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The Renku Sessions: Pilgrims' Stride 31

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.

Seventy-eight verse thirty-one offers came from fourteen poets. I feared, momentarily, that this might be the verse where it would no longer be possible to select work from a poet not yet included in the renku. But some contenders were offered, after all, and I am able to make my choice among them.

One contender came from jerry julius (falling leaves / blanket a sleeping lawn / in hues of gold) but, as I mentioned in last week’s post, we already have a number of verses specifying or strongly suggesting specific colors. Carmen Sterba, who seems always to have something good to offer, suggested before her discharge / looking pensively at the leaves / caught in the door and a leaf-bearing wind / blows away a corner / of schoolhouse dust. I take the discharge in the first of these to refer to release from a hospital; though it could be from employment, some sort of institution, or something else. None of those seems to carry quite the right tone for the closing (kyu) section of our renku. The second verse is well tuned, though I have difficulty with clearly envisioning a “corner of…dust” blown away. There were two especially interesting verses from Peg Duthie (au revoir / to the pewter quail / nestled in her palm and in my messenger bag / pickled grapes and walnuts / swaddled in silk). In the first of these the season word is “quail” but this is not actually a quail; it is pewter shaped into the image of a quail. This approach tends to weaken the seasonal resonance. In general, I prefer to see a seasonal reference used more directly – the moon is the moon rather than a crescent of melon, snow is cold weather precipitation rather than an element of a “snow job.”

Our thirty-first verse comes from Peg Duthie. I have changed the order of the lines to avoid a cut within the verse. Each line contains resonant imagery and the tone seems just what was requested for the beginning of our closing section.

Here is the verse you must link to:

pickled grapes and walnuts
swaddled in silk
in my messenger bag

    –Peg Duthie

The next link, the thirty-second, is non-seasonal. Like all verses of the closing section (kyu), it should feature a brisk, optimistic, and somewhat formal tone. Here are the requirements for verse thirty-two:

  • Non-seasonal image (containing nothing from our list of season words)
  • Written in two lines, without a cut
  • Linking with the thirty-first verse, and only the thirty-first verse
  • Shifting widely to a new topic and setting

Add your suggested two-line link below, in the Comments box. You have until midnight EST, Tuesday, October 14, 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 16 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

      pickled grapes and walnuts
      swaddled in silk
      in my messenger bag

        –Peg Duthie

      This Post Has 70 Comments

      1. pickled grapes and walnuts
        swaddled in silk
        in my messenger bag

        –Peg Duthie

        Hermes now famous
        for upmarket luggage

        – Lorin

      2. pickled grapes and walnuts
        swaddled in silk
        in my messenger bag

        –Peg Duthie

        does anyone know
        who ordered the pizza?

      3. pickled grapes and walnuts
        swaddled in silk
        in my messenger bag

        –Peg Duthie

        lets raise our glasses
        to the host

      4. pickled grapes and walnuts
        swaddled in silk
        in my messenger bag

        – Peg Duthie

        cries of ‘encore’
        at curtain call

      5. pickled grapes and walnuts
        swaddled in silk
        in my messenger bag
        –Peg Duthie

        everyone praises
        the hostess’s kimono

        – Lorin

      6. pickled grapes and walnuts
        swaddled in silk
        in my messenger bag

        –Peg Duthie

        fake blood and fangs
        for Halloween

      7. Previously posted:

        reversing her luck
        with a pitch of salt

        Edited for typo:

        reversing her luck
        with a pinch of salt

      Comments are closed.

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