skip to Main Content

The Renku Sessions: New Calendar 24

renkuchainWelcome to The Haiku Foundation’s Fifth Renku Session: New Calendar. I am John Stevenson, leading my second Kasen (36 verse) renku on this site. We will be trying something a little different this time. Instead of making all of the selections myself, new verses will be selected by the poet who wrote the preceding verse. This will be on a voluntary basis and I remain ready to preform this task for anyone who prefers to pass up the opportunity.

Marion Clarke provides us with this week’s selection and comments:

“This was an enjoyable, although by no means easy, undertaking as several verses stood out and I had more than one favourite. However, following some welcome input from John, I decided to stay with my original choice.

A few that appealed didn’t contain a clear winter kigo, or the implied seasonal reference was Christmas, which of course takes place during summer everywhere south of the equator. For example, the beautiful whale song didn’t have an obvious seasonal link and the bauble and gifts under the tree were clear Christmas references.

With “fledglings” just a few verses earlier, Lorin wondered on her own post if there was room for another bird. I thought it risked repetition, which was a shame as we had offers of unruffled wild ducks, two red cardinals, a white owl and a yellow-eyed hawk (but no partridge in a pear tree!)

Betty’s walruses took us to an underwater world which slowed things down, almost to a state of being comfortably numb. However, John confirmed my earlier concern when he pointed out that the renku should move quickly at the “ha”, or middle section.

There were a couple of “slippery slopes” but I felt that, in terms of content, these might send us flailing backwards and I wanted to move on in our renku.

After the peace wall, Marina’s refugee verse brought borders to mind and her “beany hats” give the scene a welcome touch of human warmth. But since we’d already had “pilgrims’ boots” and “Dutchman’s breeches”, I thought that another garment was best avoided.

Mary’s cabin verse was very tempting and her “sets in / runs out” was nice word play, echoing the contrast of “north and south” that came before. The lines “cabin fever sets in” also suggested that a storm might be brewing, which sent me wondering whether this would be a meteorological or human disturbance.

I finally decided on Michael Henry’s Tolstoy verse, with its link to “peace”. It has taken us in from its wintry landscape to a cozy, warm interior, perhaps a log cabin, where someone is sitting by the hearth engrossed in a book that transports them to Russia.

In terms of our renku, we haven’t had reference to the title of a literary work and War and Peace fits the bill nicely. I had suggested changing “rereading” to “he rereads” since we had “recalling” just two verses earlier. However, I agreed with John that “re” anything would be a retro-step, so if Michael Henry is in agreement we have arrived at:

Tolstoy in Russian
by a roaring fire

        1. –Michael Henry Lee”

Thank you,Marion and congratulations, Michael Henry!

Michael Henry Lee will be offered the opportunity to select the next verse. Michael Henry, please contact me, either in a reply below or by e-mail (ithacan@earthlink.net) to let me know whether you accept this offer. If you do, I will ask you to choose the next verse in accordance with the requirements listed below and to write a paragraph or two about your selection and send it to me on Wednesday morning (June 21) so that I can incorporate it in the next posting, which appears on the following day. If you would rather not make the selection, I will do so, but I would prefer to know that I’ll be doing that as early as possible

Verse twenty-five will be a non-seasonal verse. It will be written in three lines. It might help to know that the following two verses will be love verses. It can be fun to “set up” a love verse. Just be careful not to make your twenty-fifth verse a premature love verse.

Verse twenty-five must link to the twenty-fourth verse (and only the twenty-fourth verse) but it also must clearly shift away from it in terms of scene, subject, and tone.

You will have until Tuesday night to make your offers. The Haiku Foundation site has been busy lately and the link to our renku session has not always been obvious on the home page. There is a permanent “Renku Sessions” button a little further down the home page and you can always reach the current session via this route. We will continue to check for new verse offers through each Tuesday.

