined / yin and yang / forever bonded

Peter’s version is here