haikai no renga by Keith Kumasen Abbott, Pat Nolan, Maureen Owen & Michael Sowl
All Ears, a haikai no renga or linked verse, was the first of the collaborations between Maureen Owen, Keith Kumasen Abbott, Michael Sowl, and Pat Nolan to be made into a limited edition handmade book and was published by Empty Head Press in 2004. Subsequently, Random Rocks and Poetry For Sale, both haikai no renga, were issued as limited edition handmade books(see Nualláin House archives for July 2013 and October 2012). All Ears was also included in the anthology Saints of Hysteria, A Half Century of Collaborative American Poetry (Soft Skull Press, 2007).
All Ears was composed through the mail over a period of a year and a half beginning in early 1992. Once the 36 stanzas (kasen) of the haikai-no-renga were completed, each poet was asked to comment on the process in general, and on their own stanzas and those of their collaborators. The arrangement of stanza follows the standard haikai form of 8 stanzas on the first sheet and 8 stanzas on the back sheet with the remaining 20 stanzas taking up the central text. Following the haikai no renga and the commentary by the poets is the sequence showing the stanza assignment as well as which poets had the moon and flower stanzas.
All Ears was bound using repurposed “sticks & strings” wallpaper sheets from a wallpaper sample book as cover stock and backed with Japanese silkscreen endpapers. Each cover was unique in itself. The pages were folded vertically with a folded leading edge as is common in Japanese books. Each book was hand sewn using a Japanese side stitch style known “tortoiseshell.” The dimensions are 4.25×10 inches (10.5×16.5 cm). Only a limited number of All Ears were produced and it is out of print.
For more on the intriguing subject of Japanese Linked Verse, see Earl Miner’s Japanese Linked Poetry (Princeton, 1979), Hiroaki Sato’s One Hundred Frogs (Weatherhill, 1983), and Haruo Shirane’s Traces Of Dreams (Stanford, 1998).
To view a PDF facsimile of All Ears, click on ALL EARS 2004