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-three poets and fifty-five verses were the totals this time around. A special welcome is extended to several participants who premiered this week. I look forward to seeing more of your work as we go on.
Looking, as I have been, especially at the offers of poets who do not yet have a verse in the renku, I paid extra attention this time to links from Terri French, Stella Pierides, Carmen Sterba, and mary white. An early favorite was the slouched shoulders / of beach combers / following drift lines (Terri French). It contains a late spring season reference (beach combing) and the idea of “drift lines” seems playful in light of what we are doing here with our lines of poetry. I am passing partly because “slouching” seems to forfeit some of the energy that I want at this point and because, as I mentioned in my comments in the previous post, verses seventeen and eighteen have us looking first at the ground and then at the sky. To now look back to the ground would be too much of a pattern within these few verses.
I am very fond of Carmen Sterba’s Charlie Brown / looses his grip / on the kite’s string. The tone is light and faintly ironic. I have one small concern. We have an indirect reference to Pinocchio in the previous “page” of this section, so Charlie Brown (another fictional boy) might be a little too close at this point.
My final choice, between verses by mary white (the snap of sheets / drying in the April breeze / lifts her spirits) and Stella Pierides (plain truth / of a skylark’s / song), was difficult. Both are attractive as opening verses for a new “page” and both have drawbacks. Because the preceding verse named the season, I would be reluctant to follow it with a verse whose season reference depends upon naming a month, especially when we are an international group and the month of April is an autumn month for some of us. It is alright to use a season reference that is not specifically mentioned on our season list but this must be done with great caution. The alternative is a very short three line verse and, as I mentioned last week, I would like to select some longer verses since I have such a strong affinity for the shorter ones. Also, we have a song lyric recently quoted and a sonata played in the opening section. While I think of man-made music and bird song as quite different things, there are certain to be some who will disagree. And we had flying insects in the sixth verse.
A word of caution here – as we proceed through the latter portions of our renku it will be increasingly difficult to find verses without some kind of flaw. Put another way, if will become increasingly easy to find faults. I hope we can all minimize the energy we devote to fault finding. It will make our work together easier and much more enjoyable. The focus on “what we can’t do,” which can become more intense in the late portions of a renku, may create frustrations that can, in turn, discourage newcomers from enjoying renku writing. We are not writing this renku for a competition. We are writing it for fun and for a light introduction to the genre.
Our nineteenth verse comes from Stella Pierides. “Skylark” is the seasonal reference – listed as “all spring” on our season word chart. While our focus may be skyward, the “truth of song” is an attractive corollary / contrast with the literal quality of a sharply focused photograph. As we begin a new “page” (verses nineteen through thirty) this ephemeral beauty invokes liberation, joy, and perhaps a touch of Shelley.
Here is the verse you must link to:
of a skylark’s
The next verse, the twentieth, is the first in a series of three non-seasonal verses. This would be a good time for an “indoor” image. Here are the formal requirements for verse twenty:
- Non-seasonal image (should not contain words or phrases from our season word list)
- Written in two lines, without a cut
- Linking with the nineteenth verse, and only the nineteenth 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 15, 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 17 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
of a skylark’s