skip to Main Content

The Renku Sessions: Pilgrims' Stride 17

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-one poets produced a bouquet of sixty blossom verses. I thank everyone and, in particular, I want to thank those poets who have continued to contribute after having one of their verses selected, knowing that they might not have another included. They have enriched our experience with many creative ideas. Note, for example, the way in which Marion Clarke used the structure of the song lyrics following those cited in verse sixteen. The next words in the song are “looking for soul food and a place to eat.” Ms. Clarke gave us that, with different content (looking for blossoms / and a place / to dream). I love the whimsy-plus-attitude of Lorin Ford’s cherry blossoms / in the country of the blind / by their scent. For those of us familiar with the concept of a “scent link” this has an added dimension. Jennifer Sutherland’s bees swarm / from the blossom / to the hive is just lovely. And I am grateful for cherry petals / blur the lines / of hopscotch (Alice Frampton), falling blossoms / and he reaches for / his inhaler (Asni Amin), and sweet bulls / flank to flank beneath / the flowering pear (Karen Cesar).

Our seventeenth verse comes from Scott Mason. This verse offers us a great array of portals to other topics. It does, however, present us with a challenge. The image of fallen cherry petals must be considered “late spring.” The next two verses also require spring images and we can now only use season words or phrases listed as either “late spring” or “all spring.”

Here is the verse you must link to:

a milky nimbus
at dusk
beneath the cherry tree

    –Scott Mason

The next verse, the eighteenth, marks the half-way point in our kasen renku. It is the second in a series of three spring verses. Here are the formal requirements for verse eighteen:

  • Spring image(“late spring” or “all spring” and not a blossom)
  • Written in two lines, without a cut
  • Linking with the seventeenth verse, and only the seventeenth 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, July 1, 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, July 3 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

a wealthy prince
exiled in Nigeria
soliciting my help

    –Christopher Patchel

sugar plum fairy came
and hit the streets…

    –Jennifer Sutherland

a milky nimbus
at dusk
beneath the cherry tree

    –Scott Mason

This Post Has 98 Comments

  1. I believe everything posted made a lot of sense.
    However, what about this? what if you typed a catchier post title?
    I ain’t suggesting your information isn’t solid., but suppose you added a
    post title that makes people desire more? I mean The Renku
    Sessions: Pilgrims

  2. Tuesday night, eastern US time, is the deadline for submissions. As you can see, the site is not dead at that point. It just means that I stop considering new offers then, make my selection, write my comments and prepare a new posting. I need a day for that.

  3. Hello all,
    Did I miss something? John usually cuts off at 9pm Tues. night.
    John?

  4. a milky nimbus
    at dusk
    beneath the cherry tree

    Scott Mason

    Garden Path at Giverny
    on the Gallery wall

  5. a milky nimbus
    at dusk
    beneath the cherry tree

    –Scott Mason

    beside the pond lies a net
    and tadpoles in a jar

  6. a milky nimbus
    at dusk
    beneath the cherry tree

    -Scott Mason

    the pine boughs of Karasaki
    are numb to the spring breeze

    -Patrick Sweeney

  7. a milky nimbus
    at dusk
    beneath the cherry tree

    -Scott Mason

    refusing to step on her image of Christ
    a spring breeze has arisen

    -Patrick Sweeney

  8. “Lorin,

    I wonder how you discerned I am an American Citizen because I am clearly not.

    Can you discern that I am not?” – Dru

    I was being generous in attributing American citizenship to you, Dru, just as I was being generous in pretending not to notice your sarcasm in:

    “Lorin,
    I am glad that in your mind you see a distinction.”

    … and just as I’m not calling you on your sarcastic tone in your use of ‘discerned’ now.

    (Sarcasm being known as the lowest form of wit, I was embarrassed for you)

    The bottom line is that we disagree on what is a quotation and what isn’t. Leave it at that.

    – Lorin

  9. a milky nimbus
    at dusk
    beneath the cherry tree

    changing to the yellow dust
    of the Seed Moon

  10. a milky nimbus
    at dusk
    beneath the cherry tree

    changing to yellow dust
    as the Wind Moon conceives life

  11. a milky nimbus
    at dusk
    beneath the cherry tree

    changing to yellow dust
    as the Seed Moon spreads life

  12. a milky nimbus
    at dusk
    beneath the cherry tree

    changing to yellow dust
    as the Wind Moon spreads life

  13. a milky nimbus
    at dusk
    beneath the cherry tree

    -Scott Mason

    the brave warrior’s hair
    combed by the breeze

    -Patrick Sweeney

  14. I initially said that the bottom line is that each is a quote, no matter what the content is. Obviously, what I have said has not been discerned.

  15. Lorin,

    I wonder how you discerned I am an American Citizen because I am clearly not.

    Can you discern that I am not?

