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The Renku Sessions: Breathing In- Week 13

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Welcome to our ninth renku session under the sponsorship of The Haiku Foundation. This is a Jûnichô (twelve verse) renku, under the guidance of John Stevenson.

Our final verse has been selected from sixty offers, by twenty-four poets. This posting goes live on the Thanksgiving holiday here in the US. I am profoundly grateful for the participation of so many poets in this renku session. In particular, I am impressed with how consistently supportive and encouraging you have all been with each other and me. Renku should be fun and you have certainly made it that this time around.

Here are a few of the verses that caught my imagination this time:

a bountiful moon shared
with family and friends

                                    Michael Henry Lee

An early favorite, this verse has the kind of celebratory feeling that works so nicely in a final renku verse (ageku).

a final round of drinks
before departing with the moon

                                    Victor Ortiz

This one also has the tone of sociability that can be a great asset in the ageku. And the anticipated image of friends tumbling out of a pud into moonlight is great fun.

leaves’ golden glitter
under the moon

                                    Margaret Walker

Moonlight is usually thought to “silver” objects it falls upon. The way in which these autumn leaves are said to assert their gold, despite the moon’s influence, is interesting. And they do, after all, take their glitter from the moonlight.

straw bales stacked
underneath the moon

                                    Pauline O’Carolan

I like the way this verse offers stacked bales as an image of our stacked verses. And, perhaps a mirror image. Ending with the word “moon” would mean that we had put the moon under our stack of verses!

no more tired faces
looking at the full moon

                                    Margherita Petriccione

I seem to remember a number of classical Japanese haiku that relate to aspects of the faces of moon viewers. This offer has some tradition behind it though I might be reluctant to keep the word “more” since it could function as a critical comment on the verses and poets who had preceded it.

 

OUR TWELFTH VERSE

 

moonlight streams
through an open gate

                                       Andrew Shimield

 

In the end, I am going with the power of simplicity.

 

 

OUR TWELVE VERSES

 

breathing in
scent of new growth
in the trees

Shane Pruett

a pollen-covered bee’s
waggle dance

Polona Oblak

china cups
filled with oolong
and memories

Liz Ann Winkler

the delicate neck
of his housemaid

Maureen Virchau

I pull up my hood
to avoid the snow
and your words

Marion Clarke

UN laughter
heard round the world

Chris Patchel

is it so long since
dugongs were taken
for mermaids?

Marietta McGregor

the rainbow snake redrawn
as nucleic acid

Lorin Ford

English roses
live and die
in Hyde Park

Pauline O’Carolan

the whole band
headbangs in unison

Agnes Eva Savich

the shadow
of crows descending
on a stubble field

Judt Shrode

moonlight streams
through an open gate

Andrew Shimield

 

THIS WEEK

 

  • Please submit offers for a title for our completed renku. I have been listing it as “Breathing In” and it is frequently the case that a renku title comes from some word or phrase included in the hokku (first verse). But this is not the only option. What might be a good alternative? I will make a selection next Thursday, after reading your suggestions. (Though I should say now that I am very fond of “Breathing In”)
  • Please describe any potential alterations in the selected verses that you think would improve the renku, as a whole. An example might be elimination of an article in successive verses starting with the same article. I may be making some small adjustments and, before doing so, I would like to consider your thoughts about this.
  • We have no leader for our next session – to begin early in the new year. If you would be willing to lead the next session, please say so. Thanks!

The next and final posting for this renku will appear next Thursday, November 29.

Thanks again, to all of you. I am looking forward to your comments and suggestions,

John

This Post Has 49 Comments

  1. A suggested title would be, The Dance. Nature and humans’ continuous dance together as it is brought out in the twelve verses.

  2. A suggested title would be, The Dance. Nature and humans’ continuous dance together as it is brought out in the twelve verses.

