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The Renku Sessions: Breathing In – Week 8

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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-three poets offered a total of fifty-five verses this time. As usual, I listed “requirements” for this verse and, as usual, your offers met those and raised other possibilities. When I say requirements, some of them are truly required (number of lines, for instance) and some of them are more like suggestions. And then there are requirements that are always true and haven’t been listed every time or may require greater emphasis. The main one of these is that there should be no grammatical break within any verse after the hokku. You can be sure that starting your verse with a prepositional phrase, for instance, is going to result in an internal break. It seems, also, that I should remind you that each verse should not have the quality of a stand-alone poem and that the poetry should take place in the interplay between verses rather than within the individual verse. This is a principle distinction between haikai no renga (renku) and a haiku sequence.

There were many tempting offers. Here are some examples:

prairie dog town
abuzz with rumor and
innuendo

                                          Michael Henry Lee

This verse was an early favorite. For me, it tends to put our over-mighty humanity in its place. And I like the hyperbole of prairie dogs engaging in innuendo. I ultimately feel that I have to release it, however reluctantly. The link between the two previous verses is based upon communication and, for that matter, some earlier verses touch on this subject to some degree. The word “abuzz” may even remind some of our verse number two.

a macaque
scampers away
with the temple offering

                                    Andrew Shimield

Here’s an example of meeting the requirements plus. I asked for minimal human presence in this verse and this little creature is so quick that any person who may have been nearby is simply out of the picture. The subject of religion is raised peripherally, in an extremely interesting and apt manner. The person in the previous verse is getting a reaction that surprises him. This, in turn, suggests the radically different worldviews that are prevalent now. The monkey/temple juxtaposition takes me back to the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, when the theory of evolution was thought to represent a full repudiation of religion because it was in contrast to a literal interpretation of the bible. But in this verse, the monkey and the temple are naturally coexisting and the scene has a sense of daily life reality.

as dawn breaks
sunlight slides
down Mount Blanc

                                    Andrew Shimield

I love the quality of this image and its gentle follow-up to the deflation of the pomposity and bombast of the prior verse’s UN speaker. My only reservation is that a snow-covered peak may hark back to the snow of the leap-over verse (verse five, in this instance) and that must be avoided.

the dove searching
for a nesting place
on this sleek facade

                                    Judt Shrode

The linkage is multifaceted. The dove suggests peace, a primary goal of the UN. The sleek facade suggests Trump Tower, which, in New York, is right across the street from the UN. A nesting place suggests new life and a future. And, for me, this is a very hopeful image because birds do not waste time on hopeless causes. If a dove is searching such a facade for a nesting site there must be a possibility of finding one there.

licking fresh wounds
after ejection
from the pride

                                    Betty Shropshire

Very enjoyable wordplay on the double meaning of “pride.”

is there a clock
ticking inside this
crocodile?

                                    Lorin Ford

This starts by being fun and fanciful, relating to the Disney animation of Peter Pan and turns somber when one considers the many ways in which the clock may be running out for all of us. The latest UN report on climate change is a prime example. I appreciate the option of including a question at this juncture. We are just starting the second half of our twelve verse renku.

the comic strut
of a sulphur-crested
cockatoo

                                    Lorin Ford

Another great example of Lorin’s sense of humor. If you don’t already have a clear picture of this bird, it’s well worth looking up.

cloud shadows
come and go
across the mountain’s face

                                          Liz Ann Winkler

I think that something like this was what I was imagining here. It links in a subtle and difficult to pin down fashion to the previous verse. It contrasts “current events” to something more eternal.

 

OUR SEVENTH VERSE

is it so long since
dugongs were taken
for mermaids?

                                    Marietta McGregor

So, we have a question to begin our second half.

The implied linkage of the man in verse six to a “large mammal” is humorous. But I think something more serious is implied here. Something about the desperate longing for a former time. And something about how we had assumed that we were rational creatures, though there is little separation between the present and a time in which we believed things that seem now to have been childish perceptions of reality. Will our rational nature help us to survive or is it part of what makes us an endangered species?

 

REQUIREMENTS FOR OUR NEXT VERSE

  • A non-seasonal verse
  • Two lines, without a break
  • Linking with verse seven but not, in any significant way, with the first six verses
  • Transportation? Sports? Technology?

 

OUR RENKU, SO FAR

 

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

 

Please use the “Leave a Reply” box, below, to submit your verse seven offers. I will be reviewing them until the submission deadline of midnight, New York time, on Monday, October 22. My selection and commentary, together with an invitation for the eighth verse will appear here on Thursday, October 25.

I look forward to seeing your next verses!

John Stevenson

 

 

 

This Post Has 71 Comments

  1. Thank you, everyone. I’m just starting to get to work on the next post. Interesting, to me, that our last verse offer involves a westward train. I am on such a train right now – currently in North Dakota and on my way to Seattle.

