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The Renku Sessions: Pilgrims' Stride 14

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.

Sixteen poets provided a total of sixty-nine verse fourteen offers. This is down slightly from previous levels of participation. If this is due in part to my post about how many distractions I had to face this week, I thank you for your forbearance and assure you that I am now ready to resume at full speed.

Here is an example of why a good verse is not chosen. I was very taken with Christopher Patchel’s prize turnips / at the county fair. I like the way is sounds, both in its own right and in context, and I like the sense of something not intrinsically beautiful being prized. But “turnip” is listed as a winter season reference in our season word list. It’s always good to check your verses against this list because the assignment of an image to a season is not always intuitive. Other good verses were eliminated because they poached upon topics that have set places in the renku – blossoms or love. If I have not announced that we are writing a blossom verse or a love verse, these topics must be saved for their assigned verse placements.

Our fourteenth verse comes from Aalix Roake. The combination of aroma and anticipated taste is a welcome addition to our renku. I have taken the liberty of deleting the word “hot” from the verse. We don’t need it since “sizzles” tells us that the pan is hot. Also, I would prefer not to link so obviously to “cool” in the preceding verse.

Here is the verse you must link to:

freshly-caught fish
sizzles in the pan

    –Aalix Roake

The next verse, the fifteenth, is a non-seasonal verse. We could perhaps use an overtly urban image at this point. Here are the formal requirements for verse fourteen:

  • Non-seasonal image (not containing any of the words or phrases from our season word list)
  • Written in three lines, without a cut
  • Linking with the fourteenth verse, and only the fourteenth verse
  • Shifting widely to a new topic and setting

Add your suggested three-line link below, in the Comments box. You have until midnight EST, Tuesday, June 10, 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, June 12 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

      he makes a wish
      to become real

        –Marion Clarke

      each mirror reflects
      only the cool moon
      rising

        –kris moon

      freshly-caught fish
      sizzles in the pan

        –Aalix Roake

      This Post Has 82 Comments

      1. freshly-caught fish
        sizzles in the pan

        – Aalix Roake

        she sells books
        on her market stall
        by weight

      2. freshly-caught fish
        sizzles in the pan
        –Aalix Roake

        cries of joy or pain
        and the smell of piss rising
        from the subway mouth

      3. freshly-caught fish
        sizzles in the pan

        –Aalix Roake

        the recidivist
        shoplifter’s violated
        parole

      4. freshly-caught fish
        sizzles in the pan

        -Aalix Roake

        the subway grate
        claiming another
        stiletto

      5. freshly-caught fish
        sizzles in the pan

        –Aalix Roake

        five Guantanamo
        detainees exchanged
        for a soldier

      6. freshly-caught fish
        sizzle in the pan

        – Aalix Roake

        with a wary eye
        the zoo-keeper
        sweeps the concrete pens

      7. freshly-caught fish
        sizzles in the pan

        –Aalix Roake

        one thousand
        immigrant children
        bussed to the border

      8. freshly-caught fish
        sizzles in the pan

        –Aalix Roake

        leaving a tattoo parlour
        with a tiger
        on his back

      9. freshly-caught fish
        sizzles in the pan

        –Aalix Roake

        our blind friend
        tells us which dancer
        is the drag queen

        – Lorin

      10. freshly-caught fish
        sizzles in the pan

        –Aalix Roake

        hard times
        a homeless man hums
        in the old bandshell

      11. freshly-caught fish
        sizzles in the pan

        -Aalix Roake

        wide-mouthed surd
        Salinger’s
        fifth text

        -Patrick Sweeney

      12. few details
        about the truck for sale
        as is

        PS- freshly-caught trout? It’s summer (Higginson) and it’s even mentioned (though not actually listed) on the kigo list for this renku. Just a thought.

      13. ahem, prepositional idioms!

        freshly-caught fish
        sizzles in the pan
        –Aalix Roake

        on Bangkok’s canals
        it’s business as usual
        after the coup

        – Lorin Ford

      14. freshly-caught fish
        sizzles in the pan
        –Aalix Roake

        in Bangkok’s canals
        it’s business as usual
        after the coup

        – Lorin Ford

      15. freshly-caught fish
        sizzles in the pan

        –Aalix Roake

        three ways
        to sharpen
        a kitchen knife

      16. freshly-caught fish
        sizzles in the pan

        –Aalix Roake

        to become
        or not to become
        my own worst enemy?

      17. freshly-caught fish
        sizzles in the pan

        –Aalix Roake

        whispering
        so the neighbors
        can’t hear

        – Meli Kyriakos

      18. freshly-caught fish
        sizzles in the pan

        –Aalix Roake

        I got it, haddock
        what do you take
        for a haddock?

        Groucho Marx in Horse Feathers 1932

      19. freshly-caught fish
        sizzles in the pan

        –Aalix Roake

        mermaids swimming
        in the fast lane
        at the local pool

      20. “By the way, the moon appears twice in this renku.
        Lorin’s and Kris’s.” – Carmen

        Yep, Carmen, two moons in the renku 😉 The autumn moon (which needs no further seasonal reference, since autumn is the fall-back position for moon) and the ‘cool moon’ associated with summer. The moon plus any mention of cool or cooling in a renku verse is recognised as the summer moon, according to the convention. That’s how the game is played.

