The first completed chain renku
The idea [for Windswept Walk, a] kasen renku was to send the haiku to a poet friend, who in turn would send it to another poet, until thirty-six different writers had added their links. I first thought of this in the Spring of 1990, and in March and June I sent out 5 "chain renku," as I dubbed them. Windswept Walk is the third of the five such renku I started. The other four have yet to make it home. I do not know if this is the first time such a renku has been completed. If so, it is unique in the history of English haiku.
The idea also came up that I could send my link to two different people, who in turn would each send their links to two other people (thus making four renku), and so on. But a not-so-quick calculation reveals that, by the 36th link, a total of 36,359,738,368 different renku would exist if everyone participated according to the rules (the number of renku would double as each link is added). This mind-numbing possibility would rather tax the population of the entire world, let alone the haiku community. And guess whose mailbox they would all eventually tumble into?
Anyway, as indicated, I sent my haiku to Adele Kenny on June 6,1990 (the verse was actually first written on March 26). Over the months Windswept Walk criss-crossed the country numerous times. Then, on July 2,1991, a full year after its life began, I received the completed renku in the mail from Lequita Vance. What a joy to receive! Indeed, it has been one of the most exciting pieces of haiku mail I have ever opened, for several reasons. First of all, a seed sown long before had finally germinated—and had flowered profusely. Second, I found the links to be very enjoyable. Third, the list of participants reads like a who's who of haiku. And fourth, I found it especially interesting to see who sent the renku to whom, when they sent it, and where the recipients live. In fact, it would be interesting to see how many miles it logged as it found its way from poet to poet, from friend to friend. If only it had accumulated frequent-flyer mileage!
In closing, I would like to thank everyone for participating. Since I started four other chain renku, I would also encourage those involved to keep them going. Even if they're not finished yet, I'd like to hear of their whereabouts (write to me at 248 Beach Park Boulevard, Foster City, California, 94404). The reading of a renku is usually enhanced by searching for the link or connection used by participating poets as they add their verses. This renku has the further enhancement of its unwritten links between people. Consequently, I would like to dedicate Windswept Walk to the memory of Charlie Dickson, who participated but never saw the finished product. As you read, you will no doubt see the variety of connections between the poems and the participants, and I hope you will enjoy it as much as I did that warm summer afternoon last July.
Michael Dylan Welch