    1. Enjoy your journey, John, and welcome to the west coast. I’ve travelled on Amtrak between Denver and Seattle, a fabulous trip. Love train travel and grateul both sons live near Amtrak statIons in Utah and California.
      *
      waxing gibbous
      a hush
      in the observation car
      *

  2. Marietta, I really enjoy the unforeseen direction you’ve taken us as regards are perceptions of reality, as well as teaching me about another magnificent creature on earth. And John, thank you for your helpful running commentaries on individual stanzas, which I find very informative in attempting to understand how to think about linking / shifting in a renku.
    *
    is it so long since
    dugongs were taken
    for mermaids?
    – Marietta McGregor
    *
    *
    the ancient discus thrower
    at rest in bronze
    *
    imagining a space shuttle
    in my MRI tube
    *
    two Shawnees on horseback
    in the black smoke of a westward train

  3. the football’s arc
    towards a sideline
    *
    *
    a motorcycle
    revs up at 6am
    *
    *
    trying different angles
    with a selfie stick

  4. If Betty would permit me, the word scales prompted this offering
    *********************************************************

    barley a three on
    a scale of one thru ten

    1. Well sure! Part of the fun is how verse offerings spur the imagination forr others. 😊

  5. is it so long since
    dugongs were taken
    for mermaids?

    – Marietta McGregor
    .
    over the edge and back
    with Eric the Viking
    .
    – Lorin

    1. whoops, a spello, above. Correction:
      .
      over the edge and back
      with Erik the Viking
      .
      – Lorin

  6. Some great verses last week and Marietta’s a nice choice.

    Verse 1:

    his midget submarine
    was the scene of the crime

    Verse 2:

    she walks on land
    with prosthetic legs

    Verse 3:

    by 1681 we caused
    the dodos’ extinction

  7. is it so long since
    dugongs were taken
    for mermaids?
    – Marietta McGregor
    .
    dreams wander on
    through the sign of Pisces
    .
    – Lorin

  8. Congratulations, Marietta!

    *

    respectfully, an umpire relies
    on the video

    *

    yet another advantage
    of being a good swimmer

    *

    after endless attempts
    the website name’s accepted

    ~~~

  9. 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
    .
    https://www.aboriginal-art-australia.com/aboriginal-art-library/rainbow-serpent/
    .
    (Nucleic acid . . .eg. dna molecules . . . look uncannily like traditional paintings of the Rainbow Snake, double helix and all. The Rainbow Snake has been the primal thing in creation stories for around 60,000 years. In the beginning was the Code . . . ? )
    .
    – Lorin

  10. thanks for considering my verses, John.
    I wanted to link to Marietta’s verse with a Monty Python quote:
    He’s not the Messiah
    he’s a naughty little boy
    but that links a bit too much to the previous verse!
    *
    renewing my membership
    to the flat earth society
    *
    the chrome ornament
    on the hood of a Plymouth
    *
    taking liberties
    with my CV

    1. 🙂 “. . . a Monty Python quote:. . .”
      .
      Andrew, I got into trouble for a pretty blatant allusion to that film in one of my first tries at renku. 🙂 ( At the time, I had no idea that the film had been banned in Ireland.)
      .
      – Lorin

  11. .
    .
    a crotchety notion
    three martinis in
    .
    that six-pack he picks up
    at closing time
    .
    a saurian eye
    that quietly fills the room
    .
    terra incognita
    not just stirred
    .
    .

    1. Thank you, Carmel. I have some sand dollars of my own. They leak sand for years. 🙂

    2. My brother and I, eons ago, collected a number of live sand dollars at the beach. Some were left in the trunk of my parents’ car… Very quickly = very smelly.

      Big mistake.

      1. Somehow, your name was changed the first time, sorry Carmen! I’ll blame autocorrect! 😁

  12. Congratulations, Marietta! Yours is a most fascinating verse. Nice exploration of the blurred lines between fantasy and reality. So fitting for your verse to take the form of a question. It takes me back to childhood with my wishes for mermaids, unicorns and the Loch Ness monster to exist in the real world.
    .
    Thank you for another thought-provoking commentary, John. So many striking verses to choose from. Congrats to all!

    1. Thank you, Maureen. I love cabinets of curiosities. And as you say, those ‘blurred lines’ always intrigue!

  13. Thanks Marietta – I had never heard of a dugong, so always nice to learn something.
    .
    .
    narrowly weary
    beethoven’s circuitous bonehead
    .
    .

  14. Nicely written Marietta
    ***********************
    over the falls in
    an old wooden barrel
    *******************
    an easy putt rolls
    into the drink
    ***************
    on an old fashion road trip
    with a compass and map

  15. Than you, John and congratulations Marietta. I love learning more about our world through haiku. Playing along as you are all so inspiring. . .
    *
    is it so long since
    dugongs were taken
    for mermaids?
                   Marietta McGregor
    *
    a child’s soother
    floats in a plastic vortex
    *
    that parallel universe
    where you chose another
    *
    sample slices of ice core
    under the microscope

    1. Liz Ann, thanks! I love your ‘parallel universe’ and the ‘ice core’. I used to do research in palynology, looking at fossil pollen in Tasmanian peat bogs, and I’ve always been fascinated with things laid down and out there.

