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The Renku Sessions: Pilgrims' Stride 26

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 entered sixty-nine verses in this round. My post will be abbreviated. I’ve been traveling and don’t have the full array of computer resources that I use at home.

While we had several really excellent offers from poets already included, we also had some good offers from others and I will once again be able to introduce a new participant poet. I’ll also use this opportunity to say something about love verses.

While you won’t find love as a topic on our season word list (other than “cats in love”), love verses do have the same kind of forward-only movement as a group of seasonal links. You might ask yourself, “Is this an early, middle, late, or all love image?”. Early might be an initial attraction, middle might present something like a tenth wedding anniversary, late might feature an older couple, and all would be something that is clearly about love without suggesting any particular stage of a relationship. I probably should have thought of telling you this while soliciting the verse you’ve just been writing. Since what I have selected might register as a “late” love verse, it would be best if the next love verse was either “late” or “all” love.

Our twenty-sixth verse comes from Ellen Grace Olinger. Linking through “paper,” this love verse contrasts the soft edges of aged paper to the cutting edge in the preceding link. The used books in this verse may not have been signed by an author or authors, though this thought provides one of the strongly resonant readings. They may have been more recently inscribed with a special message for that special someone. All the same, the image of “used” makes it advisable that we avoid “young love” in our next, and final, love verse.

Here is the verse you must link to:

used books signed
for someone special

    –Ellen Grace Olinger

The next verse, the twenty-seventh, is the second of two love verses. Here are the formal requirements for verse twenty-seven:

  • Non-seasonal “late” or “all” love image (should not include words or phrases from our season word list)
  • Written in three lines, without a cut
  • Linking with the twenty-sixth verse, and only the twenty-sixth 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, September 9, 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, September 11 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

    –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

    –Stella Pierides

our yoga instructor
tells us to breathe

    –Priscilla Van Valkenburgh

smoldering dung cakes
burning in the blackened pit
flavors the curry

    –Betty Shropshire

the family’s grudge
celebrates a century


first snowfall
covering little by little
all the dirt

    –Vasile Moldovan

scraping the ice rink
of blood, sweat and tears

    –Carole MacRury

the sting
of a paper cut
on her tongue

    –Terri French

used books signed
for someone special

    –Ellen Grace Olinger

This Post Has 62 Comments

  1. Dear John and the poets,

    This was a first for me. I appreciate your encouragement and am very grateful to all the poets for their verses.

    Charles Waugaman (1932 – 2010) was the Editor when I began subscribing to Time Of Singing. In the late 1980s, I stopped at a bookstore after turning in my grades at school. I found Poet’s Market and then this magazine and others.

    Charles was one of the first editors to comment on my work and then publish. I remember dancing in the living room when my poems began to find their homes. Charles and I became friends after he retired and moved to Vermont. After his passing, I wanted to read his early books. I found a few used books on Amazon, and he had signed them. Then I continued with wanting to buy used books. The markings from a library, another time and place, all add to the mystery of the books. I love seeing books at thrift stores too. Have enjoyed including poetry with donations, and then I find what I need at the same stores as well.

    Grateful to all the editors for their labors of love. It’s hard to express what a lifeline a poetry journal is when life sort of sets you aside for another purpose for a time. When my mother was no longer reading, even the physical presence of books, her New Yorker and New York Times, journals from me, helped her hang on to her identity. That’s really my best work. The art of caregiving. Nothing is perfect, unconditional love.

    Thanks again

    Many blessings, Ellen

  2. Look forward to all your hard work John, it really is much appreciated.

    And thank you Dave Russo for the mammoth task of getting THF blog back online. From what I hear it was one helluva job to do, but you are one helluva person. 🙂

    warmest regards to John and Dave, and all who sail with them,


  3. Glad to be live again! I have not been able to prepare as usual because of the site maintenance and because of high demands on my day job. Please look for Pilgrims’ Stride 27 at 9:00 p.m. eastern US time, approximately nine hours from now. Thank you for your patience.

  4. used books signed
    for someone special

    –Ellen Grace Olinger

    trading groaners
    over their first date
    decades ago

  5. Slight revision:

    Pawnshop one word instead of two

    a chipped diamond
    nestled inside
    the pawnshop ring

  6. used books signed
    for someone special

    –Ellen Grace Olinger

    packed away
    with mothballs
    her mothers wedding dress

  7. used books signed
    for someone special

    –Ellen Grace Olinger

    words of love
    worn away
    inside a wedding ring

  8. used books signed
    for someone special

    – Ellen Grace Olinger

    thinking of taking
    a mistress, he trims
    his nose hairs too

    – Sandra Simpson

  9. used books signed
    for someone special

    – Ellen Grace Olinger

    thinking of taking
    a mistress, he colours
    his eyebrows too

    – Sandra Simpson

  10. used books signed
    for someone special

    – Ellen Grace Olinger

    for the woman who may
    become his second wife
    a large voddy tonny

    – Sandra Simpson

  11. used books signed
    for someone special

    – Ellen Grace Olinger

    handling her scarf
    he recalls that his wife
    loved yellow

    – Sandra Simpson

  12. used books signed
    for someone special

    –Ellen Grace Olinger

    everyone loved
    her Down syndrome baby
    except its father

  13. Slight revision:

    he gives me a ring
    that holds as many diamonds
    as we have children

    I know it’s a number, but not specified . . .
    Haha . . . over 100?

  14. used books signed
    for someone special

    –Ellen Grace Olinger

    his wife ends
    her emotional affair

    * From Wiki:

    An emotional affair can be defined as:

    “A relationship between a person and someone other than (their) spouse (or lover) that has an impact on the level of intimacy, emotional distance and overall dynamic balance in the marriage. The role of an affair is to create emotional distance in the marriage.”[1]

  15. used books signed
    for someone special
    -Ellen Grace Olinger

    with one wave
    his words of love
    washed from the sand

  16. used books signed
    for someone special
    -Ellen Grace Olinger

    in the album
    about the silver wedding
    godfather is missing
    Vasile Moldovan

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