  3. As we know the hokku is the most important verse. In Japan, it is an honor to be chosen, so I think Shane’s choice of trees should not be changed. My other suggestion is if Liz changes the word memories, it is better to choose a word that has no more than 10 letters. I have often heard that long words do not fit in renku or haiku for that matter.
    .
    breathing in
    scent of new growth
    in the trees
    .
    Shane Pruett
    .
    a pollen-covered bee’s
    waggle dance
    .
    Polona Oblak
    .
    china cups
    filled with oolong
    and memories
    .
    Liz Ann Winkler

    1. ” . . . it is better to choose a word that has no more than 10 letters. I have often heard that long words do not fit in renku or haiku for that matter.” – Carmen
      .
      That’s something I hadn’t come across before, Carmen. I’d heard of counting syllables (in English) and counting morae (in Japanese) but I hadn’t come across any advocates of letter-counting before.
      .
      So, according to that view, “grandchild” is ok to use in renku or haiku, but “grandchildren” , at 13 letters, would be frowned upon as unfitting?
      .
      I’d be interested to learn the source/ sources of this view.
      .
      – Lorin

  4. I agree with Lorin regarding the first two verses and the daisan :
    .
    “My view is that the hokku and wakikiku work well together and it’s only ‘memories’ in the daisan that overdoes the rhyming.” – Lorin
    .
    I like the openness of the word “memories,” which links so well with the following verse but I do understand the rhyming issue. Still, I’m happy to retain it. In keeping with the idea of “memories,” Liz Ann’s alternative “reflections” and Lorin’s “reminiscence” are attractive. I would throw into the mix “recollections” as a possibility for its sound quality, i.e., the second ‘c’ sound of “recollections” is perhaps soft as in “china” while the first ‘c’ sound is more akin to the hard ‘c’ in cups.”
    .
    My other suggestions perhaps specify the conception of “memories” too closely with the following verse but they are:
    .
    breathing in
    scent of new growth
    in the trees – Shane Pruett
    .
    a pollen-covered bee’s
    waggle dance – Polona Oblak
    .
    (a)
    china cups
    filled with oolong
    and recollections – Liz Ann Winkler
    .
    (b)
    china cups
    filled with oolong
    and cares – Liz Ann Winkler (though “cares” ends in ‘es’ it has a different sound)
    .
    (c)
    china cups
    filled with oolong
    and concerns – Liz Ann Winkler
    .
    It’s been fun!
    – Victor, Bellingham, Washington, USA

  5. .
    Personally I think the renku is fine as it was written – I am not troubled by the articles or the rhyming. My only suggestion might be:
    .
    china cups
    filled with oolong
    and memories
    .
    – Liz Ann Winkler
    .
    .
    china cups
    filled with the zen
    of oolong
    .
    – Liz Ann Winkler
    .
    Thanks to all contributors and to John for a lovely experience.
    .

    1. Nice suggestion, princess k. “ the zen of oolong “ has a pleasing sound.

      Liz Ann Winkler
      White Rock, BC Canada

  6. A very appropriate ageku.
    .
    I think we have composed a very fine renku thanks to every participant’s engagement. And, of course, this couldn’t have been done without John’s skillful leadership.
    .
    The working title, “Breathing In”, has grown on me, too. The alternative could be “New Growth” or, since the junicho has a more liberal approach, a less conventional “Open Gate” taken from the ageku.
    .
    As for the possible issue with the articles, first I was going to suggest
    .
    shadows
    of crows descending
    on a stubble field
    .
    but I get the point of having a singular shadow (though I wouldn’t bother about linking) so I support Judt’s proposed edit.
    .
    the ee rhyming in the first three verses… it’s not terribly distracting but it is there. I don’t see a way to eliminate my bee without losing the point. Liz Ann’s verse is also tricky to change so perhaps the easiest way would be to somehow replace those trees in Shane’s hokku.
    It could be a specific sort of tree – strangely enough, I keep thinking of a pine. Conifers do grow those bright green tips in spring, and besides, they have a distinctive fragrance. But maybe we need something more general than one tree species. So how about this?
    .
    breathing in
    scent of new growth
    in the woods
    .
    I don’t know, honestly, just thinking, and it does not look too bad to me.

    1. “Liz Ann’s verse is also tricky to change. . . ” – Polona
      .
      Polona, check out Liz Ann’s own proposed edit. I’d be very interested in your opinion . . . well, it’s on that long, dangling thread after John’s post, so here it is:
      .
      “Liz Ann Winkler says
      .
      November 24, 2018 at 8:00 pm
      .

      Thanks for all the suggestions. We could ease up in the ees with:

      *
      china cups
      filled with oolong
      and reflections ”
      .

