skip to Main Content

The Renku Sessions: Pilgrims' Stride 2

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’ve supplied the opening verse (hokku), and have now selected a second verse (wakiku) from among those submitted prior to this past Tuesday’s deadline.

Thank you! We are off to a fabulous start, with 90 offers from 43 poets! While I must choose only one, I want to thank everyone and encourage you to keep playing. I will be including as many poets as possible in this session and the first round has been so encouraging that I hope everyone will stay with us, and even more will join in.

I have selected a wakiku offered by Billie Wilson. It fulfills all of the suggestions from my first posting and has the added virtue of being from a poet strongly associated with The Haiku Foundation. It can, therefore, be read as our host’s reply, saying something like, “THF is happy to provide support for part of this pilgrimage of poets.” And it embodies the renku concept of “link and shift”—the pilgrim road and the meltwater stream intersect at this point before each continues in its own way.

Here is the verse you must link to:

a sun-warmed stone bridge
over snowmelt

    –Billie Wilson

The next verse, the third (daisan), is the “push off.” Professor Fukuda wrote, “After the exchange of greetings, the renku really starts with the third verse.” While it links to verse two (and only verse two), it also makes a clear shift of scene and subject matter. Here are some other things to keep in mind when writing this verse:

  • this is also a spring verse
  • three lines
  • no “cut” (think of the cut as occurring between verses two and three)
  • It would be good if this verse was an indoor image (the first two having been outdoors)
  • maintain an appropriate tone (we are still in the opening sequence of six verses; the jo or prologue)

Add your suggested three-line link below, in the Comments box. You have until midnight EST, Tuesday, March 18, 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, March 20 here on the blog, and provide information and instruction 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 shrines—
pilgrims’ stride

    –John Stevenson

a sun-warmed stone bridge
over snowmelt

    –Billie Wilson

This Post Has 97 Comments

  1. a sun-warmed stone bridge
    over snowmelt
    — Billie Wilson

    silo motes
    rise into shafts of
    spring light
    — Dafne

  2. I am enjoying reading the different contributions and versions. I am building my own picture/ scenario in my head and it is great to be transported into other worlds in just 3 lines 🙂 Really appreciate the guidance, thanks.

  3. Thank you, everyone! We will pick this up again on Thursday morning (eastern US time).

  4. a sun-warmed stone bridge
    over snowmelt

    Vivaldi’s masterpiece
    glides into the CD player
    but not before a tiny pause

    – Sandra Simpson

  5. behind the door
    we find the last piece
    of the broken cup

    Marilyn Walker

    holding a frog
    the stone Buddha’s
    begging bowl

    Sonam Chhoki

  6. comparing maps
    to the mountain shrines–
    pilgrims’ stride

    a sun-warmed stone bridge
    over snowmelt

    Billie Wilson

    behind the door
    we find the last piece
    of the broken cup

    Marilyn Walker

  7. One more day. We already have some good candidates but I’m always ready to consider new offers (until midnight, eastern US time)!

  8. a sun-warmed stone bridge
    over snowmelt

    sticky taped
    to a school house window
    paper butterflies

    Jennifer Sutherland

  9. sun-warmed stone bridge
    over snowmelt

    children’s laughter
    playing leapfrog
    in the garden

    Jennifer Sutherland

  10. a sun-warmed stone bridge
    over snowmelt

    pattering
    of chick’s feet
    on the roof

  11. a sun-warmed stone bridge
    over snowmelt

    dust brushed
    through the open door
    blown back inside

  12. Hey, Debbie. No apologies required. And I appreciate that the patience goes both ways!

  13. Sorry about not keeping up with your tips, John. Missed the one about not including the moon yet! Thanks for your patience!