        Eel can be cooked however people like to cook it, by the way. The favourites of my forefathers/mothers was pickled eel (cold) or jellied eel (room temperature or cold). That’s more British or European, though. The Koories used to cook it in its skin on hot stones. You can use a cast iron pan instead, and it’ll sizzle if you poke some holes in the skin, because there’s a fair bit of of fat in eels. I have no idea what the Japanese do with it!

        – Lorin

      21. Lorin, your suggestion is a bit off because eel is grilled. I’ve often watched it grilled right in front of me on a typical summer day in Japan.

        freshly-caught eel
        sizzles in the pan

        –Aalix Roake

      22. “But fishing, in general, appears most prominently in our season word list as a summer activity. The specific references are to “cormorant fishing” or “weir.” One can easily imagine that the fish in the frying pan was caught by one of these methods, . . . ” – John

        I can’t see ‘fishing’ as an activity on that list, John, but I’m grinning from ear to ear at your suggestion that Aalix’s fish (in New Zealand, after all) might’ve been caught by a tethered cormorant, ala feudal Japanese practice. The RSPCA would have something to say about that, I’d imagine. The other (spreading one’s net across a weir) is a romantic idea and appeals to me tremendously, but one would end up in jail or at least with a hefty fine if one tried it. 🙂

        Fishing happens the year round , in Japan as elsewhere in the world. Now if it was whale meat sizzling in the pan that would be a valid Summer reference for me, because whale catching by we-all-know-who happens here in the Southern Hemisphere, in the ‘Whale Sanctuary’ area of the Southern Ocean, every Summer. But according to Japanese saijiki, ‘whale’ is a Winter kigo. (and a whale is not really a fish)

        Much depends on the perceiver and you’re the sabaki, John, but the problem with Aalix’s verse, as I see it, is that ‘fish’ is generic and non-seasonal and ‘fishing’ isn’t mentioned on that list we’re following as an activity of a particular Japanese season. On the kigo list we’re using, there are specific fish as kigo for Spring, Summer, Autumn and Winter (as one would expect of Japan … islands surrounded by sea & a great seafood-eating culture)

        The easy way around the problem, for those, like myself, who do see the problem of there being no seasonal reference in Aalix’s verse, would be to revise to a version that specified a ‘Summer’ fish or the like from the list:

        Summer

        sweetfish (ayu, all summer). A small fresh-water fish, a delicacy on the order of trout, which is sometimes used as a translation.

        first bonito (hatsugatsuo, early summer). First of the season.

        eel (hamo, all summer). Name in a saltwater environment.

        Bonito steaks are delicious when prepared and cooked well, but a freshly caught one would suggest the catchers are out on the open seas, which would affect the next verse perhaps.

        I’d suggest:

        freshly-caught eel
        sizzles in the pan

        –Aalix Roake

        The site can then be anywhere near a river, stream, creek or the like.

        An appetizing aroma, and more tender and tastier than snake. 🙂

        – Lorin

      23. ” the occasional/vegan’s yen for free/range chicken”
        * “yen” is too similar to “wish” which appears three verses back ..
        ..

      24. freshly-caught fish
        sizzles in the pan

        –Aalix Roake

        the occasional
        vegan’s yen for free
        range chicken

      25. Jennifer says:

        “Dru,
        its not life or death..
        its renku”

        I am having fun but I would also like to learn along the way.

        John, I like what you see in terms of the linking. Thank you for elucidating.

      26. a breath of wind
        brings unknown aromas
        in the refugees’ camp
        Vasile Moldovan

      27. Sorry – I was a bit trigger happy there…

        on the radio they talk
        about mercury levels
        and quotas

      28. John,

        Re: A) I may have counted wrong, or you may have counted entries that arrived after the deadline. In any case, the number of offers is close to sixty-nine, give or take a couple. And the most recent verses drew more like ninety offers.

        Well, all the more reason to wonder why so few entries. Perhaps my suggestion that it was a particular challenging link, because the verse was so (wonderfully) whole may be one reason. I didn’t even attempt a draft for this one, but I’ve also wondered lately about getting drowned out.

        Re: C) Yes. You are right about the formal requirements. Kris’ wanted only a summer season word.

        Also, your comment got published one minute before mine, and I was no doubt writing/submitting at that very moment. I probably would have revised mine if I’d seen yours.

      29. Christopher,

        Yes, there are many different season word lists. We are working with the one specified above. Thus “turnip” was an issue and “county fair” would not have been, this time.

      30. Re: turnips. Point taken. I didn’t realize they were listed (Higginson doesn’t list them). My google search talked of turnips having two seasons– summer and winter, so I figured they would work with county fair, which I associate with summer (but was later told that’s an autumn kigo)

      31. Lisa,

        A) I may have counted wrong, or you may have counted entries that arrived after the deadline. In any case, the number of offers is close to sixty-nine, give or take a couple. And the most recent verses drew more like ninety offers.