      – Lorin

      1. Thanks, Lorin, I saw Liz Ann’s suggested edit. It is a possibility but to me it loses some of the appeal of the originally accepted entry (which, I think, had already been tweaked)

        1. Yes, Polona, you are correct in the edit. My version had too much internal rhyme with sweet tea instead of oolong, my linking to the bees. I admit I’d rather it not change at all. Changing trees in the hokku would bring us from 3-2 ees. I’m going to be happy with whatever call John makes, playing along has been my pleasure.

  7. Hi Everyone,

    Andrew’s verse definitely a lovely close.

    I agreed that this has been a fine experience, and I feel that the renku as a whole needs little change. Perhaps just removing “the” from “the shadow of crows” as suggested elsewhere. If the rhyming is an issue I think substituing “trees” (sorry, Shane) rather than “memories”, which I really like.

    Using “Breathing In” from the hokku onwards would make a different title take some getting used to. I’ve always liked it.

    Best wishes

    Pauline (Cobargo, NSW, Australia)

  8. Thank you John, and to all, for this enjoyable journey. I look forward to further participation.

    *

    the shadow
    of crows descending
    on a stubble field

    * could become:

    *
    shadows of crows
    descend
    on a stubble field

    *

    Breathing In or Memories for title suggestion.

    *

  9. That reply thread below John’s is getting too long! 🙂
    .
    “What jumps out to me is the rhyming within the first three verses: trees, bee’s, and memories. I have a thought about what we might do to soften that. Would like to hear your ideas.” – John
    .
    My view is that the hokku and wakikiku work well together and it’s only ‘memories’ in the daisan that overdoes the rhyming. A couple of possible alternatives:
    .
    breathing in
    scent of new growth
    in the trees – Shane Pruett\
    .

    a pollen-covered bee’s
    waggle dance – Polona Oblak
    .
    (a)
    china cups
    filled with oolong
    and reminiscence – Liz Ann Winkler

    .
    (b)
    china cups
    filled with oolong
    and etiquette – Liz Ann Winkler
    .
    – Lorin

  10. For a title I’m happy with ‘breathing in’
    As for the rhymes issue:
    I could only come up with the same thought as Maureen V and Judt, that the trees in verse one could become specific:
    ‘in the elms/oaks’
    though this does lose that nice internal rhyme
    Verse 2 seems unalterable to me – we can’t lose the bee!
    verse 3 It’s hard to think of a one word substitution for ‘memories ‘
    I don’t know how Liz Ann would feel about re-jigging the whole verse
    the past relived/shared
    with china cups
    full of oolong

    as an off the cuff suggestion
    All in the melting pot to think about

  11. Congratulations Andrew, that is a fantastic way to close the poem. The image to me has significant impact and is a very peaceful scene.

    And John thank you for all of your thoughts and help to me, a complete neophyte to this style of poetry, and of course for including my verse as the hokku. I look forward to your final version.

    I know it has been scattered throughout at times, but I’d love to see a list of where all the contributors are from. To me, this is one of the fascinating aspects of this particular endeavor.
    shane pruett – Salem, OR, USA

  12. I absolutely adore Shane’s hokku. It’s wonderful. Just offering some ideas in consideration of the rhyming issue.
    .
    .
    breathing in
    scent of new growth
    in the grove/oaks/orchard

  13. Well, John, it’s my first time to experience the editing process in renku…so I most probably should keep quiet. But with apologies to Polona and Liz Ann, here are some musings.
    I’m guessing the hokku would stand. I like the internal rhyme. If any change, maybe using just a tree name?
    Would just getting rid of end rhyme help?
    .
    a bee’s pollen-covered
    waggle dance
    .
    a pollen-covered worker’s
    waggle dance
    .
    china cups
    filled with oolong
    and old times
    .
    china cups
    filled with oolong
    and tradition/s
    .
    Concerning the articles, I feel that switching them adds definition that improves the verse, as well as giving variety.
    I’m looking forward to seeing others’ ideas in this process!!
    .
    Judt

  14. the shadow
    of crows descending
    on a stubble field
    moonlight streams
    through an open gate
    .
    Well done, Judt and Andrew! The addition of moonlight in this verse for me changes Judt’s verse to one with even more mystery. What an evocative ending, Andrew! Thank you John for all your comments throughout the weeks to help steer us in a common direction. And what a delight it has been to participate in such a rewarding experience with every one of you. Thank you all!!

