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.
We had seventy-six offers, from twenty-one poets, this time. As you probably know, I am giving special attention to the offers of poets who have not yet placed a verse in our renku. Among these, I looked closely at verses by Dru Philippou, Stella Piedrides, batsword, and Stewart C Baker this time. My early favorite was in the fresh wrack line / a friendship bracelet (Stella Pierides). In order to use this verse, I would want to eliminate the cut between lines produced by opening with a prepositional phrase (a common practice in English-language haiku). I could have resolved that by reversing the order of the lines but then we would have had another verse starting with “a” and it would have been the third out of our four most recent. Other fixes would have required more extensive rewriting than I plan to do in this series. Still, this is a very attractive image. I am presuming that the late spring season reference is to beach combing.
From batsword, we had several offers that attracted a second look. In particular there was restless colts / flicking off flies. I suppose the main reason that I haven’t selected this one is that I would like a slightly longer verse here. My personal preference is for short lines and sharply focused images (like this one) but I am concerned that the renku may have too much of that, just because I like it so much.
Then there was Stewart C Baker’s spring thunder shivers / the perennial ryegrass. This was the last verse that I considered before making my selection and I do like it very much. In the end, I let it pass because I didn’t want us looking down at vegetation on the ground in both verses seventeen and eighteen, not that this would have been a bad thing.
Our eighteenth verse comes from Dru Philippou. The link is word based. “Nimbus,” which means something like “halo” or “aura” in verse seventeen, is reconsidered as meaning “cloud” in verse eighteen. At the same time, a significant change of tone is taking place. The lovely, contemplative, and somewhat passive spirit of verse seventeen is answered by the active, almost aggressive “taking” of a photograph in the new verse. One thing this allows me to mention – this is the first time we have named a season. If you look at our season word list, you’ll see that this is clearly an acceptable practice. But, having done it now, we won’t want to name a season again (use the words “summer,” “winter,” etc.) for most, if not the entire, remainder of the renku.
Here is the verse you must link to:
pulling in spring clouds
with a telephoto lens
The next verse, the nineteenth, is the final entry in this series of three spring verses. Here are the formal requirements for verse nineteen:
- Spring image (“late spring” or “all spring” and not a blossom)
- Written in three lines, without a cut
- Linking with the eighteenth verse, and only the eighteenth 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, July 8, 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 10 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
he makes a wish
to become real
each mirror reflects
only the cool moon
sizzles in the pan
a wealthy prince
exiled in Nigeria
soliciting my help
sugar plum fairy came
and hit the streets…
a milky nimbus
beneath the cherry tree
pulling in spring clouds
with a telephoto lens