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The Renku Sessions: Imachi – Week 7

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Welcome to another Renku session. I am Linda Papanicolaou. The renku I am leading this time is an Imachi, an 18-verse form from Renku Masters Shunjin and Seijo Okamoto (“Waiting for the Moon,” 1984). Like Junicho, the other form they gave us, Imachi is a single-sheet renku though it develops in a more traditional jo-ha-kyu structure and depends more on the flow of passages of verse in its linking.

A thorough discussion may be found in John E. Carley’s Renku Reckoner, pp. 51-56, online at Google Books. The section includes a discussion, a selection of seasonal schemata, and a lovely example, “Between the Jagged Rocks”, by JEC and Norman Darlington.

 

Choice for verse 6:

Nineteen writers submitted to the slot. The range of imagery was dazzlingly diverse—a few were non-person and purely nature, most were person verses. References to current events included the royal wedding, the eruption of Kilauea, and—dismally—opioids and another school shooting.

To be sure, both maeku and uchikoshi are person verses and it might be about time to return to non-person. Still, as I look over your ideas and think of flow—where we’re coming from and where we’re going next—what feels right is to have one good strong current events topic, then move to a purely nature topic in #9–which just happens to be a winter verse. Pauline O’Carolan’s school shooter verse performs perfectly in this slot:

Friday school shooter
carries his father’s gun

Soon noticing her duplication of verb from the maeku, she quickly offered a revision:

Friday school shooter
hides his father’s gun

“Hides” creates problems, too, though. In both versions the choice of verb makes an explicit connection to the maeku, but doing so draws off attention to the deeper link: how the verse upends wholesome image of a school marching band with the horror of a school shooting. There were other school shooter submissions, but the horrific power of this one is the simple economy with which it conveys an entire story in seven words.

My thoughts are that we don’t really need a verb here since the maeku has one, so at least for now I’d like to eliminate the verb and place the verse as below. We can continue working on it as offers for verse 7 are coming in. Many thanks, Pauline!

opening my journal
to a blank page

the boy carrying
the sousaphone
almost disappears

Friday school shooter
with his father’s gun

 

Our renku so far:

a row of icicles
blue sky and sunshine
dripping from the eaves
~Simon Hanson

on Earth Day, deep breaths
for the scent of it
~Lorin Ford

see how overnight
the apple orchard’s turned
all blossom
~Polona Oblak

opening my journal
to a blank page
~Maureen Virchau

the boy carrying
the sousaphone
almost disappears
~Paul MacNeil

Friday school shooter
with his father’s gun
~Pauline O’Carolan

 

Call for verse 7:

This will be a winter verse.  Here is the maeku/uchikoshi pairing:

the boy carrying
the sousaphone
almost disappears

Friday school shooter
with his father’s gun

 

Specifications for Verse 7:

  • Three lines, uncut
  • Season=winter
  • Non-person–time for some nature imagery!
  • Link to verse 6; shift away from verse 5
  • The ha is a time to think of topics that we would not have used in the jo (person or place names, literary references, politics and human affairs, current events, religion,  illness or calamity).

 

What to avoid:

  • Verse 7 should NOT include imagery from the uchikoshi: human presence, musical instrument or music, things disappearing or anything  “almost” or similar modifiers.
  • Anything in the hokku is off limits till the end of the renku. This means no icicles or cold things , no dripping or falling things, single rows of things, sky, color blue, sun, roof or other parts of a building. (This will present a challenge, since ice and cold figure so prominently in winter season words!)

 

Registering your verse offers:

  • Use the ‘‘Leave a reply’ box down at the bottom of this thread to submit your offers.
  • Please hold revisions or corrections to a minimum, but if you must do so, use the “Reply” link on your own post rather than initiate a new submission.
  • Post your submissions before midnight Monday, 28 May, Eastern USA time.
  • The selected verse will be announced the following Thursday morning: 31 May, Eastern US time.

Happy writing!

Linda

This Post Has 111 Comments

  1. Dear renkujin:

    I’ve removed the last comment and that has taken all the replies to it with it. I’d also like to post the following letter from John.
    .
    See you all tomorrow morning with verse 7 and a call for verse 8.

