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The Renku Sessions: Breathing In – Week 6

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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:

the mistress
on her own
till new year

                                    Andrew Shimield

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.

they bend
toward the winter sun
together

                                    Aalix Roake

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

without him

                                    Judt Shrode

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
behind her

                                    Marietta McGregor

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.

midnight lovers
pelting each other
with snowballs

                                    Chris Patchel

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.

“can’t you
ever pick
the right tie?”

                                    Victor Ortiz

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.

snow angels
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.

unfamiliar
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.

etching “MeToo”
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

                                    Marion Clarke

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

 

breathing in
scent of new growth
in the trees

                                    Shane Pruett

 

a pollen-covered bee’s
waggle dance

                                    Polona Oblak

 

her china cups
filled with oolong
and memories

                                    Liz Ann Winkler

 

the delicate neck
of my housemaid

                                  Maureen Virchau

 

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

                                 Marion Clarke

 

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!

John Stevenson

 

 

This Post Has 84 Comments

  1. I pull up the hood
    to avoid the snow
    and your words
    Marion Clarke

    in shreds — her truth
    lambasted by his fury

    1. Ahhh…we have ‘pull’!
      .
      Cassini dives through the drag
      of Saturn’s rings

  2. a balloon string dangles
    from the dead seal’s mouth
    *
    volunteers clear rubbish
    from the river bank
    *
    the bombed out remains
    of what was once Aleppo

  3. the inhabitable zone
    of misogyny
    *
    *
    brave accusations
    vs. patriarchy’s firing squad
    *
    *
    taking anger
    to the voting booth
    *
    (or maybe: we take our anger / to the voting booth)

  4. the shreds themselves
    Banksy’s piece de resistance
    .
    .
    (I don’t have access to diacritical marks.)

  5. Verse 1:

    Australian Prime Minister says:
    “Opera House is the biggest billboard Sydney has”.

    Verse 2:

    “Girl with Balloon”
    self-destructs

  6. Opera House sails emblazoned
    with horse-racing silks
    .

    Current affairs on a very crass and local scale! The building is UNESCO-listed…sorry, had to vent.

    1. As we already have an ‘I’ in Marion’s verse, may I change my verse to this:
      .
      tell us why we should fear
      a red calf born in Israel
      .
      or perhaps better,
      .
      what are these tales
      of a red calf born in Israel?
      .

    1. The internal rhyme doesn’t bother me (I rather like it), but ‘merging’ is an option.

      A more recent and important event (but maybe less known):

      colliding neutron stars
      a LIGO chirp

  7. go Voyager go
    interstellar

    saludos, bonjour, shalom
    from planet earth

    I see Betty had a similar idea : )

  8. Congrats Marion, a nice verse
    *
    there is always a storm
    on the European parliament
    *
    the powerful noise of the waves
    that overwhelms all the coast
    *
    at the street corners smoke
    hidden in signed sweatshirts

  9. Well done Marion and John!
    *****
    grieving Telequah
    releases her dead calf
    .
    that poisoned ex-spy
    is a “scumbag” and a “traitor”
    .
    as if it’s a case
    of she said he said

  10. Congratulations, Marion.

    *

    FBI makes a thorough inquiry
    within one week!

    *

    white noise becomes
    a mother’s blessing

    *

    three-ply stuck to the soles
    of his leather shoes

  11. I pull up the hood
    to avoid the snow
    and your words
    Marion Clarke
    **************
    visceral assault
    of the daily news

    **
    in protest
    the news is muted

    **
    wails of sirens
    bypass the capital

  12. I’m honoured you selected my verse from such wonderful contenders, John. Thank you.

    I love your suggestion which, for me, adds a convertible to the scene and gives the narrator a sense of power. However, do you think it still has a link to the verse before, now that it is no longer “my neck”? I’ve mentioned this in my reply to Lorin)

    Although, thinking about it a little more… I guess there is the implication that the “he” in this verse might have had a fling with the maid in the last one, so perhaps it’s okay? 🙂

    1. I talked about this when I saw your reply to Lorin.
      .
      Regional idioms are interesting but challenging in this setting. I would never refer to the roof of a convertible as a “hood”. Where I live, everyone would say that the convertible is either “top up” or “top down.”

      1. Yes, this one is particularly challenging, John. Without “my” it is the roof of a convertible for me and definitely not a hood of a coat; for you it could be a hood of a coat or what we call the “bonnet” of the car!

