Christof Blumentrath & Gabriele Hartmann, bon-say-Verlag

The white album - Renhai

Year of publication: 2020

2020 in bon-say-Verlag, 48 pages, natural paper, 21 x 21 cm, hardcover, thread binding, ISBN 978-3-945890-34-9, 14 €
only available from bon-say-Verlag


Further information

Text samples, tables of contents, bibliographical information, sources of supply (not all elements available at the same time)

30 reindeer sharks and 11 photographs
The Beatles' white album was the inspiration for the book of the same name with Renhai by Christof Blumentrath & Gabriele.
The respective song title (T) finds its place as the first line of the second verse. The first author writes both the first (three-line) verse and the second line of the second (two-line) verse. Then the second author writes the (three-line) final verse. A headline was deliberately omitted ... but that is not much more than dry words that describe the process of writing. The two authors were inspired by the song lyrics and yet interpreted them freely.


Beate Conrad writes in her
Feature on on October 28, 2020

The white album - a review

Christof Blumentrath & Gabriele Hartmann: The white album. 30 Renhai and 11 photographs. Natural paper. 21 x 21 cm. Hardcover. Thread binding. bon-say-verlag Höchstenbach, 2020. 48 pages. 14 €. ISBN: 978-3-9458 90-34-9.
Chain poems, i.e. community poems, are the original source of haiku, especially Tanrenga 1. Their development in ancient Japan was complicated, but also popular. So it is hardly surprising that up to our day not only the haiku goes through changes, but also the community poetry. After all, it is usually the form that virtually challenges changes. And that applies to all areas of art.
In 1992 the American Garry Gay developed the Rengay2 with the aim of creating a simplified and shorter form of the Renku poetry with six verses with comparatively manageable rules of association. Topics for this type of community poetry can arise during the writing process, but can also be determined beforehand. The rengay spread relatively quickly in the west as one of the most popular forms of community poetry.
In Renhai2007, developed by the Canadian Vaughn Seward and the Russian Zhanna P. Rader in 3 from the Rengay, the number of stanzas has been halved. Unlike usual, the middle verse now specifies the direction of construction, which is written by two people and each supplemented with a haikuver. The same linkage rules are used here as in the Rengay, but now forward and back references are allowed and even forced. In this composition the middle verse has a centering function. This results on the one hand in the usual progression within the verses and on the other hand in the emphasized haiku character of the reindeer as an overall unit with many cross-connections around the central theme.
With “The White Album” Christof Blumentrath & Gabriele Hartmann present thirty Renhai and eleven photographs they took themselves in book form, for which the Beatles4 album of the same name provided the theme. Even on the outside, the aesthetics of the albums overlap with that of the Far Eastern Haikai in black and white restraint. The haikuesk-minimalist black and white pictures of the two authors give their condensed words a visually reinforcing dimension.
In addition to the literary form of Renhai, the structure of the content obviously borrowed from the Beatles album. Because Hartmann and Blumentrath not only chose the same title for their book, but also adopted the thirty song titles for their poems. In other words, every single title was quoted in the central line of every Renhais and even highlighted graphically. Such a quote becomes a continuous stylistic element, the sequence and number of poems in the book in turn corresponding to the sequence and number of songs on the Beatles album.
The two authors dare a cross-disciplinary “remix”, not in visible notes and audible melodies, but in the form of the poetic song and the accompanying photography. Anyone who knows the lyrics of the Beatles album well and still has them in their ears will notice in many places how their contents overlap with the new, jointly composed miniatures, how they assert themselves and merge. Just as the poems contradict them, break away from them and take their own turns. Not to forget the diverse connections that, typical of a chain seal, challenge the reader to discover and decipher them.
The reader, who is less or not familiar with Beatles music, will find poetry that stands for itself, which is genre-appropriately shaped by everyday experiences and the poetic perspectives of the authors. He will only want to discover the adopted structure of the Beatles album and its implications as secondary, since it is mentioned at the end of the book.
The following Renhai clearly shows - in addition to the central title line - and naturally also associative points of reference to the lyrics. Nevertheless, the reader is not simply served "the Beatles on Renhai". The respective song, although its title is externally central to the topic, is not a necessary decoding tool. But it enriches and deepens by contributing to the complexity of the collaborative short poem sequence in accordance with the genre. In the following poem, the song subliminally underlines the transition from playfulness to the more enticing seriousness of life with its repeating choir in the morning dream mood as time progresses:
seven o'clock in the morning
the sun tears the ceiling
from the city
Dear Prudence
her flowing hair
in the skyline - we think
our dream is over
It turns out that community poetry is by no means purely for social entertainment. Rather, they promote one's own discipline, linguistic expression and understanding of form within the framework and genre set. At the same time, it indicates the spontaneity and skill of those involved. The penultimate Renhai - my number one among the thirty Renhai - takes z. For example, the mood of the experimental sound collage of the same name, which reflects the '68 Fluxus zeitgeist, is unique in its own way, but it is translated into a culturally and historically different visual language with a rich scenic representation. The result is a balanced poem, where the beginning and end point fall into one:
the way i turn
and turn: Satan stares
from the mirror
Revolution 9
just keep going, Ms. Lot
a thread of tinsel
in the Easter fire
Through the relationships and implicit connections in the direction of reading, including that of verse one to three and back, a “panta rhei” of the powers emerges in this poem like a mirror in the mirror, what the Far Eastern view of the fleeting, of constant becoming and passing away corresponds entirely.
Collages, crossovers, including sampling and “remixes”, whether within a discipline or interdisciplinary, are typical of our time, but not easy. Because they should be kept in the spirit of the original and still have their own signature. In the present case, ideally both are combined in the form of different reading levels, title quotations and allusions.
The white album by Gabriele Hartmann and Christof Blumentrath delivers something that lies in the contradictions of every remix art: namely an independent quotation. And this has been implemented skilfully here, so that the selected narrow form is not only disciplined, but also revitalizes its content with something new and expands it to deeper insight. The end result is a lively combination of revitalized and new content, underlaid with audio and visual effects.
[1] Tan: short, ren: chain, ga / ka: song, poetry.
[2] Ren: chain, here abbreviation for chain seal; -gay: the last name of the inventor Garry Gay.
[3] Ren: chain, abbreviation for chain seal; hai: short for haiku.
The white album is the unofficial but common name of the November 4 released double album by the Beatles. An album with 1968 songs, kept simple in white and labeled with your name. Although commercially successful, the Beatles album is not so much the usual concert or concept album as a relaxed and diversely discussed song compilation of various, individualistic musical styles, some of which were ahead of their time, but which also marked the end of the Beatles' creative period as a music band.
Garry Gay on Rengay, North Carolina Haiku Society, 2006, online:
Vaughn Seward: Renhai, a New Verse Form, Frogpond 32.2, 2009, online:


