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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

      Comments are closed.

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