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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

        each piece
        on the chess board
        gathers dust

      11. no more wet newspapers
        since the online version

        –Carmen Sterba

        during the last hymn
        cell phones ring
        at the funeral

      12. no more wet newspapers
        since the online version

        –Carmen Sterba

        the technological
        singularity looming
        on this small blue dot

        – Lorin

      13. Previously posted:

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


        her toddler’s gift
        of a lopsided
        clay vase

      14. no more wet newspapers
        since the online version

        – Carmen Sterba

        in and out of rehab
        just like
        Lindsay Lohan

      15. no more wet newspapers
        since the online version

        – Carmen Sterba

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

      16. Previously posted:

        by a documentary
        on the Amish

        A variation:

        by her visit
        to Amish country

      17. 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

      18. Previously posted:

        on the horse
        with the clever name

        Another version:

        placing her bet
        on the horse
        with a clever name

      Comments are closed.

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