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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. articles again

    lights over the bar twinkle
    as two men whisper over drinks

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

    two men
    whispered over their drinks

  32. the woodland
    of silent stories
    and shadow

    –Alan Summers

    a cluster of gum nuts
    on the eucalyptus

  33. tense again

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

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

  35. 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

  36. 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

  37. the woodland
    of silent stories
    and shadow

    –Alan Summers

    as night falls:
    The Wind in the Willows

    – Karen Cesar

  38. the woodland
    of silent stories
    and shadow

    –Alan Summers

    in the forgotten corner
    a spiders web remains

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

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

  40. the woodland
    of silent stories
    and shadow

    from hill to hill
    the night train’s rumble

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

    Just showing my Canadian side

  42. the woodland
    of silent stories
    and shadow

    –Alan Summers

    a red-tailed hawk
    races the wind

  43. 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.

  44. the woodland
    of silent stories
    and shadow

    lost glove
    on the fence post

  45. the woodland
    of silent stories
    and shadow

    –Alan Summers

    deep in the mulch
    essential elements

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