Welcome to our ninth renku session under the sponsorship of The Haiku Foundation. This will be a Jûnichô (twelve verse) renku, under the guidance of John Stevenson.
Twenty-seven poets offered a total of one hundred eleven verses this time. And some very interesting conversation, including references to some poems I hadn’t seen before.
Another quote from Earl Miner’s Japanese Linked Poetry (1979, Princeton University Press) will express some of my thinking about what I was originally looking for in this verse. “It is possible to differentiate between renga and haikai by labeling the one romance and the other realism. Neither term really fits, but together they make the crucial distinction of attitude.” Up to this point, our renku has been rather elegant. So, I began by looking for a second love verse that might be earthy.
Pretty much everyone offered verses that deserve comment but I simply don’t have the time this week. Here are some of the many:
on her own
till new year
I like the way the word “mistress” might refer to either “the lady of the house” or the “other woman.” The tension of these meanings invokes the tension of the situation. And the fact that I am not quite certain which person is to be abandoned (or liberated) until the new year matches the precariousness and unpredictability of such arrangements. The term mistress suggests the class distinctions that I saw in the previous two verses, so perhaps we have to pass on this verse for that reason but it has the “something other than happily ever after” that I am hoping for in this verse.
toward the winter sun
This is a lovely verse and I like the linking through gestures. The one delicate neck in verse four is multiplied and modified by the bent postures of an elderly couple. We are not told that they are old folks but the season and the sense of resignation and even acceptance in their posture strongly suggests it. We are not told whether this low sun (being bent to) is a sunrise or a sunset but the implication is sunset. This is an elegant verse, entirely in keeping with the tone we have set, so far.
still laying the fire just so
after all this time
Another elegant image and this one contains a strong element of the loss and longing that renku love verses traditionally trade in. It is also, clearly, progressing in time over the previous love verse – from the stage of lust to that of holding a beloved in memory.
old boots still leaving
his familiar track in the snow
There are two readings (at least) here. In one, she is now wearing his old boots. In the other, he is still wearing them but can no longer keep up with her. I like the fact that, in linking to this verse, we could make a choice about which reading we would work from. I would decide which reading seemed most prominent to me and then try to bring the other one forward with my link.
pelting each other
In a sense, I picked this verse randomly from among many offered by Chis Patchel. What he shows us with his contributions is how we can take a new approach and work it over in various ways. Endlessly inventive.
the right tie?”
We are likely to want a verse that represents speech. And this is in the range of tones that I hoped for in this final love verse. A fun link with the delicate neck of verse four. Needs a winter kigo.
set about to get
down and dirty
Michael Henry Lee
This looked like it would be my choice for a while. I would have suggested some modifications to Michael to make it more direct: snow angels / get down / and dirty. It would have made the kind of contrast from elegant to earthy that I was hoping for.
perfume on his mittens
in the hamper
Agnes Eva Savich
This verse does a lot of the things I was hoping for. Most prominently, it invokes the hard feelings of betrayed love. Maybe the image of “mittens” is a little bit forced. They establish the season but they seem somewhat unlikely proof of infidelity.
into the frosted window pane
of her bedroom window
Liz Ann Winkler
Here’s what I was looking for I think. There is no love in harassment or sexual assault. But renku love verses are often about one-sided love and the exploitation or betrayal of one person’s love by emotional or physical violence is, sadly, a part of the world we live in. The topical reference suggests another kind of love (which is outside of the normal scope of a love verse): a sense of assertive self-respect and solidarity with others.
We won’t have a second verse by Liz Ann but this gives me a chance to say thank you to her and to others who have continued to participate, knowing that we wouldn’t be using a second verse from them. They can still inspire us.
OUR SECOND LOVE VERSE
I pull up the hood
to avoid the snow
and your words
I think that what I have selected here is part way between where we were and where I thought we might be going. This verse does take us to someplace other than “happily ever after.” But it suggests rather than depicts the harshness of its subject and, in that way, is more consistent with the renku we have written so far. It gives me plenty of ideas, though, about how to inject something more startling in the next verse.
This verse is our first to represent a statement from one person to another. It can be taken as something actually said or as something thought but not said.
I have changed one word from the original verse. “My” has become “the” in line one. This is to avoid repetition of the word from the previous verse. I have recited the revised verse, in the context of all of the verses selected so far, and I think it works. But, toward the end, I plan to look back and do some fine tuning. At that point, it is possible that this verse will go back to its original form and I will revisit “my” in the preceding verse.
REQUIREMENTS FOR OUR NEXT VERSE
- A non-seasonal verse
- Two lines, without a break
- Linking with verse five but not, in any significant way, with the first four verses
- Current events
OUR RENKU, SO FAR
scent of new growth
in the trees
a pollen-covered bee’s
her china cups
filled with oolong
Liz Ann Winkler
the delicate neck
of my housemaid
I pull up the hood
to avoid the snow
and your words
Please use the “Leave a Reply” box, below, to submit your verse five offers. I will be reviewing them until the submission deadline of midnight, New York time, on Monday, October 8. My selection and commentary, together with an invitation for the seventh verse will appear here on Thursday, October 11.
I look forward to seeing your current event verses!