  16. “Could you please tell us what you think the objective of renku might be?”

    I can’t tell you what THE objective of renku might be – there is an array of possible benefits. But I can repeat the advice that Professor Fukuda gave me when I was leading my first international renku session. It seems that I was being very earnest. His advice to me was, “First, it has to be fun. If people enjoy it they will do it again. If they keep doing it they will naturally want to get better at it and they can focus more intensely on the rules at that point.”

    “Some folks might feel they can’t aim if you keep moving the target.”

    Each posting lists the formal requirements for the next verse and I don’t believe I have ever changed any of these after posting them. There is a standing requirement (after verse two) that each new verse shift to a new topic and setting. That is just part of the game. And the game can be complex. Even more than shooting at a moving target, it can be like shooting at a moving target from a moving platform. This is poetry, after all, and it does not seem reasonable to expect everyone to read it (any particular verse) in exactly the same way. I’ve been told that it is helpful when I talk more about what I see as the assets of the verse I’ve selected, including how I see it linking to its predecessor. I will try to do more of this.

    Perhaps it will help if I share a little bit of my weekly process. In order to keep up with the material, I create a document containing the verse to which you are linking at the top and then each verse offered as a link to it, as they come in. I organize the verses by contributor, and then in chronological order of their submission. The name of each poet appears in either green or black ink, the former if they have not yet had a verse included in the renku. I display particularly interesting verses in red ink, to help me focus on a final choice in the short time I have to choose and write commentary for the next posting. When there is some definite reason why a verse cannot be used, I make a note in the right margin about that, mostly so that I won’t have to keep rediscovering it. One of the things that make this complex, for me, is that sometimes the “red” verse and the verse with a fatal flaw are the same verse.

    Some of the most common “fatal flaws” consist of
    1) ignoring the “formal requirements” posted
    2) including material that has a specific (and other) place within a renku – moon, blossom, love, wrong or contradictory season references
    3) including an image that is not actually the required thing, e.g. “mooning” by dropping one’s trousers is not what is looked for in a moon verse
    4) repeating or closely relating to material contained in either the hokku (first verse) or the leap-over verse (the verse preceding the one to which we are currently linking)
    5) other very obvious repetitions of words or images from other verses, especially recent verses
    6) offering material whose image or tone is wrong for the page (section) of the renku – an issue only in the opening and closing sections

    People are, and will continue to be joining us at various stages of the renku. However often I repeat instructions and feedback, there will be people who have missed some of it.

    And there is also the matter of being a poet who has already contributed a verse. This is not in any way a flaw but it does result in a great many “red” verses being passed over. Perhaps you don’t realize that I am not selecting the “best verse” each week. I am trying to select the verse that represents the best available contribution to collaboration. Who is contributing is as much a factor as what. For those of you not yet included, I am looking especially closely for the right moment for your “entrance!”

  17. a milky nimbus
    at dusk
    beneath the cherry tree

    – Scott Mason

    when the bell chimes twelve
    he stops chopping wood

  18. a milky nimbus
    at dusk
    beneath the cherry tree

    – Scott Mason

    pigeons play ‘chase me’
    in the noon day sun

  19. Bu**er it! One of these … < … didn't take, with the result of all that unintended italics! Sorry!

    – Lorin

  20. Dru Philippou June 30, 2014 at 8:46 am

    “Lorin,
    I am glad that in your mind you see a distinction.”

    Hmmm, interesting. I don’t actually know how to see a distinction in my mind! I can perceive some distinctions between the ways language is used, though.

    ” Here is a definition of a quote:

    “To repeat or copy out (a group of words from a text or speech), typically with an indication that one is not the original author or speaker.” ” – Dru Philippou

    Yes, that’s a definition of a quote. Above, I’ve quoted you quoting a definition of a quote. 🙂 I could,/i> use ‘direct speech’:

    Dru wrote, ” Here is a definition of a quote…”

    Can you discern a difference between those examples and the following?

    “Let us go then, you and I,
    When the evening is spread out against the sky …” T.S. Eliot

    Can you discern the difference between both of the above quotations and this:

    “I do solemnly swear (or affirm) that I will faithfully execute the Office of President of the United States, and will to the best of my Ability, preserve, protect and defend the Constitution of the United States.”

    (I give this example because you are clearly a citizen of the USA, so it’ll be something you’re familiar with)

    When is the above a quotation and when is it not? If I should report a (fictional) person’s direct speech, so:

    Harry said, ” When being sworn in, the new USA President quoted the words of the Oath of Office.”

    … wouldn’t you consider there was something a bit odd about what Harry said?

    Jennifer quoted a line from a Lou Reed song, as fits your definition of a quote. But what of Paul’s verse?

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

    –Paul MacNeil

    Would you say that here, Paul is quoting himself quoting a line from a book?