  14. I just noticed my last link starts with ‘a,’ same as the wakiku. Hate when that happens.

  15. comparing maps
    to the mountain shrines—
    pilgrims’ stride –John Stevenson

    a sun-warmed stone bridge
    over snowmelt

    after lunch
    removing our boots
    to ford the river

  16. comparing maps
    to the mountain shrines—
    pilgrims’ stride –John Stevenson

    a sun-warmed stone bridge
    over snowmelt

    first paper wasp
    drones slowly into
    the kitchen

    Dru

  17. Oh, sorry, pushed the button too soon!

    a sun-warmed stone bridge
    over snowmelt

    first up
    I choose the eggcup
    like a hen

    – Sandra Simpson

  18. comparing maps
    to the mountain shrines—
    pilgrims’ stride –John Stevenson

    a sun-warmed stone bridge
    over snowmelt

    on the side table
    with a floor-length cloth
    tadpoles in a jar

    – Lorin Ford

  19. comparing maps
    to the mountain shrines—
    pilgrims’ stride –John Stevenson

    a sun-warmed stone bridge
    over snowmelt

    on the side table
    with a floor-length cloth
    a jar of tadpoles

    – Lorin Ford

  20. comparing maps
    to the mountain shrines—
    pilgrims’ stride

    a sun-warmed stone bridge
    over snowmelt

    tender green shoots
    up from the earth where
    buffalo grazed

    * amended to avoid ‘roamed’ conflicting with the pilgrims’ journey. If only there were an edit button!

  21. comparing maps
    to the mountain shrines—
    pilgrims’ stride

    a sun-warmed stone bridge
    over snowmelt

    testing the waters
    this willow branch
    and my big toe

  22. comparing maps
    to the mountain shrines—
    pilgrims’ stride

    a sun-warmed stone bridge
    over snowmelt

    tender green shoots
    up from the earth where
    buffalo roamed

  23. Whoops!

    “One further note about Lorin’s question – in addition to the given season words from our list, please feel free to use other words or phrases that clearly indicate a season. We will need to be a little careful about this, however, because we are blessed to be writing with each other from many different locations, climates, and cultures. So we will have to use very broad strokes in order to be sure they can be read from a distance.” – John

    Thanks for this consideration, John. I guess that this means, if we’re not being Japan-o-centric or pretending to live on a planet the shape of one half of a cut cantaloupe, that calendar references (such as the names of months or those holidays that’re observed world-wide) will not be considered as seasonal references. And to set that example for international renku would be a great thing. 🙂

    – Lorin

  24. “One further note about Lorin’s question – in addition to the given season words from our list, please feel free to use other words or phrases that clearly indicate a season.We will need to be a little careful about this, however, because we are blessed to be writing with each other from many different locations, climates, and cultures. So we will have to use very broad strokes in order to be sure they can be read from a distance.” – John

    Thanks for this consideration, John. I guess that this means, if we’re not being Japan-o-centric or pretending to live on a planet the shape of one half of a cut cantaloupe, that calendar references (such as the names of months or those holidays that’re observed world-wide) will not be considered as seasonal references. And to set that example for international renku would be a great thing. 🙂

    – Lorin

  25. comparing maps
    to the mountain shrines—
    pilgrims’ stride

    –John Stevenson

    a sun-warmed stone bridge
    over snowmelt

    –Billie Wilson

    would you like
    whitebait fries with that,
    Sir and Madam?

    😉

    – Lorin

  26. a sun-warmed stone bridge
    over snowmelt

    her basketful
    of purple eggs
    never to hatch

  27. “One further note about Lorin’s question – in addition to the given season words from our list, please feel free to use other words or phrases that clearly indicate a season. ”

    Thank you for adding this, John. It makes a big difference. I’d noted ku posted with clear or dubious seasonal references that aren’t on the list you specified (eg ‘spring cleaning’ & ‘percale’) and had wondered if the authors were wasting their time.