  15. Congratulations, Andrew, on a delightful ageku. Congrats to everyone on such striking verses! Thank you for all your hard work, John. I’ve truly enjoyed your commentary throughout the renku process. I think “Breathing In” is a fantastic title. “Oolong and Memories” comes to mind as an unconventional title, but I imagine it would further highlight the rhyming issue. I do like Judt’s revision as it also addresses the repetition of an indefinite article in line 2 of verse 11 and 12. Looking forward to everyone’s final thoughts.

  16. many thanks to all those who have posted comments on verse 12.
    Much appreciated.
    And thanks to John whose editing improved the verse.
    Even more thanks to John for captaining us on this renku voyage.

  17. Hello everyone. Just thought I would direct your attention to another potential area of concern.
    .
    I did give the repeated definite articles beginning verses ten and eleven as an example of something that might be a concern. But I don’t consider that a problem. A third in a row would have been a problem for me but what we have now seems like ordinary English diction. Not a bad thing.
    .
    What jumps out to me is the rhyming within the first three verses: trees, bee’s, and memories. I have a thought about what we might do to soften that. Would like to hear your ideas.

    1. Now that you mention it, John . . . ‘breathing/ trees/ bees/ memories’ does feel like a bit of overload and the silent (implied/missing) word in the daisan that would come, in common speech, after ‘oolong’ (tea) plays a part, too, for this reader. I’ll be interested to see your thoughts, and anyone else’s, re softening.
      .
      – Lorin

    2. Now that you bring it up, I too hear it. It really doesn’t bother me that much, as it is a very soft alliteration. If it doesn’t belong however… I can’t see much wiggle room (pun intended) with Polona’s bee verse – that one is pretty much a given. I have a small personal attachment to the first verse, but am playing around with trying to drop “trees” without losing the verse. I love the image presented by Liz Ann with oolong and memories… I think many of us introspects have stared into a cup of something, lost in thought and I’d hate to lose that image as well. I guess what I’m saying is I may not be much help with this – looking forward to hearing John’s thoughts but will continue to shake the hokku to see what falls out.

      1. Shane, for what it’s worth, I think your hokku and Polona’s wakiku are fine and if any tweaking is to be done, in my view it’s the daisan, the 3rd verse, that needs attention. After all, it’s known as the ‘breakaway verse’. . . the first verse to ‘break away’ completely from its last-but-one.
        .
        china cups
        filled with oolong
        and . . . ?
        .
        Liz Ann, I wonder if you might be able to come up with an alternative to ‘memories’ that you’d feel comfortable with?
        .
        – Lorin
        – Lorin

        1. Thanks for all the suggestions. We could ease up in the ees with:

          *
          china cups
          filled with oolong
          and reflections

          1. ‘reflections’ is a brilliant edit/ solution, imo, Liz Ann! It “eases up on the ee’s” 🙂 . . . yes, but it also brings to your verse another dimension: along with the reflections of mind (which memories are part of) you’ve added the literal sense.
            .
            I’ll be interested to read what John and others have to say.
            .
            – Lorin

  18. Congratulations, Andrew! It’s a beautiful verse.
    I really like the (as I visualize it) white moonlight next to the black crows.
    I’ve liked ‘breathing in’ since the beginning. It calls up for me the pleasure of taking deep, mindful breaths. Also the easing of tension as spring softens the world.
    As for the articles, I wonder how it would work to switch them in my verse:
    .
    a shadow
    of crows descending
    on the stubble field
    .
    In that way, the shadow remains as a unit, which was my link to the band.
    .
    Thank you for leading the renku, John! It’s been delightful. And thank you to everyone who participated! Every offered verse adds to the enjoyment.

    Judt

  19. Congratulations Andrew! And that you to John for mentioning my verse.

    For titles – I agree that either “Breathing In” or “Open Gate” are excellent choices – each in their own way.

  20. Congratulations, Andrew. John, it’s the perfect choice, in my view.
    .
    moonlight streams
    through an open gate
    .

