Hello again. This is John Stevenson and I will be facilitating a twelve verse renku, in the Jûnichô style. Over the coming weeks we will add one new verse each week, selected from your offers.
A total of 31 poets offered 166 verse five candidates this week.
During the week Lorin Ford posted the following comment:
“John, I’m a tad surprised, though, that the chosen verse features a proper noun (Molasses, the horse’s name) since that takes attention (my attention, anyway) back to the proper noun, Earthrise (the name of the photo). It seemed to me that the principal of uchikoshi /kannonbiraki meant we’d be avoiding this sort of link to the verse before the verse we’re currently linking to. I’d be interested in your instructive comments about this issue, if you wouldn’t mind, John.”
Also, Betty Shropshire alerted us to the likelihood that “bet” in my verse four selection might relate back to “count” in the hokku. I will address these concerns directly in a moment but first I want to mention another subject that has come to me recently.
It seems that I have been thinking, throughout this feature, about teaching how to write renku. But there is another skill, and in my mind an equally important skill to consider. And that is how to read renku.
Over the eight years I’ve devoted to this feature, it’s become clear to me that there are assets and liabilities inherent in the present format and platform. Renku has been adapting as it transitions from Japanese poetry to world poetry, in various languages, climates and cultures. It has simultaneously been adapting to a transition from a face-to-face social event to virtual collaboration.
In its origins, renku were practiced primarily as real-time, face-to-face collaborative creations. Today, this is more the exception than the rule. Also, the art of renku developed in a comparatively homogeneous cultural setting, where participants shared a great deal of common assumptions. But here we are in a situation that is almost the polar opposite of those conditions.
If everyone were to read a verse in exactly the same way, there would be fewer “mistakes.” But this, of course, is not realistic. And it is even less so when we are a group of people, many of whom have never met, living in very different circumstances and settings. We are, as Churchill pointed out, separated by a common language. By that I read that we may expect more understanding of each other than is reasonable without much more communication.
So, I didn’t think of “never bet on” as referring to gambling and odds making. I just thought of it as saying “don’t have great expectations of.” But the wagering meaning is more likely and so I have revised verse four to at least soften if not correct for this. I didn’t want to do it, however, in the middle the week because some people would see my note making the change and some wouldn’t. So, everyone was put under a disadvantage this time but, at least, everyone was treated equally. My edit of verse four appears in the recap below.
Lorin’s question also deals with this matter of different readings of the same words. It is compounded in this instance because she is he author of the words and I am the selector. In a stand-alone poem, I would favor the author’s understanding, though I would also appreciate that readers might have many other valid readings. In the case of the renku, however, I am going to press for my reading. That being the case, I should probably explain it and make a small edit to make it clearer. I do not think of “Earthrise” as the title of a photograph. I didn’t even know that there was a title associated with a single photograph. There were many taken at the same time and, surely, they were not all titled. I took the word earthrise to represent the moment when humanity took a real step beyond a geocentric vision of reality. I doubt that I would have selected the verse if I had thought of it as referring to the title of a single photograph. But as the occasion of a major shift in the orientation of humanity I thought it perfect for our first “shifting” verse. Of course, Lorin is right about what she was thinking but I’m going to ask us all to think of this verse, in the context of this renku, as I think of it. To reinforce this, I have made the small but significant edit of replacing the capitalization in verse two with lower case.
My initial comment about the skill of reading renku is that, as with writing the verses, the governing principle needs to be “forward motion.” Everything in creation is related in some way and if we read a renku always looking back for links, we will find them. It is proverbially the case that we find what we look for. The standard I try to set is “obvious” back linking. Of course, this is a subjective standard and we cannot expect to totally agree on individual instances. For each of us, though, I would suggest that, in order to decide if a back-link is obvious, first we need to cultivate a “forward motion” reading. The specific concerns that were raised by Betty and Lorin are well observed and deserving of discussion. But they did remind me that one of the things that sometimes turns newcomers away from renku is that it can seem impossible to manage all of the rules. And more than impossible with each added verse. A live session gives the participants the possibility of rapid and simultaneous review of any issues that arise, plus the benefit of all of the kinds of communication that compliment and enhance mere words. In this setting, however, we will have to do the best we can with our circumstances.
So, keep letting me know with your comments if you have concerns but realize that I will generally address them in the initial post of the following week rather than in the helter-skelter of the comments stream.
Here are some of the verses that seemed to me good candidates for our first autumn verse:
an antique jug
Wendy C. Bialek
These days, the scarecrow is more often seen as an autumn decorative item than it is working in a field.
the scarecrow sporting a pair
I don’t know if the crows are impressed but it kind of scares me.
of the salmon
in their suits of mail
Lovely and poetic
a tart apple slice
with peanut butter
A vivid taste and texture image.
has borrowed its scent
from the pines
A vivid scent image.
the turf comes alive
with the various sounds
Another good sound image, one that calls upon us to imagine the sounds.
from the mud
Multiple horse racing gags. “Scratched” from the race, perhaps Molasses wasn’t a “mudder.”
an evening skimmer
searches for a sunlit perch
among the gravestones
Dragonfly is an autumn kigo. This has always seemed surprising to me. I like the “late life” of the dragonfly’s search for the warmth of late sunlight.
in the breeze
Wendy C. Bialek
A verse that offers a synesthesia experience.
the silky swish
of pale golden
“Silky” is a clear link to “racehorse.” I would have been satisfied with just the indirect association of the long-stemmed plant with the long-legged racehorse and the prominent plumes with horse’s manes and tails.
peaches still warm
in the cobbler
I suppose that the impact of this sort of verse depends upon how you feel about the particular dish. I for one, would be happy to have seconds of this. If I select it, however, I will remove “still” since it was used in verse two (“still fresh”) and change line one to “warm peaches.”
It was pointed out in the week’s comments that human beings are either literally present or strongly implied in our opening verses. This will be a factor in my choice. Another factor is my intention to start the love verses this week. So, something leading in that direction, without actually being a love verse itself, would be a good choice.
OUR FIFTH VERSE
has borrowed its scent
from the pines
Our Renku, So Far
to count the stars
earthrise still fresh
in our memories
in the back seat
has borrowed its scent
from the pines
Please offer candidates for a sixth verse, using these guidelines:
- Two lines
- A love verse (love between adult human beings)
- Containing an autumn kigo (other than the moon) from our list: http://www.2hweb.net/haikai/renku/500ESWd.html
- Linking with the fifth verse only (no obvious linking to any of the first four verses)
- Without an internal grammatical break or pause
Please enter your offers in the comments section, below. Offers should be made by midnight, eastern US time, on Monday, July 25. On Thursday, July 28 I will post a selection of the offers, with my comments, and select the sixth verse for “Barely Time.”
Thank you all, once again!
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