skip to Main Content

The Renku Sessions: Pilgrims' Stride 30

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.

Verse thirty will emerge from a total of sixty-six offers, made by a total of eighteen poets. My final selection came down to the following short list:

the difference between
a light bulb and a pear

    –Maureen Virchau

dissecting a walnut

    –Lorin Ford

hidden in golden leaves
pale orbs of mushrooms

    –mary white

the scarecrow reads
renku to the rabbits

    –joel irusta

dancing skeletons
chanting trick or treat

    –jerry julius

backyard selfie
with a leaf-bearing wind

    –Carmen Sterba

The first two of these (by Maureen Virchau and Lorin Ford) are eliminated, reluctantly and only, because we already have a verse from each of the poets. The verse from jerry julius relates to a holiday that is tied to a calendar date, October 31, which occurs in the spring for our Southern Hemisphere poets. It is possibly for this reason, at least in part, that Halloween is not listed as a seasonal topic on our list. Carmen Sterba’s offer was a frontrunner for quite a while but I couldn’t find a definite reference for it in our season words list and we already have a camera in the renku (verse 18). And, finally, I am releasing mary white’s gorgeous cornucopia of autumn images since we have a number of verses specifying or strongly suggesting specific colors.

That leaves one. Our thirtieth verse comes from joel irusta. The gentle nuttiness of this image seems like just the right closing for the “ha.”

Here is the verse you must link to:

the scarecrow reads
renku to the rabbits

    –joel irusta

The next link, the thirty-first, is the last in this series of autumn verses. It is also the opening verse of the closing section (kyu) of our renku. This section is sometimes referred to as the “fast finish.” The tone is brisk, optimistic, and somewhat formal. Here are the requirements for verse thirty-one:

  • Autumn image (with a brisk, optimistic, and somewhat formal tone)
  • Written in three lines, without a cut
  • Linking with the thirtieth verse, and only the thirtieth 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, October 7, 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, October 9 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

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

continents join
under this moon
the bones of my head

    –Patrick Sweeney

the scarecrow reads
renku to the rabbits

    –joel irusta

This Post Has 83 Comments

  1. passing wind
    busies a leaf
    through the stacks

    – Betty Shropshire

    . . . ‘passing wind’, Betty? 🙂 That’d be a bit after eating the curry, perhaps?
    Thanks for the chuckle. 😉 Promise you’ll read it out, po-faced, at the next barbeque you attend. 🙂

    – Lorin

  2. the scarecrow reads
    renku to the rabbits

    –joel irusta

    surely it’s a lion
    stalking and pouncing
    on fallen leaves

    – Lorin

  3. Slight revision:

    writing poetry
    sitting on a bale of straw
    in the truck’s headlights

    Getting rid of the “this” meant going with two gerunds

  4. Previously posted:

    an ode to the chestnut
    in the poet-in-residence’s

    Another version:

    an ode
    to a chestnut
    in the poet’s briefcase

  5. Previously posted:

    the poet
    finding the right word
    in a chestnut’s shell

    Another version:

    the right word
    in a chestnut’s shell

  6. the scarecrow reads
    renku to the rabbits

    –joel irusta

    eyelids droop
    as night unfolds
    in the autumn lamplight

  7. Previously posted:

    children laughing
    atop a pyramid
    of hay bales

    Rewritten to replace “hay” with “straw”:

    children laughing
    atop a pyramid
    of straw bales

  8. Yes, good on ya, Joel! 🙂 It’s high time, and it’s a delightful verse.

    the scarecrow reads
    renku to the rabbits

    –joel irusta

  9. Thanks Maureen! I’m thrilled to have a verse in the renku!

    the mattress filled with
    new straw is now
    bug free

  10. That’s a wonderful verse, Joel. 🙂

    Previously posted:

    keeping an apple peel

    Rewritten in the necessary three lines:

    an apple peel

    Another version:

    the apple skin

Comments are closed.

Back To Top