With best wishes to all,
John

 

New Calendar to Date

new calendar
a year of
“Natural Wonders”

    –John Stevenson

a clownfish offers
the first greeting

    –Peter Newton

taking a fistful
of freshly tilled earth
to my cheek

    –Shrikaanth Krishnamurthy

café aromas
on the warm breeze

    –Maureen Virchau

sound of a flute
slowly rising
with a hazy moon

    –Dru Philippou

flickering light of a bike
from the side road

    –Marina Bellini

under the bed-sheet
tales of bold highwaymen
and horse-drawn coaches

    —Lorin Ford

has the lord executed
his droit du seigneur

    —Polona Oblak

Jimmy Carter
and Rosalynn
on the kiss cam

    —Judt Shrode

after the picnic
some spirited croquet

    —Michael Henry Lee

the old quarry
so deep and cold
and daring

    —Mary Kendall

her scars stay hidden
though the neckline plunges

    –Debbie Feller

each time I wake
the moon lights
something different

    —Gabrielle Higgins

the whir of dragonfly wings
in the remaining heat

    —Sally Biggar

a neutrino
passes through the chestnut
and the worm, too

    —Lorin Ford

the tension of the needle
piercing linen

    —Carmen Sterba

Dutchman’s breeches
sprout along a cliff’s
ragged edge

    —Maureen Virchau

six pairs of boots
by the pilgrim shrine

    –Polona Oblak

in full flight
fledglings skim
through the archway

    –Barbara A. Taylor

my toddler puts her milk glass
on the kitchen counter

    –Paul MacNeil

on the store’s intercom
comes a cleanup request
for aisle thirteen

    –Michael Henry Lee

recalling where they were
on Jerusalem Day

    –Debbie Feller

snowflakes
falling north and south
of the peace wall

    —Marion Clarke

Tolstoy in Russian
by a roaring fire

    –Michael Henry Lee

This Post Has 112 Comments

  1. Tolstoy in Russian
    by a roaring fire

    –Michael Henry Lee

    the interpreter
    nonplussed by a row
    of emojis

    how much faith
    to place in these
    emojis ?

    -Lorin

  2. Love your verse, Michael Henry! Makes me want to curl up with a good book. Congratulations.
    .
    A wonderful job as sabaki, Marion! I enjoyed your comments and your final report very much. Your own winter verse is moving and memorable. Congrats to you.

  3. Many good offers since I last commented on them individually. Although we have been bumped from the “front page” of The Haiku Foundation, I want to assure everyone that I am still reading your verses and will continue to do so through the end of the day tomorrow (eastern US time). Thanks!

  4. Here is a question for everyone that has to do with linking in a renku. I’ve just read and reread all the entries so far. There are a number of offerings where I can’t, for the life of me, see a link between the offering and the Tolstoy verse.
    .
    Tolstoy in Russian
    by a roaring fire
    .

    My question: how closely must a link in a renku be in order to work? Using this particular verse, I would think it should have to do with Tolstoy, Russia or Russian, books, novels, any of Tolstoy’s great works (or any Russian novels, perhaps), roaring (as a sound), fire.
    .
    I’m trying to figure out how close the link must be (the shifting away part, I get).

    1. This is a wonderful question, Mary. The answer would be worth at least a book chapter. At the most basic level, I would just say that the modes of linking should show as much variety as possible in the course of the renku. We look for variety in subject matter, diction, emotional tone, author vantage point, and many other factors. The same applies to the manner of linking. Here is a link to Bill Higginson’s and Tadashi Kondo’s on-line description of some types of linking: http://www.2hweb.net/haikai/renku/Link_Shift.html#Link
      .

    2. I know what you mean, Mary, it’s not always obvious how a verse relates to the previous one. Sometimes I even arrive at my own verse in such a convoluted manner that I struggle to remember how I got there! 🙂

    3. Hi Mary

      Just read your post, want you to know I’m a complete novice with the haiku genre, just hopping along for the experience and to pick up valuable info. Just ignore me 🙂 🙂

      1. As you study, just do know that renku is not haiku. There is one haiku in each renku … and that is the opening stanza. The presence of a cut, break, caesura (pick a word) and a definite season make this 1st verse the hokku. Haiku often have an internal comparison– a hokku always. Renku verses may be fiction, and are read straight through, no cut (or internal punctuation even by just the force of the words–). One verse demands another (until the end). Always expanding. The communal nature of renku composition has NO parallel in Western Literature. Each stanza is linked to the one before, and no other. No thematic or plot development.
        .
        Renku can also be considered a game. Have fun!