        1. Marion, the bonnet (English) is the same as the hood (American English) of a car. Not the roof or top part of a car. Do you really call the roof of a car the bonnet in Ireland?
          .
          – Lorin

          1. Nope. I’m just totally confused now, Lorin, with all these hoods, bonnets and roofs!

  13. John, I’m interested to know in regard to these current affairs verses, how objective should the poet be? Obviously, many things move, hurt and anger us. I think editorialising is frowned upon in haiku. Is it so in renku?
    .

    textbook ethnic cleanse
    and a Nobel Prize goes begging
    .

    1. In a longer renku, the answer would be yes it is frowned upon in the Jo and Kyu (opening and closing sections) but not in the ha (middle). This short form is less clear about that but we can certainly accommodate that at this stage of our current session.

  14. I pull up the hood
    to avoid the snow
    and your words
    .
    — Marion Clarke
    .

    the volcano’s breath stilled
    along Kilauea’s East Rift
    .

  15. Congratulations, Marion for your brilliant verse. Enjoyed reading the poetic comments by John.

    **
    music amplifies
    in the cultural festival

    *****
    underwater meeting
    about the climate change

    *****
    cricket breaks
    the morning silence

    *****
    an agenda point goes
    unnoticed in the video conference

    *****

  16. I pull up the hood
    to avoid the snow
    and your words
    .
    — Marion Clarke
    .

    MH370 and its 239 souls
    now only a blip on the radar
    .

  17. Brrr…great stuff, Marion! And thank you for your reading of mine, John.

    .
    I pull up the hood
    to avoid the snow
    and your words
    .
    -Marion Clarke
    .
    signs on the door read
    no balaclavas, no burkhas
    .

  18. Congratulations, Marion. I liked this verse when I first misread it (as I see now) and I like it even more with ‘the’ replacing ‘my’.
    .
    I pull up the hood
    to avoid the snow
    and your words
    .
    Marion Clarke
    .

    Misread? Yes . . . my original reading was : “the snow/ in his words”. 🙂 Some of that misreading still lingers.
    .
    Now, with “the hood”, though of course it links to the “delicate neck”, being the name of that part of a jacket that covers the neck and head, might quite as easily be read as the North American word for what you (most likely) and I call “the bonnet” of a car. 🙂
    .
    – Lorin

    1. Thank you, Lorin.

      Interesting. I used the possessive to make the link with neck from the verse before. ‘the’ roof definitely makes me think of the folding top of a convertible rather than a coat or jacket and I would always say “I’m pulling/putting up my hood” when referring to my own coat. I might say “she pulls up the hood of her coat” but without “of my coat” I wouldn’t use “the”. Having said that I really like the idea of it being a car because it means she’s leaving him out in the snow! I just don’t know if it retains the link that way. But John can decide. 🙂

      1. I had these same thoughts. That’s why I am contemplating something other than “my” for the previous verse.
        .
        If we consider “hood” to refer to an engine covering, the scene could be about engine trouble, occurring during a snowstorm. She is the one who knows something about the engine but he is the one who is giving unwanted advice. But really this is a secondary reading.
        .
        I intend “hood” to refer to the winter clothing item. I justify it to myself as follows. This is a reply to a man who has just said something like, “Why are you pulling up your stupid hood. This (snow) is nothing.” Or some phrase through which the “my” is already understood and not needed in the reply.

        1. Yes, a lot to think about, John.

          And the other thing is that there will be two definite articles over two lines, which I hadn’t noticed until now.

          1. We can get a little crazy about articles in English-language renku. They are such an ubiquitous feature of the language that we can find ourselves writing very unnatural phrases in order to avoid them. I tend to confine myself from trying to avoid starting so many verses with them that they begin to be obvious and the verses begin to read like a list.
            .
            This reminds me of the very first haiku gathering I attended – a meeting of the Haiku Society of America in New York. There as a workshop that produced a rather heated discussion of whether a certain poem should say “the” or “a.”
            .
            discussion
            of a singe word…
            a spark flies

      2. I pull up the hood
        to avoid the snow
        and your words
        .
        Marion Clarke

        I immediately thought it was the hood of the car because she/he would not hear the nagging words while the spouse remained in the car. Raising the hood of a coat would avoid snow and may muddle the words. Just saying.

        1. Interesting, Carmen. So you would also refer to the foldable roof of a convertible as a “hood”. Do use the term “bonnet” for that part of the car that covers the engine, I wonder, or is that also the hood for you?