    1. Hello renku friends,
      .
      I hear that we have run into a rough patch with our current session.
      .
      As I learned when I led the very first renku session here, an on-line, open renku session presents some special challenges. Not the least of these is that communication exclusively by text leaves out a large percentage of the non-verbal clues by which we come to understand and appreciate each other in face to face discussion. Since I know and respect so many of you, I am inclined to believe that our current differences stem from the limitations of the medium.
      .
      I hope that you will please pause briefly for a few figurative (and literal) deep breathes, recall the fun you have had with renku, and move ahead with a determination to be kind to one another.
      .
      With best wishes to all,
      .
      John Stevenson

  2. as this seems to be about a minor edit to a verse, and as someone whose accepted verse was tweaked more than once in the process i feel entitled to say a few words.
    .
    renku is collaborative poetry, collaboration being the key word, and every participant should strive to achieve the best possible end result.
    .
    in a renku with a leader the sabaki has the final say. even when the sabaki is wrong, the sabaki is right.
    .
    editing a verse until it feels right is part of the process. every participant should have a right to express their opinion but it’s the sabaki who has the authority and responsibility to make the final decision.
    .
    everyone who has a problem acknowledging another’s authority or having their verse tweaked should stay away from renku composition.

    1. Cheers to this, your well-written post, Polona. I totally agree. Renku is about collaboration, with the sabaki, when there is a sabaki (as is essential for these THF renku) having the final say on verse selection and tweaks, not the author of the verse.
      .
      I hope this post will be acknowledged, as it might help clear up the issues raised by Linda’s post, and goes to the heart of Mary’s comment, ” I would be very disappointed if things couldn’t be discussed. . . I don’t think questions are intended as criticism but merely as clarification.”
      ( I would add, “and suggestions” to Mary’s “questions”.)
      .
      – Lorin

  3. I took part in quite a few renku when John Carley was sabaki. He was so encouraging and thoughtful. That is such an important part of being a sabaki because they should bring the group together. Without a feeling of community, the renku becomes only words.

    Raising issues and discussions are fine as long as they are not snarky. Linda, I am saying this because I have been disrespected by a sabaki when you were not leading us.

  4. “. . . The author has the last word, . . . ” – Linda
    .
    Linda, until now I’ve been under the impression that the sabaki (not the author) has the last word. And also under the impression that ‘last word’ does mean ‘last word’, the final decision after which discussion is inappropriate.
    .
    Also, I had not, until now, come across a sabaki who prohibited discussion or disparaged it. That may well be just a matter of relative inexperience on my part. But in each of your main weekly posts (as far as I can recall) or in many of them, you’ve cited John Carley as reference. I think you can’t be unaware that John actively encouraged the raising of issues and discussion, and entered into it himself, as he considered the raising of issues and discussion to be a valuable part of the renku learning process. It doesn’t mean lack of support. To be unfailingly flattering is not necessarily to be supportive, is it?
    .
    So I’m confounded as well as well as hurt and disappointed at what I consider to be the lack of fairness evident in your post, above, especially in your disparagement and denigration of “a small undercurrent of comment on verse 6 that I can only describe as self-assertive, presumptous,. . . ”
    .
    Certainly I agree that an atmosphere where “participants feel respected and safe when they put their offers out there” is to be aimed for. However I don’t believe that I or anyone else has been disrespectful or presumptuous in this case. The raising and discussion of issues should not be construed as a personal attack, I believe. And I believe that ALL participants need to feel respected and safe from attack at all times, including (and perhaps especially) attack by a sabaki, not only when we “put our verses out there”.
    .
    But perhaps you’ll consider me presumptuous for even responding to your post?
    .
    – Lorin

  5. “. . . a small undercurrent of comment on verse 6 that I can only describe as self-assertive, presumptous, . . .”
    .
    I’m sorry, Linda. I think your disparaging summary of the “undercurrent of comment” on verse 6 clearly refers primarily to my comment regarding the tricky grammar issue of ‘Friday shooter’. I feel very hurt about this disparagement of my comments (or me, as author) as “self-assertive” and “presumptuous”.
    .
    Clearly, though, my raising of the issue was unwelcome to the author of verse #6 because she let me know in a most high-handed manner. I repeat, to you as well as Pauline, I had no intention to offend. Clearly, now, my raising the issue has also been most unwelcome to you, as well, Linda.
    .
    I did not know that participants are expected not to raise any issues. so I won’t apologize for raising this one. I apologize for unintentionally hurting Pauline’s feelings if she has felt hurt and repeat that I intended no offense, to Pauline, to you or to anyone. The grammo is such a small thing, of the sort that anyone can make and is easy to overlook.
    .