      2. Never! We all welcome you to join in in this renku. It’s both fun and challenging, and I have found everyone extremely helpful. While I do write haiku, senryu and tanka, renku is a thing unto itself, Carol. Please continue to join in and contribute. 🙂

  5. Tolstoy in Russian
    by a roaring fire

    –Michael Henry Lee

    *
    bearskin looking
    a tad bedraggled they hie
    themselves to a disco

    – Marietta McGregor
    *

  6. Tolstoy in Russian
    by a roaring fire

    –Michael Henry Lee

    before
    the apocalypse
    the party

    – Lorin

  7. snowflakes
    falling north and south
    of the peace wall
    .

    —Marion Clarke
    .
    Tolstoy in Russian
    by a roaring fire
    .

    –Michael Henry Lee
    .
    could it be
    that women prefer
    a room with a view?
    .
    – Karen Cesar
    .
    OR
    .

    there is
    much to be said
    for a room with a view
    .

  8. Tolstoy in Russian
    by a roaring fire
    .
    deafened
    by the shouting
    she closes her eyes
    .
    .
    (sorry, I’m on an Anna Karenina jag it seems)

      1. Hi Lorin, you are correct in that “alternative” is the grammatically correct choice. Here in the states, we are a bit sloppy with language, and the two words have become more or less synonymous. It becomes habit and eventually some of us don’t often bother to think about it. I’m glad you pointed this out. Here is my revision:
        .
        an alternative ending
        where the train screeches
        to a halt

  9. Tolstoy in Russian
    by a roaring fire

    –Michael Henry Lee

    the translator
    winging it
    with potica

    – Lorin

    1. ha, yummy!
      less than proud that Melanija is my compatriot but potica, though a bit heavy, is truly worth tasting. walnut filling is the way to go 🙂

      1. Hi Polona, no doubt it’s delicious, but I smiled when the Pope made a reference to what might be called a ‘nut-cake’ in EL slang … the Pope’s sly joke, or a Freudian slip? 🙂 🙂 🙂


        – Lorin

        1. . . .it may seem a vague connection, but” ‘nut-cake’ + “you are what you eat”?

          – Lorin

          1. i’m pretty sure the Pope knew exactly what he was saying, implications included.
            i’m not a religioius person but am full of admiration for the man with his healthy and intelligent reasoning.
            the potica remark was briliant in more than one way 🙂

          2. I thought so , too. He certainly had Melanija nonplussed. 🙂

            – Lorin

  10. Congratulations Michael Henry, and thank you, Marion, for doing such a wonderful job of selection!

    1. I sense that there is a particular story here, but I don’t immediately know it.

      1. Just a play on words…Chekhov/check off…that maybe doesn’t work. This russian master of short stories that were notorious for not giving any resolution. Taken to the stage/movies, it’s in the pauses between words where his characters revealed themselves…so that was the link.
        Meanings behind the more desirable black pearls are associated with wisdom/dragons and love/wounded love in several cultures (no pun intended).
        So, no particular story but maybe a mysterious preamble that could possibly lead into one about love/arranged love where even the color of one’s skin comes into play.
        Just winging it basically.

    1. I like your light touch in linking, Polona. It would inspire me to take a similar approach when offering the linking love verse.

  11. Tolstoy in Russian
    by a roaring fire
    .
    –Michael Henry Lee

    the suspense
    as a match flares
    on the darkened stage

    Lorin

    1. I was a professional stage actor during the late 1960’s and the 1970’s. In those days, we would use cigarettes and matches on stage. In recent years, at least here in the US, these things have had to be simulated.
      .
      This could be a strong set up for our next love verse.

  12. Tolstoy in Russian
    by a roaring fire

    –Michael Henry Lee

    when I think
    about the heroine
    smoke gets in my eyes

    – Lorin

      1. . . . it might be smoke from a steam locomotive? The reader ‘entering’ the scenario of the text. But yes, I’m aware of the beautiful Platters song, one of my father’s favourites.