    Let’s revisit the qualifying part of your definition of a quote:

    “. . . typically with an indication that one is not the original author or speaker.”

    It’s a fair enough definition as far as it goes and it seems to me to be indicating what we usually mean when we use the term ‘quotation’. In short definitions, we need to credit intention.

    But as well as for quotations, we can use quotation marks to report direct speech , in fiction as well as factual reportage:

    Then I said to my wife, “Blah blah blah …” When I see him next, I’ll say, “ blah blah blah …”

    Paul, in verse #9, uses direct speech to report something he says or tries to say, and therefore, according to the convention, he uses quotation marks. In an informal sense, we could say he’s quoting himself, but it would be incorrect to say that he’s quoting himself quoting from somewhere or someone, because there are different values given to different acts of language and we generally recognise this and distinguish between them. We might say that Paul uses direct speech to report his recitation of the marriage vow.

    – Lorin

  21. Just for fun…

    a milky nimbus
    at dusk
    beneath the cherry tree

    –Scott Mason

    incessant cheeps
    from the wheel well

  22. Hi John,

    Could you please tell us what you think the objective of renku might be? Some folks might feel they can’t aim if you keep moving the target.

    Thanks,
    Alice

  23. Here is a definition of performative utterances:

    Performative utterances (or performatives) are defined in the speech acts theory (part of the philosophy of language) as sentences which are not only passively describing a given reality, but they are changing the (social) reality they are describing.

    here is the wikipedia source where I obtained this information – http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Performative_utterance

    Dru, shouldn’t you have provided the source for your definition ?

  24. Here is a definition of a quote:

    “To repeat or copy out (a group of words from a text or speech), typically with an indication that one is not the original author or speaker.”

  25. To me it’s not a close call at all. To say “I plight thee my troth” and verse 16 (a line from a work by a known author ) are both ‘quotes/ quotations’ without making any distinction between them seems … well, misinformed about the English language, at least. Paul’s verse doesn’t contain a quotation as such but a performative utterance which is recited during a ritual. Jennifer’s verse is a direct quotation from the work of a known author. They are nicely distinguished in presentation here by the use of quotation marks in the first and the use of italics in the latter.

    Yes, it’s the convention in EL punctuation that direct speech needs to be placed within what we call quotation marks, but that doesn’t make direct speech a quotation!

    And are we quoting when we use a word or phrase from a kigo list?!

    – Lorin

  26. “Is not having two quotes a repetition of sorts. Why in this instance is it acceptable? Why is a quote repetition allowed when other sorts of repetitions are not allowed.”

    Dru (and everyone),

    How to explain this? Perfection is not at the top of my priorities. Since this is, in part, an educational exercise, I have been sticking pretty closely to the rules but there have been and probably will be some potential exceptions, for two main reasons. One of them is that I have confined myself to selecting something from among the verses that are offered, making a very minimum of alterations. The other is that the rules, in my view, provide the background against which we work but a renku that does absolutely nothing but follow the rules is likely to be a dull affair.

    Robert Frost is said to have described the writing of free verse poetry as like playing tennis without a net. I think something like this could be said of writing renku with a “free” approach. I wouldn’t recommend it. But what you are asking about is not like having no net. It’s more like an argument about whether a ball was inside or outside of the line. I have called it in. You are calling it out. I acknowledge that it’s a close call. And that’s part of what makes the game exciting.

  27. Inspired by Lorin:

    how to stop
    the spinning pinwheel of death

    mac users won’t need to google it : )

  28. Just to clarify. This is not a direct quote, but something I made up:

    “Oh, Earth, wait for me,”
    says the East wind

  29. pulling in a frog
    with a telephoto lense

    pulling in a spring day
    with a telephoto lense

    pulling in spring clouds
    with a telephoto lense

    pulling in spring thunder
    with a telephoto lense

  30. John,
    Further to my question. Is not having two quotes a repetition of sorts. Why in this instance is it acceptable? Why is a quote repetition allowed when other sorts of repetitions are not allowed.

  31. a milky nimbus
    at dusk
    beneath the cherry tree
    –Scott Mason

    yellow petals
    trail the riverside

  32. a milky nimbus
    at dusk
    beneath the cherry tree
    –Scott Mason

    flecks of sea foam
    on the beachcombers’ hats

    – Lorin Ford

  33. a milky nimbus
    at dusk
    beneath the cherry tree
    –Scott Mason

    who’s that wearing
    a pinwheel on his hat?

    😉

    – Lorin Ford

  34. “a cool white moon”
    replied the songstress
    to her silent lover again

    Sorry, just having some silly fun.

