At long last The Haiku Foundation achieves one of its first goals with the inauguration of The Renku Sessions. Immediately upon creating the Foundation we felt we would like to offer a participatory activity for our readers that honored historical traditions within the haiku community while actively engaging contemporary practice. For a variety of reasons, implementing this project proved more difficult than we were able to manage. Happily, we have overcome these obstacles, and are pleased to offer Pilgrims’ Stride, our first in what we hope will be a long list of collaborative poems created by you.
Pilgrims’ Stride begins this coming Thursday, March 6, 2014. We are pleased that John Stevenson will serve as our guide (sensei) for this initial play. John has vast experience in leading renku sessions, and will conduct this one in accordance with the rules as laid out by Professor Shinku Fukuda in his book Introduction to World-linking Renku, but relaxed enough so as not to grow too technical too fast. John will provide the opening verse (hokku) and suggestions for what he will be looking for both in the second verse (wakiku), and in general throughout the session. You will have from Thursday morning until the following Tuesday midnight to craft your responses, then send them to John via the Comment box following his post. You may submit as many potential links as you like, though we do ask you to use a new Comment box for each one. John has until the following Thursday to choose among the submissions, select one, explain his reasons, and tell you what he’ll be looking for in the next verse. We will continue this until the entire poem (36 verses) is complete.
Renku is the modern version of the ancient Japanese art of haikai-no-renga, now usually shortened to renga. Renga was first played in the twelfth century by the Japanese nobility, following formal rules of sequencing (for example, a 5-7-5 on verse (kami-no-ku) followed by a 7-7 on verse (shimo-no-ku), but without semantic or content connections with other verses in the sequence. Certain topics (such as the moon, and flowers) were predetermined to appear at specified locations in the poem. Renku varies in complexity according to the experience and skill of the participants. It is actively practiced in Japan with a high degree of sophistication, but in cultures and languages where the form is less established, enforcement of its tenets is generally much less stringent. Like any game, mastery of its fine points heightens the pleasure one receives when accomplishing its goals. Our hope is to create an atmosphere of fun and learning for all our participants. There are several schools of renku, and over time we hope to offer you opportunities to participate in them all.
This day has been a long time in coming, and we are very pleased it’s here. So, at last, welcome to The Renku Sessions. Have fun!