        – Lorin

      1. Hi John,
        I thought it could be somewhat open to interpretation : the vague “something hot” might just be the rationalization of someone having one more drink than advisable but suspicious upon waking, aka the kind of suspicion of all things Russian spoofed in the classic film ‘Dr. Strangelove’:

        Gen. Jack D. Ripper: “I can no longer sit back and allow communist infiltration, communist indoctrination, communist subversion, and the international communist conspiracy to sap and impurify all of our precious bodily fluids.

        Gen. Jack D. Ripper: “It occurred to me… ,[Embarrassed and slightly reluctantly]] While I was in the act of physical love… ”

        Or it may be a case of the old gypsy ‘love potion’ scenario.

        Or, ‘love potion’ updated, someone’s party drink was spiked (Rohypnol or the like…long ago that happened to me, not in vodka but beer. And somehow I drove home without killing myself or anyone else!)

        Or at the darkest end, I suppose, it could be someone like the unfortunate Alexander Litvinenko. But this last interpretation would be invalid because of the verse position, immediately prior to a ‘love’ verse.

        As you’ve rightly mentioned, John, it’s the next verse that gives context to the previous verse, via linkage.

        – Lorin

    1. beneath the tower
      community outrage
      in the city streets
      .
      Barbara A. Taylor
      .
      A powerful current events image but we probably won’t want an urban structure image following the peace wall in the leap-over verse.
      .
      Glad to see that you are able to post again, Barbara!

  13. Tolstoy in Russian
    by a roaring fire

    –Michael Henry Lee

    in black and white
    that cigarette tip’s glow,
    that fedora

    Lorin

      1. Is this what you mean, John?

        that fedora
        that glowing cigarette
        in black and white

        that fedora
        and glowing cigarette
        in black and white

        that fedora
        that/ and glowing cigarette
        in shades of grey

        (I like the first revision, of the above)

        another:

        that fedora
        that glowing cigarette
        in the shadows

        – Lorin

  14. snowflakes
    falling north and south
    of the peace wall
    *

    —Marion Clarke
    *
    *
    Tolstoy in Russian
    by a roaring fire
    *

    –Michael Henry Lee
    *
    *
    no matinee
    would be complete
    without the MGM lion!
    *
    – Karen Cesar

  15. Tolstoy in Russian
    by a roaring fire

    -Michael Henry Lee

    the discharge
    of cupid’s bow
    before dawn

    1. Thank you, Carol. We will have to save Cupid’s bow until we reach the love verses (the next two verses). But please send some additional offers!

  16. Tolstoy in Russian
    by a roaring fire
    .
    –Michael Henry Lee

    *
    another squabble
    over another
    scorched skillet

    1. another squabble
      over another
      scorched skillet
      .
      Thanks, Marilyn. This is a clear and resonant image. I wonder whether “squabble” might hark back to “peace wall” (as a contrast) in the leap-over verse. And it’s almost an anti-love verse (as opposed to “ante love”)! Reminds me of the story about the divorce court where the judge asked the parties to consider settling their differences. The husband said, “But, your honor, she burns the toast.” “Oh,” said the judge, “I didn’t realize it was that serious!”

      1. “almost an anti-love verse (as opposed to “ante love””

        Hi John
        My thought here was actually “ante love” (ie. after the “squabble” or disagreement, will come the make-up and loving!) “Some say” that’s even why “some” couples fight.

        But I certainly understand your rationale. This renku is so challenging and great fun.
        Thank you to you for your help and to all the other contributors for their input.

  17. Tolstoy in Russian
    by a roaring fire
    .
    –Michael Henry Lee
    .
    .
    be careful
    not to get too close
    mother warned
    .
    -Mary Kendall
    .
    .
    Very nice, Mary. I see a link to the lesson not to get burned (literally or figuratively) and I see a good setup for the love verse that comes next. Also, the past tense is new or almost so within this renku.

  18. Congratulations, Michael. Your verse fits very nicely, imo, especially in its current form where whether the book is being read or not is ambiguous (since it’s in Russian & not everyone is literate in Russian) Is it the last thing left to read in the house or is it about to fuel the fire? Literally.

