skip to Main Content

The Renku Sessions: Pilgrims' Stride 32

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-two is selected from a total of sixty-six offers by fifteen poets. I’ve had a unique experience in this round because I’ve spent the last three days on a cross-country train, traveling from Albany, New York to Seattle, Washington, and on from there to the Seabeck Haiku Getaway. While on the train, I have been following activity on this site with intermittent internet access. Here’s hoping that I didn’t miss anything in the course of this somewhat distracting process.

A sample of some of the verses offered by poets already included in our renku:

reversing her luck
with a pinch of salt

    –Maureen Virchau

an aura of secrets
within confessional walls

    –Carole MacRury

I wonder if she knew
her aprons were art

    –Ellen Grace Olinger

saddle soap
burnishes fine leather

    –Betty Shropshire

does anyone know
who ordered the pizza?

    –Jennifer Sutherland

everyone praises
the hostess’s kimono

    –Lorin Ford

Two verses submitted by Carmen Sterba caught my attention. This will be a good opportunity to explain something about the selection process. The verses are: smooth ride home / on a skateboard and no more wet newspapers / since the online version. The first is very much my favorite. It features a fluid construction that compliments the image it offers and reflects nicely on what we are all about in the closing (kyu) section. Unfortunately, the opening verse (hokku) is a travel image. Although these are very different instances of “travel” it is most important to avoid any link between the hokku and all subsequent verses. The second offer has some potential for linkage to prior verses (dampened soil in verse three, the suggestion of the internet in verse fifteen, paper in verse twenty-five, and used books in twenty-six). There is also “reading” in the leap-over verse, generally a serious defect. None of these are as important, however, as a potential linkage to the hokku. It could be (and has been) said that earlier verses could also be read as “travel” images. In a renku that values inclusiveness over all other considerations, some flaws that would otherwise be written out of the text are going to be allowed to stand, and merely noted.

Our thirty-second verse comes from Carmen Sterba. I am choosing to read the lack of wet newspapers as a happy development, though it certainly could be read as ambivalent and containing a tinge of nostalgia.

Here is the verse you must link to:

no more wet newspapers
since the online version

    –Carmen Sterba

The next link, the thirty-third, is also 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-three:

  • Non-seasonal image (containing nothing from our list of season words)
  • Written in three lines, without a cut
  • Linking with the thirty-second verse, and only the thirty-second 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 21, 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 23 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

no more wet newspapers
since the online version

    –Carmen Sterba

This Post Has 98 Comments

  1. It’s unfortunate that a speedy skateboard is considered similar to a pilgrimage and all it’s connotations of a long, spiritual journey. The principles of renku often seem illogical to me, but who am I to go against such a long history with all its moon and blossom verses which cause no conflict whatsoever. And so it goes.

    Thank you John for visiting Seabeck and our lush green spot in the Pacific Northwest.

  2. no more wet newspapers
    since the online version

    –Carmen Sterba

    when tweeting
    was just for the birds?

  3. no more wet newspapers
    since the online version

    –Carmen Sterba

    silk stockings
    dry best
    in the shade

  4. no more wet newspapers
    since the online version

    –Carmen Sterba

    all ethnicities
    connected on the F train
    with a thin white cord

  5. no more wet newspapers
    since the online version

    –Carmen Sterba

    the market
    for cat litter linings
    quite competitive

    – Lorin

  6. no more wet newspapers
    since the online version

    –Carmen Sterba

    interpreting the tone
    to reconstruct the image

  7. no more wet newspapers
    since the online version

    weaving one’s way
    through a world wide web
    of Doppelganger’s

  8. bastard rasp
    files the block
    into a column

    …ah the redeeming qualities of such a tool! ☺

  9. no more wet newspapers
    since the online version

    –Carmen Sterba

    the weather man
    predicts tomorrow
    in 3D sim

    – Lorin

    – Lorin

  10. no more wet newspapers
    since the online version

    –Carmen Sterba

    the weather man
    points the way
    with a laser

    – Lorin

  11. no more wet newspapers
    since the online version

    each piece
    on the chess board
    gathers dust

  12. no more wet newspapers
    since the online version

    –Carmen Sterba

    during the last hymn
    cell phones ring
    at the funeral

  13. no more wet newspapers
    since the online version

    –Carmen Sterba

    the technological
    singularity looming
    on this small blue dot

    – Lorin

  14. Previously posted:

    her toddler’s gift
    of a lop-sided
    clay vase


    her toddler’s gift
    of a lopsided
    clay vase

  15. no more wet newspapers
    since the online version

    – Carmen Sterba

    in and out of rehab
    just like
    Lindsay Lohan

  16. no more wet newspapers
    since the online version

    – Carmen Sterba

    ab rollers
    hair curlers and
    wait ..there’s more !

  17. Previously posted:

    by a documentary
    on the Amish

    A variation:

    by her visit
    to Amish country

  18. I’m a little concerned about the newspapers and the paper cut, but here’s my verse

    sale fliers
    dot the living room floor
    on my birthday

  19. Previously posted:

    on the horse
    with the clever name

    Another version:

    placing her bet
    on the horse
    with a clever name

Comments are closed.

Back To Top