    So, only general ‘season indicators’, words not particularly evocative of Japan or anything of Japanese origin, like sushi, even if we have it for a quick lunch most days. No indication of traveling from here to there by any means throughout the renku, as walking (in the hokku) is considered to be traveling. (And therefore, I’m guessing, no mention of legs or feet, either.)

    But this last seems to beg the question of how we get out of Japan if we can’t travel! And what about the blossom verses? No Japan-evoking blossoms such as cherry blossoms or plum blossoms, but to have eg wattle blossoms or choke-cherry blossoms, we have to travel out of Japan.

    I’m feeling somewhat overwhelmed!

    – Lorin

  28. More really good verses since this morning, when I was in a dark train station trying to see my tiny cell phone keypad. One further note about Lorin’s question – in addition to the given season words from our list, please feel free to use other words or phrases that clearly indicate a season. We will need to be a little careful about this, however, because we are blessed to be writing with each other from many different locations, climates, and cultures. So we will have to use very broad strokes in order to be sure they can be read from a distance.

    A note to Dru: I don’t feel that anyone’s verses “don’t count” and, later in the renku, I will make selections that put our pleasure above the considerations of a traditional “base line.” But I probably won’t do that in the opening (the first six verses) and I thought it only fair to say so.

    I have heard people say that they don’t like renku because they don’t like all the rules. My feeling is that the rules can be a source of fun, once they are learned. But I’m aware that we are a mixed group of renku poets and I’ll be looking to balance my approach in order to provide enjoyment for both new and very experienced partners. I’m afraid, though, that this will require a degree of patience from everyone since there is no single approach that will be right for everyone at every point. My plan is to emphasize the foundation in the opening six verses and then to “loosen up” for the next twenty-four (the “ha”).

  29. comparing maps
    to the mountain shrines—
    pilgrims’ stride

    a sun-warmed stone bridge
    over snowmelt

    in Oklahoma
    a mare gives birth
    to a new colt

  30. a sun-warmed stone bridge
    over snowmelt

    her recipe
    for steamed red snapper
    taken from the web

  31. I missed session one and just read that blossoms and plants should be avoided in the jo, so I guess my three-liner will not count.

  32. a sun-warmed stone bridge
    Over snowmelt

    a forsythia sprig
    slipped beneath each
    napkin ring

  33. Login – I’m traveling and have just my phone. Briefly, the season word list contains both general terms, like snow, and Japan related terms, like doll festival. Please use the more general. More later today.

  34. Oops – forgot to include the second verse:

    a sun- warmed stone bridge
    over snow melt

    in the glass house
    the dampened soil
    of seed trays

  35. I am new to this, so here goes:

    in the glasshouse
    the dampened soil
    of seed trays

  36. John, a query re

    “3) The hokku contains a season reference that is particularly evocative of Japan. We should refrain from other evocations of Japan during the renku.”

    If we are to use ‘The Five Hundred Essential Japanese Season Words’ and no other source, formal or informal, to invoke season, as you’ve specified, it beats me how it would be possible to avoid evocations of Japan.

    Would you mind explaining?

    – Lorin

  37. a sun-warmed stone bridge
    over snowmelt

    suddenly needing
    to spring clean
    I choose a green cloth

    – Sandra Simpson

  38. Hi Christopher P/ sabaki John,

    Mrs Bud, the florist’s wife from a version of Happy Families (in my scenario somehow the card has got mixed in with a deck of regular playing cards).

    If “Mrs Bud” is deemed an “invisible issue” she could become Mrs Bun, the baker’s wife if … things rising = spring?

  39. Scott, and anyone who has written verses that we can’t use yet, hang onto those because, when we get to the love verses (or moon, or blossoms), we may be able to use those verses, as they are or with slight variations.

  40. at last
    it emerges as a butterfly
    in time-lapse

    I’m curious who Mrs Bud is

  41. Oops . . . our postings crossed and I think I violated caution #2 in my latest offer . . . back to the writing board!