    Let me weigh in on the assumed ‘distant reincarnation’ (a renku term John Carley taught me because he intensely disliked the term ‘backlink’ 🙂 )

    re ‘under the bed-sheet tales of . . . ‘
    My intention was not to show kids reading anything, but little kids making up their own stories based on story-book characters that had been read to them or that they’d seen on tv, after lights-out when they’re supposed to be asleep. Cousins perhaps, sharing the same bed. (Happened when I was a kid, anyway)

    Granted, authorial intention is open to be trumped by reader interpretation any time, so readers can ‘see’ the reading of books or even smart phones if they choose to, but the fact remains that ‘tales’ does not primarily show books or anything in written form. Tales preceded books! Homer did not write the The Odyssey. Someone else collected the sagas and transcribed them from memory, just like the Grimm brothers collected and wrote down European folk tales. None of the Australian Dreaming stories were written. ‘Tales’ (as the origins of the word show) are told, and only secondarily, in relatively recent centuries of near universal literacy, written down, printed and read. Primarily, we hear tales and tell tales.
    If we say we read a tale, we’re speaking metaphorically, whether we realise that or not.

    – Lorin

    1. Good points, Lorin, abut telling of tales. It is how I partook of your verse. I have memories of my father doing just that to get me to sleep. No book. He told tales of Tarzan. I’m sure I had watched TV re-runs of old Johnny Weissmuller movies so I was in the moment and could “see” the lions, crocodiles, and the chimpanzee. I realized later in my life that he made them up (obviously based on the Burroughs novels of his youth) — his own situations and dialogue. Never long enough as I faded into sleep.

      1. Thanks, Paul. Hah, I too, remember the name Johnny Weissmuller, now that you remind me. 🙂 Watching tv at my mother’s place in the ’50s.

        – Lorin

    2. I shared a bedroom with my 3 sisters. To be able to read comics or fiction, mostly in those days, without disturbing them required my going undercover as I was and still am a bookworm. These days, yes, it is with a cell phone kindle to not disturb my husband in our rv.
      Curiously, the pictographs at the park and hidden in surrounding private lands are now being described as books…the earliest known library in the Americas. One researcher, Dr. Carolyn Boyd, has cracked the code apparently with respect to one site in particular…The White Shaman Mural.
      In leading tours, I meet people from all over the world. One gentleman from Australia suggested that the Aboriginal paintings could well be their dreaming books.
      Thank you for allowing reader interpretation…
      Betty

      1. Hi Betty…all stories and poems are open to interpretation, including renku verses and much we read in haikai is intended to register as both literal and metaphorical. (I include much of haiku a well as renku in haikai)

        Consider Yeats, in ‘High Talk’, towards the end of the poem coming out & stating “All metaphor, Malachi, stilts and all”.
        Perhaps all language, both spoken and written, is comprised of metaphors for things both concrete and abstract?

        If someone refers to Dreaming paintings as “books”, fair enough, we know what’s meant… there is a story involved. There is a story involved in Michelangelo’s Sistine Chapel artwork, too. It’d be quite as legitimate to refer to most artwork as “books” since in the metaphorical sense we “read” them.

        But what happens to language when we become unaware of metaphor? When we can’t distinguish any difference between writing/reading/ viewing a story and telling/ hearing/ dancing one and between a book, a painting and a narrative dance? In my view, we cross the border into that muddy country in which “alternative facts” can be proposed without a hint of irony.

        – Lorin

        1. Well, I guess then, in America, we’re stuck with the likes of covfefe. 😁

          Semiotics has always fascinated me so I greatly appreciate what you have to say. My sojourn as a Russian major in college also led me to morphology…loved pondering the evolution of words. Unfortunately, my Texas accent was the source of my butchering any attempt at speaking it but I’ll never forget that incredible experience of being a stranger in a strange land the summer of ’72 as a foreign exchange student in the former Soviet Union.

          Maybe someday, we can meet at the corner of Trump Tower and Babel!

