I am John Stevenson and I will be your guide for a twenty-stanza, nijûin, renku.
Before we get into the selection of our hokku, I just want to announce that our tan-renga have now been archived here.
The advent of another renku session has brought forth much creative activity. I want everyone to know that I could have highlighted and commented upon many more hokku offers than those appearing below.
I began to winnow the potential choices through a number of almost arbitrary considerations. One of them is that I prefer, since I have so many other choices, not to begin with a verse that names the season. While many good verses mention “spring,” I think it’s better to leave the option to name a season open for use later in the renku.
If a month or a holiday associated with a particular calendar date was mentioned, I passed over the verse in deference to the fact that important parts of our group live in different hemispheres, involving different orientations of the seasons to the calendar.
While it is possible to open with a blossom verse, I have elected to save that for the next verse. And some otherwise good offers included moon or love images. These will have their turns, later in the renku.
It could also be said that what I have selected to highlight befits from a consideration that was not listed in the instructions as a requirement. In fact, I’ve never seen it listed as a requirement for the hokku. But, in the course of reading your offers, I found myself thinking a lot about whether the verses contained words or phrases that might make a good title. While the title of a renku sometimes comes from later verses, the use of some part of the hokku is far more frequent. And, in this setting, it is helpful for us to have a “working title” from the very beginning.
So, with these things in mind, here are some hokku offers that garnered additional consideration on my part:
among the ripples
Each line of this verse is a potential title. And each would function in a different way as the title. The first line would be the “keep it simple” title – a setting that would be encountered in the very first words of the renku and, thus, get the title business immediately completed. The second line, to me, suggests the interaction of the verses we are about to compose. And the third line, to me, suggests the multiplicity and essential equality (without the sacrifice of individuality) of the poets working together.
this heady sense
the time has come
Another possible function of the hokku that is not usually listed as a “requirement” is its potential to comment upon the experience of beginning a new adventure in renku. This verse links the feeling of “spring fever” with the pleasing anticipation of working together.
the lawn opens
Yes! We’re in business! (In case this idiom – we’re in business – is not familiar to some, its meaning is something like, “anything is possible now!”)
of a prince
Because we have the story of a prince turned into a frog and then returned to his original state by a kiss, this verse is constantly trading outlooks – talk about “link and shift!”
a red kite lands
on our lawn
This event could be greeted with either delight or consternation. Because it is presented in the hokku, we are inclined to choose delight. And the verse offers the author of the next verse the opportunity to reinforce that inclination.
by the bucketful…
she flours her hands
Little fishes collected for a delicious meal. Little verses collected for a renku. The first and second lines are also interesting title options.
roof tiles in bloom…
in the buzz of bees
noise of time
Roof tiles and noise of time both strike me as potential titles.
a butterfly flits
into the fat of the day—
the skip of a stone
I can see I am not alone in loving the phrase “the fat of the day.” That would be a fabulous title. And the way in which “the fat of the day” is echoed structurally by “the skip of a stone” tends to act out the skipping stone. Also, I have an almost unconscious sense that “fat of the day” invokes the “flat” aspect of a rally good skipping stone
Any of the above, and many others not highlighted here, would serve us well as the new hokku. Here is where I would like us to start:
we follow the way
of the wind
I’m going the suggest “Way of the Wind” as our working title (though green barley would also serve us). Because this hokku so strongly suggests the way in which we move forward throughout a renku and because I have emphasized this by the selection of the working title, the next verse is challenged to reground us in the sensory experience of “seeing the wind” through its effect upon vegetation.
You are now invited to submit up to five wakiku (second verse) offers.
The requirements will be as follows:
- A two-line verse of seventeen syllables or less
- Containing a spring blossom image or phrase from the site listed below
- Without a grammatical break
- Closely linked to the hokku (first verse), possibly by elaborating on the scene depicted in the hokku
For this renku, we will be using this site (http://www.2hweb.net/haikai/renku/500ESWd.html) as the source for our season words and images.
I will be reviewing your offers until midnight on Monday, May 10 (New York time). On Thursday, May 13 there will be a new post in which I will announce my selection of a wakiku, comment on some of the other offers, and issue instructions for writing third verse (daisan) offers.
Thank you, everyone,
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