  42. Wonderful creativity in evidence! I just want to make a few addition points about this verse:

    1) The hokku features an image of travel (and the wakiku links to this aspect), so travel images are to be avoided, as is anything that tends to relate back to the hokku.

    2) There are specified verses for certain topics (the moon, blossoms, love). Unless I give a cue to include one of these topics, please avoid them.

    3) The hokku contains a season reference that is particularly evocative of Japan. We should refrain from other evocations of Japan during the renku.

    My intention has been to go light on the “rules” and focus on having fun but many of you are writing wonderful verses that have “invisible” issues and I don’t want you to be in the dark about some of these matters.

  43. a sun-warmed stone bridge
    over snowmelt

    my new glasses
    to read an article
    about wakame

  44. a sun-warmed stone bridge
    over snowmelt

    Billie Wilson

    the table set
    with steaming tea
    and wild mint leaves

    Marilyn Walker

  45. comparing maps
    to the mountain shrines—
    pilgrims’ stride

    a sun-warmed stone bridge
    over snowmelt

    a girl releases
    the frog she couldn’t turn
    into a prince

    – John McManus

  46. a sun-warmed stone bridge
    over snowmelt

    to my delight
    a rose petal
    in my slipper

    -Jennifer Sutherland

  47. And yet another window verse…

    windows open
    all the way
    spring peepers

  48. a sun-warmed stone bridge
    over snowmelt

    -Billie Wilson

    itching my thigh
    through the hole
    in my pocket

    -Patrick Sweeney

  49. a sun-warmed stone bridge
    over snowmelt

    playing solitaire
    with an old deck
    I turn up Mrs Bud

    – Sandra Simpson

  50. comparing maps
    to the mountain shrines—
    pilgrims’ stride

    a sun-warmed stone bridge
    over snowmelt

    cloud seeds
    from the sill reshaping
    borderlines

  51. comparing maps
    to the mountain shrines—
    pilgrims’ stride

    a sun-warmed stone bridge
    over snowmelt

    an eagle’s scream
    through the window
    growing dark

  52. a sun-warmed stone bridge

    over snowmelt
    2. –Billie Wilson
    —-

    from her window seat
    the elder aunt watches
    poplar fluff blow

    3. -Paul MacNeil

  53. a sun-warmed stone bridge
    over snowmelt

    closing the door
    on it all, only to find
    pollen on my sleeve

  54. a sun-warmed stone bridge
    over snowmelt

    who’s the slug-a-bed
    in the bullet train window
    still yawning?

    – Lorin Ford

  55. a sun-warmed stone bridge
    over snowmelt

    a slug-a-bed’s face
    stares out from the bullet train
    still yawning

    – Lorin Ford

    – Lorin Ford

  56. Trying again:

    ***
    comparing maps
    to the mountain shrines—
    pilgrims’ stride

    a sun-warmed stone bridge
    over snowmelt

    cherrystone clams
    are ten bucks a pound
    at the A&P!

  57. And we are off to a new start! Thank you Sara, Catherine, and Karen. Noting that Karen has used both proceeding verses as a setting for her offer, I am cued that this might be a good time to write about the “leap over” verse.

    Throughout the renku, we will be making special efforts to avoid any linkage, even a remote linkage, with two particular verses. One of them is the hokku, the opening verse, and the other is the “leap over” verse. The “leap over” verse changes as we go along but it is always the verse before the verse to which we are linking. In this case, the hokku and the “leap over” verse are the same for verse three. If we were writing verse 7 now, the “leap over” verse would be number 5. For verse 29, it would be 27 and so on. While the soul of renku is, at all times, about forward motion, and repetition is generally avoided, this is especially important with regard to the hokku and the “leap over” verses.

  58. comparing maps
    to the mountain shrines—
    pilgrims’ stride

    a sun-warmed stone bridge
    over snowmelt

    fiddleheads
    steamed crisp-tender
    over boiling water

Comments are closed.

Back To Top