          Cheers!
          Betty

  19. Thank you so much Marion, of course I willing accept the obvious improvement to this verse. Renku is full of many nuances, some of which continue to elude me. I would like to echo Mary’s appreciation for your comments on most every verse. Your effort was not overlooked. Thanks John for your patience and willingness to go out on a poetic limb in order for us to learn, sometimes by our mistakes. Thanks everyone for their input and poetic good will,

  20. I do like this verse for its imagery and what it opens up. Congrats, Michael Henry, on yet another intriguing verse. And Marion, I really enjoyed reading your comments throughout the last renku and your comments on how you selected the “chosen” verse. Thanks for taking the time to do that. I love knowing “the process” of writing and reading.
    .
    Tolstoy in Russian
    by a roaring fire
    .
    –Michael Henry Lee
    .
    .
    be careful
    not to get too close
    mother warned

  21. I promised Marion that, if there is to be a firing squad, I would be the object of it. We are aware that the renku has a number of proper nouns already and, in particular, that the leap-over verse has two of them. This is clearly an imperfection. While acknowledging this, we are pleased with this verse.

    1. So Lorin’s verse with “tales of … ” isn’t that then a similar argument for not having an unnamed Tolstoy novel given the prior fledgling verse as a reason for disqualifying other fowl references? I’m confused.

        1. I’ve attempted to explain my reasoning on my response to Betty, Mary. if it doesn’t make any sense, blame it on the fact that I’m Irish! 🙂
          .
          marion

          1. I think your explanation, John’s comments and Lorin’s comments were all excellent to read. I realize renku is a lot more complex than I imagined, but it’s also such a fun way of taking on a challenge with each new verse that is added.
            .
            P.S. I’m glad you’re Irish and a friend. 🙂

      1. Hi Betty, I guess it depends on how the reader interprets Lorin’s verse. It brought me back to the excitement of stories by torchlight with my cousins during the school holidays rather than to literature per se. With the peace wall in mind from the last verse, when I saw the reference to Tolstoy I immediately thought of “War and Peace” – although I must admit, I’ve never attempted reading it!

        Perhaps it was wrong of me to disregard all birds because of the fledglings but, having only ever participated on four renku (here on THF) I went with what limited knowledge I have and gut instinct. No doubt I’ve missed or been wrong about other things.

        1. As I understand it, Marion’s comments were not to create reasons for disqualification but just to show perceived assets and liabilities for some of the most interesting verses offered.
          .
          I think that there is a distinction between a “disqualification” and factors that might weigh against the selection of a particular verse. And all of the verses mentioned, including the one selected had “assets and liabilities.” As the renku lengthens, it becomes ever more difficult to offer verses that can’t be seen as somehow relating to prior images. Disqualification (a term I would rather avoid) is more reasonable in the early phases of the work, when there are fewer comparisons to be made.
          .
          My belief is that everything in our world is connected and that it’s easy to go overboard in forbidding any sort of back linking in a renku. If we were playing a game of “six degrees of separation” in which we created a sequence of names and a rule that no new name could be within six degrees of any of the previous names, that game would reach tedium (if not absolute stalemate) quite quickly.
          .
          That said, there are certain kinds of back linking that renku practitioners generally try to avoid. Since we have set ourselves the task of adding a new verse each week and have a requirement that the verse come from whatever is submitted (possibly with some revision), I have decided just to mention some of these issues as they come up but not to refuse all offers until there is a “perfect” one. It just seems like it will be more fun this way. I hope so, anyway.
          .
          Michael Henry will not be able to make our selection for verse 25, so I will do it this time.

          1. Sorry, John…disqualification was a poor choice of wording…thanks for the feedback.
            Betty

        2. Aaah, Marion…War and Peace…one of the longest novels ever written. It also had additonal philosophical essays at the end which are not included in some editions. Heavy reading IMO.
          Tolstoy was a prolific writer and one who promoted non-violence. His “Letter to a Hindu” though written to another Hindu was seminal for Ghandi.
          Didn’t mean to create a disturbance…just trying to understand.
          Betty…quarter-Irish.

Comments are closed.

Back To Top