    “The author has the last word, and grammar tweaks are best left till the end when the poem can be considered in its entirety.”
    .
    Thank you for clarifying your position, here, Linda. Fair enough. I have no problem complying with any rules or preferences set once they have been set. But I find it both offensive and unfair that you disparage my comments as “presumptuous, self-assertive” because they seem to have crossed a limit that I had no way of knowing you’d set. Nobody likes to be disparaged unfairly, by anyone.
    .
    I thank those fellow participants who were willing to consider the issue I raised simply as an issue raised, to be considered, questioned, supported or disagreed with, validated or proven to be in error. Had it been my verse, I would’ve welcomed any issue raised by a fellow participant. I certainly would not get on my high horse nor consider (let alone publicly declaim!) anyone who raised an issue to be “presumptuous”.
    .
    – Lorin

    1. Same here as Chris just said. I felt the question of an apostrophe to be a very small matter worthy of a brief discussion. We come here to participate but also to learn. In past renku, I’ve often had to ask questions (as have many others) simply because we are in the learning stage of participation. I would be very disappointed if things couldn’t be discussed, especially with those who are far more experienced than I am. I don’t think questions are intended as criticism but merely as clarification. Being Sabaki is a big job, and I’m grateful to you for helping us progress in this lovely renku.

  6. slinking past the crows
    this snowy morning,
    one red fox
    .
    .
    in the dead of winter
    abandoned nests
    and the absence of birdsong
    .
    .
    crow is no stranger
    to winter’s silence
    or its darkness
    .
    .
    late winter
    and the oldest willow
    now bows deeply

  7. deep in hibernation
    the groundhog dreams
    of vegetables
    .
    deep in hibernation
    the groundhog dreams
    of butterflies
    .
    deep in hibernation
    the groundhog dreams
    of a nuclear winter
    .
    I couldn’t resist trying this after Betty’s bit of whimsy : )

  8. A good many ‘wind’ offerings here, even though a sousaphone is a wind instrument ; )

    1. I can almost smell the apples–my mother told me her parents used to keep an apple barrel down in the cellar.

      1. Although I spent a lot of time on my great uncle’s farm and spent many happy hours with lambs and calves in spring, thankfully I didn’t witness this event, Carol. I wanted to suggest winter and I thought the rising steam in cold air might achieve this.

        marion

      1. Maybe too much, Linda, but I was linking to the premature death of the young students in the last verse.

        marion

      1. Anthropomorphism—what a fun and clever idea for a workaround : )

        I wonder if such an approach could possibly ever qualify as a nature verse.

        (I’m guessing not).

          1. I have no doubt personification (and most anything else) can be used in renku—only whether it could qualify for a non-human, nature verse.

        1. There really shouldn’t be a problem with anthropomorphism in renku. A lot of the rules we imagine for haiku don’t apply.

  9. Verse 1:

    plovers arrowed
    at speed
    across the Pacific

    Verse 2:

    the withering winds
    leave only dust behind
    on the high plains of Tibet

    Verse 3:

    deep in the forest
    no light shines
    in the winter night

  10. Congratulations Pauline
    A profoundly thought provoking verse, so powerful partly because so clearly stated.

    1. or:

      from Canada
      to Mexico
      a wintering monarch

      from Canada
      to Mexico
      a tagged monarch

      all the way
      from Canada to Mexico
      a tagged monarch

      all the way
      from Canada
      a wintering monarch

      1. Love all of these, Chris. The annual Yuki Teikei retreat at Asilomar has been slotted in November for the past few years. It’s right near a monarch wintering-over spot in Pacific Grove (California). Butterfly numbers are down but still pretty amazing to see them all hanging from the eucalyptus trees.

    1. Guliz, do you have a good saijiki? Shell gathering is a spring season reference.

  11. the deer park
    closed to the public
    for the annual cull

    around the bins
    the prints of scavenging foxes
    in the snow

    1. forgot to space them out
      *
      the deer park
      closed to the public
      for the annual cull
      *
      around the bins
      the prints of scavenging foxes
      in the snow

      1. Powerful. Years ago during my husband’s sabbatical we lived by a woods owned by the Institute for Advanced Study in Princeton NJ. It was full–too full– of deer. The annual cull was conducted with crossbows.