        B) Everyone is still at the party and is welcome to keep offering verses. Those who have already had a verse included must know that their contributions are mostly for fun, at least for now. But fun is very much the point.

        C) I think you may be confused about which instructions relate to which verse. What you have quoted (“verse thirteen will need BOTH [my emphasis] the moon and the summer season word or image.”) refers to Kris’s verse, not Aalix’s. Kris’s fulfills those requirements. Aalix’s doesn’t need to.

        D) It is often the case with season words that they are not intuitive. One can say of the moon that it is visible at any time of year but, in renku practice, “moon” means “autumn moon” unless one explicitly indicates otherwise. Kris made it a summer moon in her verse by including the season word “cool” from our list of season words. This word, itself, could apply to other seasons but our list gives us the understanding that it is the particular coolness of a summer evening that is implied. The case for “fishing” is similar. There are various ways of approaching the subject. If one says “ice fishing” we have winter. But fishing, in general, appears most prominently in our season word list as a summer activity. The specific references are to “cormorant fishing” or “weir.” One can easily imagine that the fish in the frying pan was caught by one of these methods, though I think the summer reference is still valid even if other methods, more common outside of Japan, are imagined. There is also the summer kigo listed as “sweetfish” – likened to trout.

      32. With respect, John, I offer not a verse but the following thoughts:

        Re: “Sixteen poets provided a total of sixty-nine verse fourteen offers. This is down slightly from previous levels of participation”(1). If this is due in part to my post about how many distractions I had to face this week . . .”(2)

        (1) Actually, there were 71 verse offerings. Perhaps the added 2 makes it on par with the others. But possibly this: I did notice that increasingly, over the course of the renku, fewer poets are participating, but many of the same poets, some of whom have already been selected or commended, are offering more. For example, one poet in this category offered 16 verses this time, another 10, and two others 8, accounting for 42 offerings. As far as I could tell, there were only 5 new or occasional contributors. And though there was no limit to the number of offerings or limits on who could offer, well, maybe . . .

        (2) No, I don’t think so. You were very responsive to questions as they were posted. However, the verse to link to was very challenging. Kris’ verse linked fluently – and beautifully – to the previous verse. And the “formal requirements” were particularly demanding. (See below.)

        And this: I must agree with Dru on the why’s of your selection, because, in addition to what she says, there is a also a problematic link based on your instructions that “verse thirteen will need BOTH [my emphasis] the moon and the summer season word or image.” Aalix’s offering has only a tentative summer image, because fish can be caught and sizzle in a frying pan in any season.

        And a note to Jennifer S: Fun yes; learning what’s expected yes, too.

      33. Dru,

        Questioning the linking is a little like asking a comedian to explain a joke. Or, even more, like asking those who laughed to explain why they laughed. They may not all have had the same reason(s). Here are what I see as some of the linkages, but other readers might see other links with equal validity:

        1) There is a link of opposites – cool of the moon/heat of the frying pan (I wanted to downplay the word based quality of this, avoiding links of the category “dark”/”light,” “day”/”night,” or in this case “cool”/”hot.” This does not mean that the implied heat does not link as a contrast to the cool of the moon verse, just that I didn’t want it to be so directly stated in words.)
        2) There is a link of shapes – a round moon, a round frying pan.
        3) There is a link of sounds – “rising/sizzles” While this may not amount to a link in many cases, the “z” sounds are unusual enough to be striking, at least to my hear.
        4) There is a complex link between the rising of the moon from the horizon and the fish pulled involuntarily from the water.
        5) If I image this to be campfire cooking, there is the rising of heat, flame, and smoke, as well as the scent of food.
        6) There is, as you pointed out, a link through the use of summer kigo (season words).

        I could go on and so could others, I’m sure. Since I see everything as connected, the shift is the greater challenge for me.

      34. Dru,
        its not life or death..
        its renku

        just go with it and have some fun 🙂

        What the Sabaki says ..goes..

      35. To clarify, “sizzles in the pan” has nothing to do with coolness, so I am doubly confused. How does this verse link to the previous verse. The only connection I see is that it has a summer kigo.

      36. John says: “Also, I would prefer not to link so obviously to “Cool” in the preceding verse.

        If I had known this before hand, I wouldn’t have attempted writing all those verses referring to coolness.

        It gets confusing when the instructions state to link it to the previous verse and are then told, after the fact, not to link it “so obviously cool.”

        Dru

      37. okay so I know that this is not the place to share it but a steak restaurant has just opened up in my local shopping area and I am pescatarian 🙁

      38. correction

        freshly-caught fish
        sizzles in the pan

        –Aalix Roake

        down the road
        a neon cow
        smiles from a billboard

      39. freshly-caught fish
        sizzles in the pan

        –Aalix Roake

        down the road
        a neon cow
        smiles on a billboard

      Comments are closed.

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