      1. Wow, another new word, palynology! What an interesting interest. I love the sound of this “looking at fossil pollen/in Tasmanian peat bogs”. It could be verse 8 in a parallel universe!

    1. Judt, thanks! And I didn’t know about selkies until I heard a lovely folk song sung by Joan Baez, ‘Silkie’. A truly mysterious folk creature.
      “I am a man upon the land
      I am a silkie in the sea
      And when I’m far and far from land
      My home it is in sule skerrie”
      https://genius.com/Joan-baez-silkie-lyrics

      1. Yes, selkies are very mysterious and eerie creatures. And I learned a new word, ‘skerrie’, thanks.
        But the way I’ve heard it is that in the Irish and Scotch folklore, they are always female on land and seals in the sea. And they are known for leaving their human? children behind to re-enter their seal coat and the sea. I’m sure there are numerous versions, as in most folktales. I saw an interesting movie quite a while ago called something like ‘The (tale, secret, legend? can’t recall) of Roan Inish’. Kinda creepy, but I liked it.

  16. Thanks for giving my ‘crocodile question verse’ and also the ‘cockatoo’ one a mention, John, and congratulations Marietta on your selected verse.
    .
    I have a genuine question, though, John, and I’d appreciate it if you’d be willing to help clear it up.
    .
    Beyond the dreaded kannonbiraki or ‘return to last but one’, in a short, 12-verse renku I’d thought that anything which might disrupt the forward progress such as repeating an underlying theme (not just repeating a word) was undesirable.
    .
    Here we have the theme of “human memory” in the daisan, where “memories” is directly stated:
    .
    china cups
    filled with oolong
    and memories

    – Liz Ann Winkler
    .
    Four verses later, “human memory” is prominent again, though foregrounded as the basis of the question rather than directly stated:
    .
    is it so long since
    dugongs were taken
    for mermaids?

    – Marietta McGregor
    .
    I like dugongs, gentle creatures who care so well for their calves, so I’m pleased to see them turning up in a verse. I’m aware of the old tales from the “flat earth theory” times and I’ve been known to wonder, at times, if some people in a North American country still adhere to the “flat earth theory” 🙂 .
    .
    But Marietta’s musing verse, relying on memory, immediately takes me back to Liz Ann’s daisan with its overt “memories”. There are some who might claim that intermission of a desirable number of verses only occurs on the word level but I learned that anything that draws attention backwards to earlier verses was best avoided.
    .
    Can you explain or clear this issue up for me, please, John? It seems I’m forever trying to learn and understand renku.
    .
    – Lorin

  17. Wow, that’s a nice pre-breakfast surprise to wake me up properly! An honour to be picked from the very strong field. Thank you for choosing my verse, John, and for your perceptive remarks. Cheers from Marietta

  18. I also appreciate that it was dugong chosen rather than a manatee, the main difference, which I just learned, being that it has a forked tail. LOL. Now THAT’s clever linkage. Thanks Marietta

    1. It is a great word, dugong, poetic to say. And it is also natural for Marietta in Australia, as the Dugong is native to her area all the way past India… but only in warm waters. The “cousin” that is a manatee is found in the western hemisphere. I haves seen manatees in the wild many times here in Florida. I’ve know about the dugong but …. oddly both are found in Africa, but on opposite coasts of that continent. That I just learned because of this renku…. great to enlarge knowledge. Fine stanza Marietta.

      1. Thank you, Paul. Yes, a lovely sounding word, dugong. Lucky you to have seen manatees in the wild. Their seagrass habitat is so very fragile.

        1. Yes, Marietta. They must eat a lot of water veggies to support their often huge bodies. But, contrary to some climate-scare press reports, the Florida coastline and bays are thriving and fertile. I have see manatee cows and calves slowly rolling in the bays. They are not quick animals. Homely, they have a face “only a mother could love.”

          Lately some local areas have a terrible outbreak of “red tide.” First reported in Florida in 1845… but this is the worst I’ve see in my time since 1957 when the family moved here. Killed a whole lot of fish, and some higher species. Dolphins, sharks, ospreys and eagles can move on, but some creatures are caught by the algae blooms. Being a salt water plague, it seems not related to human activity. I’ve seen only one report of a dead manatee. They are endangered mostly due to boat/ship collisions. Many manatees go into fresh water to springs or coastal areas near power plants. They like the warmth in winter from the outflows.

          1. Paul, so interesting! I hadn’t realised before that manatees could live in fresh and salt water. This must give them a little adaptive advantage. Dugongs, certainly ours in Australia, are salt water mammals. I hope you are right that red tides are not connected to human activity. Sadly, their increasing prevalence and severity would seem to indicate a link with higher nitrogen run-off.

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