    Andrew Shimield
    .
    In context, following Judt’s singular shadow of a flock of many crows, moonlight “through an open gate” evokes simplicity of the most powerful and resonant kind. I’m put in mind, by association, of Leonard Cohen’s song, “Love Itself”.
    .
    Though I understand (and on the structural level, agree to some extent) with the objections to perhaps too many def. articles (a problem that Asian languages don’t have as far as I know) I think Judt’s verse and Andrew’s link to it would suffer (lose poetic depth) if there were many shadows of individual crows. That the crows make one shadow seems to me to be essential to the intent of the verse..
    .
    If a def. article needs to be lost, one possibility might be to fiddle with Agne’s verse:
    .

    English roses
    live and die
    in Hyde Park (Pauline)

    .
    from L1 “the whole band”
    .
    to L1 ‘name of a band’
    .

    Black Sabbath
    headbangs in unison (Agnes)
    .
    ?
    .
    But then some might object to having 3 names of things in a row (2 in the same verse), the name of a language, the name of a place and the name of a band.
    .
    I wouldn’t object . . . with these 2 verses we’re still in the ha phase and these are two consecutive verses; Agnes’s verse complements Pauline’s verse, and there is no distracting ‘return to last-but one’ or any other thing that takes the reader back or halts the flow.
    .
    For all I know, there may be esoteric ‘rules of intermission’ , not translated into English, about how many proper names may appear. But all I can find is this, from Renku Home:
    .
    “Heavenly phenomena, rising and falling things, human nature, famous places, and the names of countries by at least two; ” (from ‘Song of Topical Guidelines’, http://www.2hweb.net/haikai/renku/shorter_renku.html
    .
    It seems to relate only to ‘famous places and the names of countries’…perhaps also, by logical extension, the names of languages. But I see no intermission period required here anyway, as we’re looking at two consecutive verses.
    .
    – Lorin

  21. Wonderful ageku selection. Congratulations Andrew. Interesting how our final verse offers up another lovely possibility for a title. Both “breathing in” and “open gate” speak to me as Richard stated. I’d be happy with either, “breathing in” a more traditional choice, “open gate” more visual. Can’t go wrong.

    Thank to all for making this Renku such a pleasant engagement . I have so looked forward to reading each contribution and the excitement of Thursday’s. Happy Thanksgiving to my US friends.

  22. Congratulations for a lovely verse, Andrew. And thanks and thanks again to John and all. It has been a real treat to play along with this renku.
    .
    On a couple of points:
    1. If it is decided one verse could be slightly recast to avoid ‘the’ beginning three verses (two in succession) as noted by Polona, perhaps, Judt, you would not mind if yours became:
    .
    shadows
    of crows descending
    on a stubble field

    Please consider only if you think the rhythm is still fine with such a suggestion.
    .
    2. For a title, I really like ‘Breathing In’. I’m happy for it to stay. That being said, for me, another contender could be from Andrew’s verse: ‘An Open Gate’. This appeals because of its feeling of welcome, promise of novelty and sense of universal inclusion, all of which I think perfectly sum up our international renku.
    .
    Happy Thanksgiving holiday to those celebrating!
    — cheers, Marietta

    1. Thanks for your suggestion, Marietta. I think the verse itself works fine in this way, and you’re right, I don’t mind an alteration. But my concern would be that the crows casting a single shadow is the element that links to the previous verse…
      I’m wondering about:
      .
      a shadow
      of crows descending
      on the stubble field
      .
      There’s still an article, but indefinite, which maybe helps. What do you think?

      1. Judt, I think your verse is perfect as is. And I see what you mean about the shadow/shadows. However, the change you suggest does introduce some variety. I’m not the sabaki, I don’t have enough knowledge. Let’s see what the outcome is! 🙂

  23. My congratulations to Andrew and all the authors of each chosen verse.

    As for a title, “Breathing In” is a hard one to compete with. Having said that I think that a title could also come from Andrew’s closing verse “. . . through an open gate.” Both hint at the act of observing, of being open to the world around us. So, that’s my off-the-grid suggestion. 😉 Again, congratulations to all. I’m new to this but it’s fun and I look forward to the next session. Cheers!

  24. truly loved this verse as soon as I read it.Well done Andrew and John
    and everyone else.
    For those of you observing Thanksgiving have a Happy One, for those who are not: have a Happy One
    Kanpai All

  25. Congratulations to Andrew Shimield.
    Many thanks John for taking my verse into consideration. As you sensed, I remembered the famous haiku of Basho, but my “no more” was not a criticism of the great master but it referred to the faces, that lost all traces of tiredness looking at the moon

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