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The Renku Sessions: Pilgrims' Stride 11

renkuchainWelcome to The Renku Sessions. Renku is a participatory literary game, following a set of rules that are implemented by the leader of the session. If you would like to learn more about renku go here. And if you would like to see a sample of a complete renku, go here.

I’m John Stevenson, and I will serve as your guide for this session, a thirty-six verse (kasen) renku. I have supplied the opening verse (hokku) and each week I will select an additional verse from among those submitted prior to the Tuesday deadline.

Twenty-five poets made a total of one hundred seven verse eleven offers. Sometimes the application of the rules of the game can be painful. I would dearly love to have selected Jennifer Sutherland’s a different voice / for each character / in her bedtime story for the sake of its interplay with verse ten. Unfortunately, the leap-over verse (number nine) involves speaking from a text (wedding vows) and so the focus on the particulars of reading a bedtime story aloud is too close. There are times when I would weigh the value of a verse highly enough to bend some of the rules but perhaps not while attempting to teach the basics of the genre.

Similarly, I was leaning toward Aalix Roake’s blanket of stars (North Pole version). But, realizing that number thirteen will be a summer/moon verse, I saw that it would create unnecessary difficulties to feature such a strong night sky image in the verse destined to be its leap-over. Aalix, of course, was not provided with information about verse thirteen. So, only congratulations are due on a vivid image that might well have been my choice under different circumstances.

Our eleventh verse comes from Alan Summers. This verse intensifies the chill of its predecessor in an indirect and deeply intuitive fashion. And the juxtaposition of the two verses puts me in mind of a painting by Franz Marc.

Here is the verse you must link to:

the woodland
of silent stories
and shadows

    –Alan Summers

The next verse, the twelfth, is the third in this series of three with no seasonal or other specific topical requirements. You may want to consider (as I have) that the next verse (number thirteen) is to be a summer/moon verse. Here are the formal requirements for verse twelve:

  • Non-seasonal (avoids any topics assigned to a specific season in our list of season words)
  • Written in two lines, without a cut
  • Linking with the eleventh verse, and only the eleventh verse
  • Shifting widely to a new topic and setting

Add your suggested two-line link below, in the Comments box. You have until midnight EST, Tuesday, May 20, 2014. You may submit as many verses as you like, but please use a new comment box for each one. I will announce my selection for the next link on Thursday, May 22 here on the blog, and provide information and instructions for submitting the next link.

What We’ll Be Looking For — Throughout the Session

    There are many schematic outlines for a kasen renku. We will be using one set out by Professor Fukuda in his book Introduction to World-linking Renku. It will not be necessary for you to have a copy of this book since instructions will be offered before each verse is solicited.

    It is a good idea for those participating in the composition of a renku to make use of the same list of season words. There are a number of these lists available and I intend no judgment of their relative value. For purposes of this session I am suggesting the use of The Five Hundred Essential Japanese Season Words.

    Pilgrims’ Stride to Date

      comparing maps
      to the mountain pass–
      pilgrims’ stride

        –John Stevenson

      a sun-warmed stone bridge
      over snowmelt

        –Billie Wilson

      dampened soil
      of seed trays
      in the glasshouse

        –Margaret Beverland

      grandmother’s silverware
      polished every monday

        –Polona Oblak

      a sonata
      on the concert Steinway
      played to the moon

        –Lorin Ford

      dragonflies hover
      by the swaying reeds

        –Karen Cesar

      slight hum
      of a drone
      in fog

        –Alice Frampton

      the atmosphere
      thick with teenage pheromones

        –Norman Darlington

      I stumble
      trying to reply
      “I plight thee my troth.”

        –Paul MacNeil

      thinking of a red wig
      during chemo

        –Asni Amin

      the woodland
      of silent stories
      and shadow

        –Alan Summers

      This Post Has 123 Comments

      1. John,
        What would be the status of haiku presented here, but not chosen? Would they be considered by a journal to be previously published?

      2. Another attempt to fix this

        the woodland
        of silent stories
        and shadows

        – Alan Summers

        Yorick’s skull
        held by the prince

      3. the woodland
        of silent stories
        and shadows

        – Alan Summers

        silhouettes
        illustrate the children’s book

      4. the woodland
        of silent stories
        and shadow

        –Alan Summers

        dreams for sale
        at the five n dime

      5. the woodland
        of silent stories
        and shadow

        –Alan Summers

        Napoleon Brandy
        and a good cigar

        * I swear this is the last iteration ….

      6. the woodland
        of silent stories
        and shadow

        –Alan Summers

        a good cigar
        and a snifter of brandy

      7. the woodland
        of silent stories
        and shadow

        –Alan Summers

        a snifter of Courvoisier
        and a good cigar

      8. the woodland
        of silent stories
        and shadow

        –Alan Summers

        rolled around one’s tongue
        the mouthfeel of dark chocolate

      9. Marion: If I may clarify your comment – colorful images certainly may be used but the explicit naming of colors should be avoided during most, if not all, of the remaining renku verses. And, since the leap-over verse names the color red, any image depending upon the identification of a color (especially red) would be a problem in our current verse.

        Jennifer: I’m not sure what your “woopsi” is about but I will say that “stolen kisses” should be saved for the next set of love verses (in the library!).

