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The Renku Sessions: Pilgrims' Stride 19

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-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:

plain truth
of a skylark’s
song

    –Stella Pierides

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

      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

      pulling in spring clouds
      with a telephoto lens

        –Dru Philippou

      plain truth
      of a skylark’s
      song

        –Stella Pierides

      This Post Has 80 Comments

      1. plain truth
        of a skylark’s
        song

        –Stella Pierides

        against a backdrop
        of deceit

      2. plain truth
        of a skylark’s
        song

        –Stella Pierides

        she claims to have led
        a sheltered life

      3. plain truth
        of the skylark’s
        song

        – Stella Pierides

        the soft sigh
        of a sleeping child

        – Lisa Meyers

      4. our yoga instructor
        tells us to breathe

        Or

        our instructor
        tells us to breathe

      5. Hi Alice,
        “Probably each Rengishi chooses differently. ”

        Yes, most likely each sabaki will choose differently, even the same sabaki will probably choose differently for each renku he/she leads. 🙂 Ultimately, each renku is a poem, or if that seems to be going too far, at least each renku aspires to be a poem. To use the music analogy, how many composers have given us how many sonatas, over time? Though there are formal things that allow us to say, ‘This is a sonata’ for all of them, each composer has a different interpretation and approach, and the same composer will produce different sonatas.

        Even different conductors of an orchestra will have pieces performed in slightly different ways, with various subtle emphases/ interpretations.

        And it’d be a boring world if it was any other way, don’t you think? 😉

        – Lorin

      6. plain truth
        of a skylark’s
        song

        –Stella Pierides

        the smell of death
        on both sides of the Wall

        – Lorin Ford

      7. plain truth
        of the skylark’s
        song

        -Stella Pierides

        updraft on an alpha wave
        my brain makes room for wings

        -Patrick Sweeney

      8. Alice,

        Haiku evolved from the hokku (first verse). Other verses differ; slightly, during the opening section (“jo”), and significantly during the middle sections (“ha”), which is what we are writing now. We can do a great many things now that might be considered inappropriate for haiku.

        You are correct in guessing that “how close is too close” will be answered differently by different renku people. I will continue to explain my thoughts while making future selections but I want to emphasize always that my way is just one of the ways of making these choices.

      9. plain truth
        of a skylark’s
        song

        -Stella Pierides

        a blithe spirit
        crashes our seance

      10. Lorin,

        That’s an interesting fact about Emily Dickinson. I didn’t know that.
        My immediate thought, though, would be the music connection . . . ?
        In {my} last offering, I even feel house/home and come/came might be too close.
        Even questions/reply could be tossed. I’m just not sure how close is too close. I’m sure John will know. I’m glad he gives us the reasons for his choices. Probably each Rengishi chooses differently. I find John has a very deep knowledge of what works and what doesn’t. Nice to have his list of criteria.

        Can anyone tell me if our verses should follow the basics of regular haiku, such as not using judgement words . . . right here, right now, just the facts? I’m not that familiar about how far we stray from regular haiku (?)

        Thanks Lorin and everyone!
        Yours,
        Alice

      11. plain truth
        of the skylark’s
        song

        -Stella Pierides

        saying exactly what she means
        the moon at the window

        -Patrick Sweeney

      12. I just noticed this & it gave me a laugh 🙂

        (from John’s text in relation to Stella’s verse)

        “And we had flying insects in the sixth verse.”

        🙂 It reminds me of JEC remarking on the absurd lengths that ‘repetition spotters’ can go to & giving the example of “…can’t have a mansion in this verse because we had a bird not long ago, and both have wings.”

        – Lorin

      13. plain truth
        of a skylark’s
        song

        –Stella Pierides

        the hymnal open
        near Emily’s pen

        – Lorin Ford

        (Though I realise that, at a stretch, this could be considered to be trespassing on the hokku’s territory if it was categorised as ‘religion’ 😉 to me it’s more ‘poetry/ literature’ … her metric patterns were based on common hymns… & plain truth, which she is, imo, breathtakingly good at… none better. Anyway, I felt to put a homage to the spirit of a brilliant, deathless poet on the record. 🙂

        – Lorin

      14. Thanks John,

        Yes, I did post it again to the right posting place, but I revisit the archives quite a lot to read and re read the threads. Still trying to learn all I can.
        Maybe, instead of the web designer having to change anything, I can commit to memory checking and double checking what I’m doing before submitting a verse. :-))))))

      15. plain truth
        of a skylark’s
        song

        –Stella Pierides

        with the swagger
        of a Caravaggio

      16. plain truth
        of a skylark’s
        song

        –Stella Pierides

        she changes her ringtone
        with the seasons

      17. Dear Lorin,

        To wrap this up.

        You: “Think about it: you haven’t participated in this renku, haven’t offered any verses
        at all.”

        Me: I have thought about it, and this is what I know: I have submitted 10 offers to this renku.

        You: “I don’t know anything about your involvement in haiku or renku, though, devora. Are you a troll?”

        Me: I have been published in some of the best haiku & haibun journals.

        Oh, as far as the woof, woof “wrong tree” thing, John’s answer was especially
        pet-friendly, when he admitted that “Perhaps my wording was confusing.”

        Yours truly,
        Devora

      18. Alice,

        I’m not aware of all the mechanics yet. Have learned just enough to produce my new postings from week to week. But no harm is done with the posting in the wrong place so long as you also post it in the right place. Just be aware that, this time, I am only reviewing verses that appear under The Renku Sessions: Pilgrims’ Stride 19.

        John

      19. Whoops again! I was reading back and added a submission to an archived verse. Is there a way to close comments to the archives once a verse is chosen and we move on?

