Yew Trees is a symbiotic poem. It is renga like in that it uses elements of the link and shift process inherent in the renga writing process. Here I work in collaboration, symbiotically, with two dead poets, William Wordsworth and the great Japanese haiku master Masaoka Shiki. Yew Trees was first published in ‘LYNX a journal for linking poets’ to be precise LYNX XVI:2 June, 2001.
Our starting point is Wordsworth’s poem Yew-Trees of 1803, deconstructed by the Shiki in my head into shasai type haiku, almost straight sketches from life, ripped from the Wordsworth original and printed to the left, with modern counterpoints printed to the right. Down the centre we have a series of tanka. The whole is to be read left to right and down in order.. out loud and in two voices when possible… I hear a male voice reading the haiku and a female voice the tanka… but it’s of no real matter. The scene of our poem is not, as in Wordsworth’s Yew-Trees, Lorton Vale, but perhaps an out of town shopping complex possibly called Yew Trees…
The central series of tanka have also been adapted by myself and Shuntaro Netsu into the song Yew Trees which we recorded and released with the band Giant Glove on the album Giant Glove.
The track is available on Spotify, iTunes, AppleMusic etc..
Here is the Spotify link: https://open.spotify.com/track/6OMMPgm0rbgG8xq5AfkOM6?si=u1HegN1FSlChXuStp4sNfA
Here is The starting point for Yew Trees, William Wordsworth’s poem YEW-TREES from 1803:
There is a Yew-tree, pride of Lorton Vale,
Which to this day stands single, in the midst
Of its own darkness, as it stood of yore;
Not loth to furnish weapons for the bands
Of Umfraville or Percy ere they marched
To Scotland’s heaths; or those that crossed the sea
And drew their sounding bows at Azincour,
Perhaps at earlier Crecy, or Poictiers.
Of vast circumference and gloom profound
This solitary Tree! a living thing
Produced too slowly ever to decay;
Of form and aspect too magnificent
To be destroyed. But worthier still of note
Are those fraternal Four of Borrowdale,
Joined in one solemn and capacious grove;
Huge trunks! and each particular trunk a growth
Of intertwisted fibres serpentine
Up-coiling, and inveterately convolved;
Nor uninformed with Phantasy, and looks
That threaten the profane;–a pillared shade,
Upon whose grassless floor of red-brown hue,
By sheddings from the pining umbrage tinged
Perennially–beneath whose sable roof
Of boughs, as if for festal purpose, decked
With unrejoicing berries–ghostly Shapes
May meet at noontide; Fear and trembling Hope,
Silence and Foresight; Death the Skeleton
And Time the Shadow;–there to celebrate,
As in a natural temple scattered o’er
With altars undisturbed of mossy stone,
United worship; or in mute repose
To lie, and listen to the mountain flood
Murmuring from Glaramara’s inmost caves.
William Wordsworth 1803.