Publication of John Carley’s “Renku Reckoner”

Thanks to Lorin Ford for passing on the following message from Norman Darlington about the recent publication of John Carley’s “Renku Reckoner”, through Darlington Richards Press: as Lorin herself has noted, “This is the book many of us have been waiting for!”

Norman Darlington writes:

Darlington Richard Press are pleased to announce that John Carley’s eagerly-awaited “Renku Reckoner” is now available at

Carley’s 186-page “haikai manifesto” includes descriptions, seasonal schemas, appraisals and examples of twelve traditional and modern renku forms, from the 36-verse kasen to the 4-verse yotsumono, and 19 chapters on renku theory and practice, including a series of carefully constructed exercises. This authoritative work will be a welcome addition to the library of any poet or reader, beginner or advanced, with a serious interest in collaborative poetry in English.

Says Chris Drake:

“At last we have a book about renku in English that is also at the creative cutting edge of renku worldwide. Renku Reckoner is so packed with interesting links and ideas coming at the reader from so many directions that only multiple readings are likely to satisfy true lovers of renku.

“The explanation of the mechanics of renga and renku forward motion, often referred to as ‘link and shift,’ is the clearest I’ve seen… The discussion of the three-movement jo-ha-kyu structure is also lucid, and Carley’s use of musical metaphors is very effective… Also outstanding are his discussions of how to achieve change and variety, of using rules flexibly and artistically, and his criticisms of simplistic prohibitions against ‘back-linking.'”

And from Herbert Jonsson, Senior Lecturer in Japanese at Dalarna University, Sweden:

“With a clearness of style that is rarely found in poetry criticism, John Carley’s Renku Reckoner is an important contribution to the scarce writing in English about linked poetry. Summarizing a lifelong engagement in this collaborative genre, this volume is a veritable treasure box of original and inspiring ideas on poetics.

“The book is divided in two main parts, the first of which presents a broad overview of all commonly used formats, from the classical thirty-six verse kasen, of Japanese origin, to the author’s own recent contribution: the four-verse yotsumono. These formats are not only explained and given a background, they are also evaluated critically, thereby guiding the reader towards appreciating the overall development of the poems. Fine examples are also attached to each format, mostly from the vast production of Carley and his poet friends, but there is also a translation of a piece from the Japanese tradition, by Basho, turned into English with such wit and sureness that one almost feels as if one is reading the original text when enjoying the evolving development of its verses.

“The second part of the book consists of a collection of essays on a large number of subjects of interest for anyone, reader or poet, curious about this unique genre. At times serious, at times mocking and drastic, but never dry and boring, these texts manage to make accessible many important aspects of linked poetry that have often been misunderstood by other writers. Parts of the text have an instructive intent, and there are even a few suggested exercises aimed at writers new to the genre, but even so, it is never a matter of beginner’s talk; rather are we invited to share the ideas of an experienced writer. To mention one of many subjects, the discussion of “shift” is of particular interest. Few critics, be they renowned scholars, have been able to highlight the core quality of renku in such an insightful way.”

Norman Darlington
Darlington Richards Press


Subsequent to the announcement of the publication of John Carley’s “Renku Reckoner”, Norman Darlington made a further posting on the AHA forum, to this effect: “Included in the twelve fine renku in this book are contributions from the following poets …” In the list of twenty-four writers he went on to provide, three were from Australia: Ashley Capes, Cynthia Rowe and Lorin Ford; as well as Sandra Simpson from New Zealand.

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