      20. devora July 11, 2014 at 9:02 am

        “Thank you, Lorin, for that information about the “well-knowns.” So it prompts me more than ever to ask why these poets were not included in John’s list of those he was especially looking at who do not yet have a verse in the renku.* In other words, why were these “knowns” not being especially looked at? It’s a fair question. If I were a known and had been left off the list, I would have wondered. And, of course, it still leaves the real unknowns who are not being especially considered.

        *I can’t even figure out why he singled out these people in this way at all. It was rather odd.” – devora

        In your judgement, your question was “a fair question”, and John has answered you …. with considerable modesty & tact, I might remark. You know now that you were barking up the wrong tree, so there’s no need for me to comment on that.

        “In addition, a couple of side notes. I asked John these questions, not you.” – devora

        And, you’ll note, I did not presume to answer your questions. What I called your attention to was your presumption, without any evidence whatsoever, that some of those people were known and others not.

        ” while your answer was informative, it absolutely fell apart when you did a gratuitous non sequitur asking about my involvement in haiku and renku, and that silly thing about wondering if I am a troll. ”

        Your opinion is that your question to John was “a fair one”, yet my question to you was “silly”. Hmmm…

        My question was candid, even, I admit, blunt, but I don’t think it was silly. (Would it have been improved in your view if I’d tagged ”just askin’ ” on the end?)

        Think about it: you haven’t participated in this renku, haven’t offered any verses at all. You’ve asserted that some people are ‘unknowns’ as if you were quite knowledgeable in renku or haiku matters but if I place your name plus ‘renku’ or ‘haiku’ in Google search, the only results I get are your comments in the threads of ‘Pilgrim’s Stride’. So who knows who you are?

        You’re basically anonymous. You’re not participating. Your comments/ questions have a negative or ‘stirring’ quality to them. (Possibly this might be what you mean by calling yourself a “challenger”?)

        Ask yourself: what is it that would distinguish you from a troll? (I ask you to ask yourself, not to answer me)

        (ps …I don’t consider you to be “opposition”. I don’t understand at all where that’s coming from)

        – Lorin

      21. plain truth
        of a skylark’s
        song

        –Stella Pierides

        fact or fiction?
        a UFO
        in the night sky

      22. over coffee
        we agree to disagree

        Thank you, John, for all that you are doing here. I’ve learnt so much from you and everyone here and enjoy participating in this renku.

      23. plain truth
        of a skylark’s
        song

        –Stella Pierides

        an additional chair
        might square the circle

      24. plain truth
        of a skylark’s
        song

        –Stella Pierides

        my thrice weekly copy
        of Pravda tossed in the bin

        * Pravda italicized

      25. Perhaps my wording was confusing. I looked carefully at all of the verses contributed, as I do each week. My commentary was about the final four verses (not poets) that I considered, after passing on others (other verses), either because they were written by poets already included in the renku or because they featured renku-related flaws that I considered to outweigh whatever virtues they may also have had. I hope you will all understand that, as someone who is still employed on a full-time basis and who devotes a good deal of my non-workday hours to writing and editing haiku and other poetry, I do not have time to comment on every verse entered for the renku. But I do read and consider each of them and I am grateful for the participation of all the poets who contribute. All are welcome.

      26. Thank you, Lorin, for that information about the “well-knowns.” So it prompts me more than ever to ask why these poets were not included in John’s list of those he was especially looking at who do not yet have a verse in the renku.* In other words, why were these “knowns” not being especially looked at? It’s a fair question. If I were a known and had been left off the list, I would have wondered. And, of course, it still leaves the real unknowns who are not being especially considered.

        *I can’t even figure out why he singled out these people in this way at all. It was rather odd.

        In addition, a couple of side notes. I asked John these questions, not you. And while your answer was informative, it absolutely fell apart when you did a gratuitous non sequitur asking about my involvement in haiku and renku, and that silly thing about wondering if I am a troll. You have often taken such a tone on this thread, and I guess it’s the way you handle opposition. I do not take it personally, and hope other challengers don’t too.

      27. plain truth
        of a skylark’s
        song

        -Stella Pierides

        war plans in repeating stanzas
        easy for children to remember

        -Patrick Sweeney

      28. ” … Vasile Moldovan … (and other unknown offerers)…” – devora

        Vasile is better known in both European haiku and renku circles than any of the poets you consider to be well-known, devora, and has participated in renku in English with an international group of writers, and ‘batsword’ would perhaps be more recognisable if she included her name along with her verse offers 🙂 She is quite well-known in renku circles. I am aware of Tricia Knoll’s haiku work, too.

        I don’t know anything about your involvement in haiku or renku, though, devora. Are you a troll?

        – Lorin

      29. Re: “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.”

        Why is that, John, because they are the well-known poets, and poets like Joel Irusta, Betty Shropshire, Meli Kyriakos, batsword, Tricia Knoll, Vasile Moldovan, Jerry Julius (and other unknown offerers) are not, and should not be especially considered?

        Just askin’
        devora

      30. plain truth
        of a skylark’s
        song
        Stella Pierides

        an echo resounding
        in the cavern depth

      31. plain truth
        of a skylark’s
        song

        –Stella Pierides

        pillows fluffed for
        the Craftsman’s Guild

      32. plain truth
        of a skylark’s
        song

        in the hallway
        I find the hoped-for letter

      33. There were a lot of stunning verses, and despite loving so many verses, this is a great verse:

        plain truth
        of a skylark’s
        song

        –Stella Pierides

        I’m again excited about the verses that will be posted.

        warm regards,
        Alan

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