  12. (Friday’s school shooter
    with his father’s gun
    ~Pauline O’Carolan)
    .
    deep beneath
    winter grasses, not only
    buffalo bones
    .
    or
    .
    deep beneath
    winter grasses, more than
    buffalo bones
    .
    (topic: American History & The Gun Culture? (and “the sins of the fathers. . . ” )
    .
    – Lorin

    1. Quite the challenge (impossible by definition really) trying to do something topical without involving humans ; ) Kudos on this effort.

      1. 🙂 Thanks, Chris!
        (well, perhaps humans are involved by allusion . . . but I take Linda’s instructions to be ‘no explicit human presence’. After all, ‘no humans’ full stop/period would mean no verse (unless composed by a computer,, programmed by a human) : every verse is an observation by a human written down in a human language, isn’t it?)
        .
        Lorin

  13. Friday’s school shooter
    with his father’s gun
    ~Pauline O’Carolan
    .
    what’s left
    of a feral cat’s kill
    chilled to the bone
    .
    where the owl swooped
    a tiny tuft of fur
    flying
    .
    – Lorin

    1. Hi Lorin I have not agreed to the revision of my verse as yet. Pauline

      1. Sorry, Pauline. No offense intended. The issue is only a grammatical issue anyway, nothing more.
        .
        – Lorin

      2. Pauline, I did not intend to offend you. I took into account Linda’s statement “We can continue working on it as offers for verse 7 are coming in.”
        .
        I’m assuming, of course, that what you refer to in ” I have not agreed to the revision of my verse as yet. ” is not Linda’s revision of your verse (from ‘hides’ to ‘with’) but to my inclusion of an apostrophe. Is that right?
        .
        – Lorin

    1. Oops…’falls’
      .
      .
      in early darkness
      the small cry
      of an ermine’s prey

      1. Hmm. It’s an effective verse, but my concerns were actually turning on the timing, dusk or early darkness being a time when things disappear from sight. I might also worry a bit about “small” since the size of the child was important in the sousaphone verse.

        1. Thanks, Linda. I guess I was using ‘early darkness’ to help indicate winter…but actually, I think, ‘ermine’ does that. So ‘early’ could be eliminated, changing it from a process to a fixed state. But for me, ‘small cry’ is the crux of the verse. Here it is a matter of strength/intensity rather than size, but I see what you mean. I’m trying, but can’t seem to come up with a substitute that fits.
          .
          in darkness
          the small cry
          of an ermine’s prey
          .
          . Judt

          1. Yes–sometimes you can crush an idea like a small bird trying to fit it into a slot. Don’t do that. Thank the maeku for birthing it and put it gently in your pocket to take home and make a haiku of it.

  14. Congratulations, Pauline. Certainly a horrific event, and an excellent link to maeku. There seem to be so many of these shootings happening in the USA, not just in the movies. The stats are like something out of a dystopian novel, but they are real.
    .
    Is it just me, or is anyone else having a small niggle about ‘Friday school shooter’? It would be normal for me to have , for instance, ‘Saturday Library Group’, Tuesday Choir Rehearsal. . . for something that always or usually happens on a particular day. But to refer to an unscheduled incident that’s happened I’d tend to use the possessive: ‘Last week’s flood’, ‘Friday’s school shooter’.
    .
    – Lorin

    1. Lorin, I had a similar thought to yours. Here in the states, it was so fresh in its shock but as time passes and other readers read the whole renku, Friday takes on a different note as you’ve pointed out. Using the possessive “Friday’s”
      or “the latest” or “a young” would change it enough to ease that bit of doubt.

      1. I’m glad it’s not just me! Thanks, Mary. In all the horror and grief it’s something easily overlooked, but in calmer times, for instance if a cafe board had a chalk sign, ‘Today Menu’, we’d notice, I think, that ‘Today’s Menu’ is what’ was intended.
        .
        – Lorin

        1. I don’t necessarily agree. Please wait until our sabaki comments on your concerns. Best wishes Pauline

      2. I must admit, having only just come to this verse now, I did wonder if “Friday school” was an alternative to “Sunday school” until I read the full verse.