          The image I was presenting was that of a person pulling up the hood of their coat so they would avoid hearing words that they had been anticipating and/or dreading from a loved one. My concern is that the use of the direct pronoun instead of the possessive to describe the hood doesn’t reflect that it the narrator’s coat that is the subject. However, John is already onto this.

          1. Marion,
            I assumed that in Northern Ireland the front part of a car that covers the engine etc. would be called the bonnet, just as it is in Australia, the rest of the UK and Ireland. To my knowledge, ‘hood’ is the equivalent in USA English.
            .
            According to this article in the Irish Times the roof of a convertible is a roof:
            .
            “In practical terms the metal roof takes just 20 seconds to open or close, and when open the folded parts fit snugly into the bootspace,”
            https://www.irishtimes.com/life-and-style/motors/bmw-s-new-4-series-could-spring-a-convertible-comeback-1.1663081
            .
            (“bootspace” in the above would convert to “trunkspace” in American English, I imagine.)
            .
            I just imagined, as well as her pulling up the hood of her coat, while standing out there with the snow blowing at her, an alternative reading might be that she pulls up the hood of the car (not the roof) to block out her view of the speaker as well as his words.
            Ya never know, if he was standing close enough the hood(of the car) might smack him in the jaw and shut him up. 🙂
            .
            Stormy weather! 🙂
            .
            -Lorin

    2. Yes, Lorin, we always call the cover of the engine the bonnet.

      It was only when I read “metal roof” in your post that I realised we aren’t even thinking of the same type of car. After looking it up, what I was referring to is known as a ‘soft top’, with a foldable vinyl “hood” rather than a rigid roof. As a non-driver and knowing very little about cars, when my verse was changed to “the hood” I was instantly reminded of a friend who owned an MG Midget as he used to stop driving to “put up the hood” whenever it started raining.

      Incidentally, it was interesting to see the word “bootspace” referred to in the Irish Times as I’ve never heard of that used here in the North. We might wonder if there is enough space in the boot to take our suitcases, but it is always referred to simply as “the boot.” But there are lots of linguistic differences even just a few miles away here in Ireland.

      But anyway, there wasn’t a car in sight when I wrote the haiku and “my hood” was securely attached to my coat at the time, but hey, it’s up to the reader once it leaves me! 🙂

      John, I couldn’t add another reply to your last post, so I’ll respond here. I honestly don’t get too crazy about the avoidance of articles, but I do prefer to avoid repetition where I can. For example, in the ku you ended with, I would perhaps have written the last line as “sparks fly.” But anyway, thanks for the exchange of information. I studied socio-linguistics at uni, so find the discussion is really interesting.

      marion

    1. I guess since this is in quotes it would be clear that it’s a ‘saying.’
      .
      .
      ‘What’s sauce for the goose
      is sauce for the gander.’

  19. Thank you John, I am happy you like my offering and support continued participation. And well done Marion, I was right there in that scene and it opens up many possibilities.
    *
    the office fridge
    full of buds
    *
    Frankly, Brett
    I do give a dam
    *
    houses swallowed whole
    in Palu mud
    .

    1. For those who might not know, Canada is about to legalize cannabis. My son in law works in a shared office environment and tells me he is welcome to help himself to the coffee and cannabis!

  20. I pull up my hood
    to avoid the snow
    and your words
    .
    -Marion Clarke
    .
    immigrant children
    stranded in custody

  21. Nicely Done Marion
    ***************
    the President giddy with
    Kim Jong’s attention
    *********************
    oh Bret, Bret there’s
    someone to see you
    *******************
    building a wall like
    that big one in China
    ******************

    1. Liking all these Michael. I didn’t see your Bret reference before posting mine. Fun to be on the same page.

  22. somewhere in the Universe
    it was discovered a new moon

    ***
    on the ship deck some refugees
    look at shore with fear and hope

  23. Congrats, Marion! I can feel the harshness of the speaker’s environment in terms of weather and his/her relationship with a significant other. A blizzard comes to mind with its severe winds and low visibility. Brrrrrrrr. Thank you for the insightful commentary, John. A lot of worthy verses to choose from!
    .
    .
    I pull up the hood
    to avoid the snow
    and your words
    .
    -Marion Clarke
    .
    .
    thousands protest
    along the Gaza border

  24. wonderful choice; well done Marion

    rap music follows me
    from a side street

    on a wet flyer
    fab offers for a trip abroad

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