Welcome 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:
of silent stories
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
to the mountain pass–
a sun-warmed stone bridge
of seed trays
in the glasshouse
polished every monday
on the concert Steinway
played to the moon
by the swaying reeds
of a drone
thick with teenage pheromones
trying to reply
“I plight thee my troth.”
thinking of a red wig
of silent stories