  15. Congrats, Pauline.

    *

    Friday school shooter
    with his father’s gun ~Pauline O’Carolan

    *

    for safety’s sake
    five huddled gulls
    exit the wild side

    *

    from a fire pit
    flickering shadows splash
    on naked aspen

    *

    withered now
    an old Jack-o’-lantern
    makes compost

    *

  16. tawny turning white
    a fox prepares for lean days
    of winter
    .
    a sudden CRACK
    alarms Canada geese
    to early winter flight
    .
    beaver engineer
    fits one last branch to his lodge
    as winter snaps in

    1. Oops! Beaver’s underwater building disqualifies. Here’s another effort:
      .
      above the timberline
      winter’s makes its first
      crackling appearance

      1. Chris Patchel, thanks for mentioning the “day” repeat. This edit, changing lean days
        .
        tawny, turning white
        a fox prepares for leanness
        of wintertime

      2. I like your evocation of those first snows on the high peaks–reminds me of the Sierras when I’m driving up the Donner Pass. Also we have a beaver pond–haven’t seen the residents yet though.

  17. I would’ve thought having multiple ‘days’ would be a problem (verses 2 & 6). As well as present participles back to back (verses 4 & 5).

  18. sharp screeches
    from the wheeling
    Red Kite

    *
    was thinking about, sharp whistles, but that could link to Paul’s brass band, maybe.

        1. Not so much a matter of “verboten” as whether or not repeating a topic such as “tree” causes the renku to loop back on itself. I see questions about this sort of thing coming up on the thread from various people. Best to direct you to some reading in that online copy of JEC’s Renku Reckoner (cited up top in each post). Here are the relevant sections:
          .
          “The Three R’s—how to avoid going backwards” p 120ff
          .
          “On Backlink—no better way to waste your time” p. 124ff.
          .
          And, most useful, the Intermissions table, p 113

          1. We’re three verses past “orchard”, Carmen. That’s out of the avoidance range. There’s no “rule” against having a tree–though it is a matter of whether we’re being varied enough.

  19. spots of blood
    on the fresh snow
    towards anywhere

    ***
    hunting after
    a wounded deer
    the winter wind

  20. now
    the wood sheds filled
    to last a lifetime
    ****************
    red tailed hawks
    ride out the winter
    in a big bare oak

  21. Hi Everyone

    I’m absolutely thrilled to have my verse chosen for this week, my first in a renku. Michael’s verse was so good to link to with all sorts of possibilities. I’m sorry that the topic of my verse was on such a depressing subject (my others were on the royal wedding). It is so shocking to an outsider to see how getting shot at school is a common occurrence.

    Pauline

  22. Congratulations Pauline
    **********************
    moon beams at
    just the right angle
    this time of year

    1. That’s a lovely verse, Michael. Unfortunately, we have just one moon seat in an imachi and it’s slotted towards the end, in the autumn run.

      1. Thanks Linda if I come up with something else I’l send it your way

  23. Ok, I’m going to attempt a literary reference (my first time). Fingers crossed I’ve avoided things in the no list, managed to include winter. I’m sure someone will tell me if I’ve missed.
    .

    the boy carrying
    the sousaphone
    almost disappears
    .
    Friday school shooter
    with his father’s gun
    .
    .
    exhaling soft clouds
    of mist the horse stops
    by the woods
    .
    .
    the little horse stops
    by the woods
    and waits and waits
    .
    .
    the little horse stops
    by the snowy woods
    on that darkest night

    1. So sorry–I’m trying to keep that avoidance list as pared down as possible.

    2. Lorin, I had a similar thought to yours. Here in the states, it was so fresh in its shock but as time passes and other readers read the whole renku, Friday takes on a different note as you’ve pointed out. Using the possessive “Friday’s”
      or “the latest” or “a young” would change it enough to ease that bit of doubt.

  24. Pauline, congratulations on the selection of your verse in the renku. There is such a deep sadness and matter-of-factness that I find deeply moving. Linda, I love reading your reasoning behind a verse selection. This renku is developing so well.
    .
    .
    Friday school shooter
    with his father’s gun
    .
    ~Pauline O’Carolan

    1. Thank you, Mary. Deep sadness in its matter-of-factness, to be sure. And it wasn’t the only school shooting on Friday–the other one didn’t get as much publicity becaue one person died.

      Re how the renku is developing: it’s all in the quality of writing that all of you have been posting. This has developed into a wonderful group.

    2. Echoing Linda’s sentiments. Especially the diversity of the offerings. I learn more with every post.

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