“Some beautiful paths can’t be discovered without getting lost.” ―Erol Ozan
The collaborative poems that follow invite you to lose yourself. Only then can you discover their many beautiful paths. Indeed, one of the joys of reading rengay lies in discovering the theme that ties each set of six verses together—the path that leads you through. When Garry Gay invented rengay in 1992, he distinguished this pleasurable form of collaborative poetry from the Japanese linked-verse traditions of renga and renku by having each rengay focus on at least one theme from start to finish. Australian flora, fauna, and well-known places spice up these rengay, but these are not necessarily their themes. Look for such shared subjects as native insects in “Fire Ants,” seaside images in “Inky Night,” or lights in “Nest of Stars,” and more abstract themes such as deep time and sacred history in “Bloodlines.” Lose yourself in all their beautiful paths.
As you explore these eleven rengay, be careful not to let your discovery of themes distract you from dwelling on each verse. Take a deep breath after each poem. Fortunately, the innovative way each rengay unfolds as you advance from page to page will help you dwell on each individual poem. Give each one a moment on its own, and then read it again with the verse just before to see how the two verses connect and grow, creating a larger synergy in combination. And see if you can find connections and flow between all the rengay as well. The paths to discover here may be found at many levels, even in the interplay with the fiery artwork. The ultimate path is how each rengay might connect personally to you.
It’s been many years since I lived in Australia, so I’m overdue to revisit the distinctively Australian subjects of these rengay in person. But until then, I can visit through these collaborative poems. And as a reader, no matter where you live, so can you. Simon Hanson and Ron C. Moss have made these rengay their own, with delicate touches of humour and delight, with tones that range from serious and sombre to playful and respectful. Enjoy the paths they have made for you in Ancient Bloodlines, but also lose yourself in these vivid verses so you can find your own.
Michael Dylan Welch