        Aalix: No apology is necessary. Just as the renku itself is meant to contain a very wide variety of images, I hope that our process in producing it will exhibit a variety of approaches, all valid, taken by the various participants. You are showing us a great deal of your process. If several others were doing that, it might fall to me to gently ask for some to take turns with it. But that is not the case.

      10. the woodland
        of silent stories
        and shadow

        –Alan Summers

        no need for the flashlight yet
        it’s here that our ways must part

      11. the woodland
        of silent stories
        and shadow

        –Alan Summers

        small town gossip
        between the neighbours

      12. woopsi!

        the woodland
        of silent stories
        and shadow
        –Alan Summers

        stealing a kiss
        in the library

      13. the woodland
        of silent stories
        and shadow
        –Alan Summers

        a kiss stolen
        in the library

      14. my comments notwithstanding, one more

        in a brightly-lit bar
        two men whisper over drinks

      15. the woodland
        of silent stories
        and shadow

        -Alan Summers

        now the acedia of the strip mall
        bombards my reticular formation

        -Patrick Sweeney

      16. Thank you for your comments John. Very helpful. And I am sorry for cluttering up the renku process with my
        many minor variations, but it always seemed there was just one more small change that would make it perfect. I will endeavor to make more choices offline from now on.

      17. thinking of a red wig
        during chemo
        –Asni Amin

        the woodland
        of silent stories
        and shadow
        –Alan Summers

        Illuminati
        still just a rumour

      18. the woodland
        of silent stories
        and shadow

        sunlight cast
        through Venetian blinds

      19. the woodland
        of silent stories
        and shadow

        the path dimly lit
        by fairies’ light

      20. the woodland
        of silent stories
        and shadow

        –Alan Summers

        a loud sneeze
        from the sidewalk mime

      21. the woodland
        of silent stories
        and shadow

        –Alan Summers

        a Cheshire Cat purrs
        long into the night

      22. the woodland
        of silent stories
        and shadow

        –Alan Summers

        stagehands out in the alley
        grab a quick smoke

      23. the woodland
        of silent stories
        and shadow

        –Alan Summers

        drops of magic potion
        on her eyelids

      24. the woodland
        of silent stories
        and shadow

        –Alan Summers

        elves and fairies
        nestle under every leaf

      25. the woodland
        of silent stories
        and shadows
        Alan Summers

        a ghost of fire and smoke
        wanders through Europe
        Vasile Moldovan

      26. Aalix,

        Since you are working on this question of the use of articles, I thought this might be a good time for me to share my own thoughts on the subject, as it relates to renku in English.

        In general, I favor natural diction. This will often include the use of articles. If an image can be presented naturally without them, this is an asset in renku, where we generally try to avoid repetition. But the image should not be spoiled by contortions intended to avoid any use of articles.

        The key concern is the use of articles to begin a verse. And then, it is only a concern when consecutive verses use the same article. We don’t want the verses to become stanzas or articles on a list: the this, the that, the ebony cat.

        PS This is not a concern generally in poetry. I once heard Robert Pinsky read a great poem that was essentially, in its entirety, a long list of things, each preceded by an article.

      27. the woodland
        of silent stories
        and shadow

        –Alan Summers

        familiar footsteps
        on the staircase

      28. pkay maybe one more bar verse

        in a dimly-lit bar
        two men whisper over drinks

      29. this is getting silly

        lights over the bar twinkle
        as two men whisper over drinks

      30. now let us get rid of the articles – I will get this right

        two men
        whispered over their drinks

      31. the woodland
        of silent stories
        and shadow

        –Alan Summers

        a cluster of gum nuts
        on the eucalyptus

      32. tense again

        the lights over the bar twinkle
        as the two men whisper over their drinks

      33. the lights over the bar twinkled
        as the two men whispered over their drinks

      34. Pardon me – a correction, please:

        thinking of a red wig
        during chemo
        –Asni Amin

        the woodland
        of silent stories
        and shadow
        –Alan Summers

        breaking through bitumen
        a wealth of shattered glass

        – Willie

      35. thinking of a red wig
        during chemo
        –Asni Amin

        the woodland
        of silent stories
        and shadow
        –Alan Summers

        breaking through bituminous
        a wealth of shattered glass

        – Willie

      36. the woodland
        of silent stories
        and shadow

        –Alan Summers

        as night falls:
        The Wind in the Willows

        – Karen Cesar

      37. the woodland
        of silent stories
        and shadow

        –Alan Summers

        in the forgotten corner
        a spiders web remains

      38. lounge is used for living room in NZ, so for everyone else

        she sits in her living room
        as cars drive by her house

      39. the woodland
        of silent stories
        and shadow

        from hill to hill
        the night train’s rumble

      40. dusk at the cemetery
        with a half-sack of Molson’s

        Just showing my Canadian side

      41. the woodland
        of silent stories
        and shadow

        –Alan Summers

        a red-tailed hawk
        races the wind

      42. Personally, I would have chosen batsword’s

        a secret remedy
        concealed between
        folds of velvet

        for its hope, for its going forward. As you said, Summer’s “. . . verse intensifies the chill of its predecessor,” and thus either reiterates at the least, or goes backwards at the most.

      43. the woodland
        of silent stories
        and shadow

        –Alan Summers

        deep in the mulch
        essential elements

      Comments are closed.

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