Brigitte ten Brink writes:

The Beatles' only double album, released in November 1968 and also called The White Album because of its plain white cover. A mix of many different styles of music and the beginning of their divergence. Even if the album was very successful commercially, not all of the songs corresponded to the listening habits of some Beatles fans at that time (and maybe still today), the songs were too randomly arranged according to the previously released concept albums "Seargent Pepper" and "Magical Mystery Tour" .

Now it's in front of me - The white album, not on vinyl, but in book form. Square white with black lines reminiscent of sonagrams. The title and the names of the authors are kept in red.

Gabriele Hartmann (GH) and Christof Blumentrath (CB) wrote Renhai together, thirty in number, with the titles of the thirty songs on the album as the respective starting line of the second verse (T) with which a Renhai always begins. One of the authors (GH or CB) wrote the second line of the starting verse and the first verse, the other completed the third verse.

cold War
the scattered villages
snow covered

Back in the USSR
not melted yet: the snow

Look over
bogged down on the shore
his paper boat


Do you have to know the songs now to like this book? Do you have to have the melodies and lyrics in your ear? The answer is a clear no". The threads that Gabriele Hartmann and Christof Blumentrath spin around the song titles and weave into completely new texts stand for themselves.

I also didn't know most of the songs on this album because I've never heard through the entire album. Out of curiosity, I then downloaded and read all the lyrics of the album from the Internet. If you want, you can discover associative links to the songs in the Renhai. The Beatles, or John Lennon as the author, quote "Strawberryfields" and other songs in the song "Glass Onion". I personally found the strawberry fields as "endless fields / in changing red" (GH). And in the last verse, whoever holds “his last piece of the puzzle” (CB) in his hands has put together the song with all of its allusions:

endless fields
in iridescent red
the 7th universe

Glass onion
now broken: time and space

rotated twice
his last piece of the puzzle
Evening twilight


No background knowledge is required to enjoy the reindeer shark of this book. It is not necessary to work your way through this Beatles work to enjoy it or to be amazed, as Gabriele Hartmann and Christof Blumentrath have always managed to spin their own works around the song titles.

However, I assume that the two of them listened to the album and were also inspired by the music, especially the songs, which do not have much textual content, such as: B. "Revolution 9" and "Good Night", the last two tracks on the album. "Revolution 9" is an experimental sound collage, a musical inferno with spoken scraps of text. This became one of my favorite reindeer sharks in this book:

the way i turn
and turn: Satan stares
from the mirror

Revolution 9
just keep going, Ms. Lot

a thread of tinsel
in the Easter fire


And the title of the Lullaby "Good Night, Sleep Tight" inspired the reindeer shark

her body smells
after horse

Good Night
kissed on the forehead

the crown
the heavenly ladder crowns
a horseshoe moon


Touch this Renhai by Gabriele Hartmann and Christof Blumentrath by leaving space for your own imagination and space for your own personal feeling, because the meaning of a text develops and arises during its reception.

And don't just touch the Renhai. The artistic photographs in gray tones, surrealistically abstract subjects by Gabriele Hartmann and almost unreal snow images by Christof Blumentrath, fascinate as cool and mysterious companions of the stories captured in the Renhai.

Rudiger Jung writes:

The co-authors have been a well-established team in the writing of Renhai since 2016, but also Tan-Renga, Renga, Haiga. Among the previous Renhai, which Gabriele Hartmann wrote with various lyrical partners, this volume stands out due to the number of texts (30!) And the sophisticated bibliophile design. Impressive, sometimes puzzling pictures in black and white enter into a stimulating trialogue with the underlying music pieces and the printed partner seals.


Lorem ipsum dolor sit amet, consectetur adipiscing elit. Ut elit elit, luctus nec ullamcorper mattis, dapibus leo pulvinar.