  35. Dru: “Question: I am wondering if it’s permissible to introduce another quote.”

    We need to wait quite a while and possibly forgo any further use of quotation marks or quoted material from this point forward. This is not so much a matter of hard rules as it is of general principles and personal taste (mine, as the selector of verses). There are ways of getting at the same thing through other means. I’ve mentioned that we should hold off on naming a color, for instance, but this does not preclude us from using a colorful image without a named color. Grass, for instance, or the planet Mars. The same principle would apply to “quotes.” It might be fun, later in our renku, to see if someone can invoke an obvious set of words without actually quoting them. But even that will need to wait until well into the second half of the renku.

  36. a milky nimbus
    at dusk
    beneath the cherry tree

    – Scott Mason

    whilst I bask in the light
    of the hazy moon

  37. Question: I am wondering if it’s permissible to introduce another quote. We have two already and I wonder if this is not a repetition. If the rules are that we don’t repeat, then I wonder why repeating in the form of quotes is permissible. I understand that the themes may be different etc.

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

    sugar plum fairy came
    and hit the streets…

  38. a milky nimbus
    at dusk
    beneath the cherry tree

    – Scott Mason

    buttering pinwheel sandwiches
    for the race day picnic

  39. a milky nimbus
    at dusk
    beneath the cherry tree

    –Scott Mason

    saint and sinner
    at one in the blossom cool

    – Lorin Ford

  40. a milky nimbus
    at dusk
    beneath the cherry tree

    –Scott Mason

    both saint and sinner
    smile through the blossom cool

    – Lorin Ford

  41. a milky nimbus
    at dusk
    beneath the cherry tree

    –Scott Mason

    both saint and sinner
    endure the blossom cool

    – Lorin Ford

    – Lorin

  42. This is just a ‘heads up’: there is an error in translation in the Higginson & Kondo kigo list we’re using as reference, ‘The Five Hundred Essential Japanese Season Words’. It’s the first entry under

    ‘SPRING–ANIMALS’
    colt, pony (wakagoma, late spring).

    Whatever else they were knowledgeable about, it wasn’t horses.

    Clearly, the Japanese reference is to young horses. In English this can be ‘foal’ for very young and ‘colt’ or ‘filly’ for a young horse past the foal stage.

    What it can’t be in English is ‘pony’, because pony doesn’t refer to a horse’s relative youth or age but to its size. A pony is a small horse, not a young horse.

    – Lorin

    Whatever else Higginson and Kondo were knowledgeable about, it wasn’t horses.

  43. a milky nimbus
    at dusk
    beneath the cherry tree

    -Scott Mason

    in the lee of the pampas
    a late lamb is born

  44. a milky nimbus
    at dusk
    beneath the cherry tree

    – Scott Mason

    palamino full tilt
    into the spring wind

  45. a milky nimbus
    at dusk
    beneath the cherry tree

    -Scott Mason

    with a breeze from kanji land
    three days old

    -Patrick Sweeney

  46. sheets snap all day
    in the spring wind

    sheets roused
    by a spring wind

    panties on clothesline
    buoyed by a spring wind

  47. a milky nimbus
    at dusk
    beneath the cherry tree

    Scott Mason

    along mountain trails
    on my sure footed pony

  48. today’s find
    the eggshells of skylarks

    Btw, clever how ‘milky’ got by ; )

  49. migrants cross the border
    in the shimmering heat

    immigrants cross the border
    in the shimmering heat

  50. a milky nimbus
    at dusk
    beneath the cherry tree

    Scott Mason

    serene in old pajamas
    sipping Lipton tea

  51. Dear Old Pajamas –

    I’ve been out of town and didn’t get to see the comments on Pilgrims Stride 16 until now. Since you are a prolific and very good haikuist, your comment carries weight, and I would have hoped that you might have gotten a response from the guide (sabaki) – though, I suppose, ignoring your comment is a response itself.

    However, in answer to others’ questions such as “what was the link” or “why was a verse chosen,” here are some of the replies (take your pick):

    ————————————————————————————————
    As a refresher, your comment was (and it is spot on):

    Folks

    I’m glad you are–seemingly– enjoying what you’re doing, but really, using Reed’s words as a submission and then to have it selected as a legitimate piece of the game is outrageous. If there is precedent relative to renku in Japanese society, I decline to exploit it…pajamas

    P.S. Embarrassing is it not, those of us who think we are channeling Japan itself…
    ————————————————————————————————

    • I could repeat what I say every time about this. But I’ll presume you and other participating poets remember all that.
    • 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.
    • Linkage, however, is in the eye of the beholder to some degree.
    • I will have to take what I consider the best of what is offered, even if it results in some minor flaws.
    • The ONLY thing that gave me some second thoughts about it was its brevity. Emphasis added.
    • As to why I chose this verse over others, that’s a more complex matter.
    • do not instruct the sabaki.

  52. haven’t had a “winner” yet, but guess I’ll still play. 🙂 Be back later.

Comments are closed.

Back To Top