skip to Main Content

The Renku Sessions: Pilgrims' Stride 28

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.

Sixty-six verses, from seventeen poets, were our totals for verse twenty-eight. We’ve had a rollicking set of offers, as befits our “ha” section, which will conclude with the next two verses. A few of many favorites from this round:

“ring a ring o’ roses
we all fall down”

    –Margaret Beverland

another game of blind man’s buff
at the nudist colony

    –Jennifer Sutherland

birdie num-nums
a hit at the party

    –Lorin Ford

no sleep amongst
the loud cheers and woots

    –Carman Sterba

bouncing ping pong balls
on my bald head

    –joel irusta

Our twenty-eighth verse comes from Maureen Virchau. Once again she provided many good choices. I have made a very slight change in the verse I’ve selected, just to avoid consecutive verses staring with “a.” Try saying this verse three times, fast!

Here is the verse you must link to:

stirring the crowd
with the slur of a slur

    –Maureen Virchau

The next lik, the twenty-ninth, is an autumn moon verse. It will be followed by two additional autumn verses. As is always the case in renku, any mention of the moon or moonlight that is not specified otherwise is presumed to refer to an autumn moon. This verse and the next one will complete the middle or “ha” section of the renku. We can still be a little crazy with this one, though the renku rollercoaster has already passed the highest arcs and sharpest turns. Here are the formal requirements for verse twenty-nine:

  • Autumn moon image (any mention of the moon or moonlight)
  • Written in three lines, without a cut
  • Linking with the twenty-eighth verse, and only the twenty-eighth 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 23, 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 25 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

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

    –batsword

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

a large voddy tonny
for the woman who may be
his next wife

    –Sandra Simpson

stirring the crowd
with the slur of a slur

    –Maureen Virchau

This Post Has 90 Comments

  1. Ohh that’s right – just remembered we were polishing silverware in verse 4 so knives would be too close and John said above that we have passed the sharpest turns 🙂

    stirring the crowd
    with the slur of a slur

    –Maureen Virchau

    breaking his heart
    by the light
    of the moon

  2. stirring the crowd
    with the slur of a slur

    –Maureen Virchau

    sharpening knives
    by the light
    of the moon

  3. stirring the crowd
    with the slur of a slur

    –Maureen Virchau

    come with me
    to the Sea
    of Tranquility

  4. stirring the crowd
    with the slur of a slur

    –Maureen Virchau

    Holly Golightly’s
    huckleberry
    friend

  5. (spello!)

    stirring the crowd
    with the slur of a slur

    –Maureen Virchau

    the Roman moon
    equally in favour
    of Christians and lions

    – Lorin

  6. stirring the crowd
    with the slur of a slur

    –Maureen Virchau

    the Roman moon
    equally in favour
    of Christans and lions

    – Lorin

  7. Scott Mason offered:

    dyeing
    his hair auburn
    by the light of the moon

    [conflict with or complement to verse 10?; our guide will advise]

    Hi Scott and all,

    For my part, I would not want to use a verse about dying hair auburn in the same renku that already has a verse about a red wig, even though that verse was almost twenty places back.

    I think of a renku as the construction of a partial blueprint or outline for everything in the world. There are always too few verses to accomplish this. It merely suggests the vast variety of what there is to experience. That being the case, we wouldn’t want to waste any of our tiny opportunities by repeating anything that has already been named or suggested (if we can help it). So, this verse:

    thinking of a red wig
    during chemo

    definitely covers “red,” “wig,” and “chemo.” It also presents good proxies for “hair,” “illness,” “medical science,” “hospital,” and “cancer.” To a less certain degree, it suggests things like “fighting spirit,” “stratagems,” “healing quality of humor,” “vulnerability,” etc. The things it suggests subtly are fair game by now to include as a subtle aspect of another verse. But I would say that the closer things, like hair, are too close to be reiterated. Just my opinion.

  8. stirring the crowd
    with the slur of a slur

    –Maureen Virchau

    dyeing
    his hair auburn
    by the light of the moon

    [conflict with or complement to verse 10?; our guide will advise]

  9. or maybe

    stirring the crowd
    with the slur of a slur

    –Maureen Virchau

    moonlight glints
    within each shard
    of broken glass

    “don’t tell me the moon is shining; show me the glint of light on broken glass.”
    ― Anton Chekhov

  10. stirring the crowd
    with the slur of a slur

    –Maureen Virchau

    moonlight glints
    on each shard
    of broken glass

    “don’t tell me the moon is shining; show me the glint of light on broken glass.”
    ― Anton Chekhov

  11. Thanks John. Crazy making…yes! ☺ I admit to repeatedly rereading as I endeavor to understand the process of link and shift. I appreciate your help and further clarification on relatedness. That helps a great deal.

  12. Betty,

    Good question. The answer will vary a little with different leaders and with specific circumstances. In general, any clear linkage to the hokku (first verse) is a problem. Any clear linkage to the “leap-over verse” (the one before the one to which we are currently linking) is a problem. Less clear relatedness or relatedness among other verses calls for an interval, though its exact dimensions will vary. In a thirty-six verse (kasen) renku, I would say that five or six intervening verses would be a minimum before we see anything that seems related to images from an earlier verse. That’s just me. And, having said all of this, I want to repeat that I am going to be applying these standards in a relaxed fashion as we complete our renku.

    What is “related” is necessarily a somewhat subjective determination. In some sense, absolutely everything is related but that is not a useful idea for renku. We can make ourselves a little crazy or , at least, uptight by intense scrutiny of potential linkages. Japanese renku developed in a context of millenia of homogeneous culture. A great deal about their sense of the grouping of phenomena could go unsaid because it was widely shared and understood already. I find that I can develop a degree of mutual understanding about what constitutes a reasonable sense of “linkage types” with frequent renku partners. But I think this would be a luxury in our current renku experiment, which is introductory in nature.

  13. Hi John! A question. How far away does a new entry need to be before it doesn’t matter? I just realized that my “sheeple shuffle” may be too close (?) to “pilgrims stride” and as much as I like Maureen’s verse, it seems very close to Stella Pierides’ verse in the renku. I am trying to better understand the nuances as it becomes more difficult (for me) to shift away from previous verses. Betty

  14. stirring the crowd
    with the slur of a slur
    -Maureen Virchau

    just while
    the lunar eclipse
    closed observatory
    -Vasile Moldovan

Comments are closed.

Back To Top