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The Renku Sessions: Pilgrims' Stride 6

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.

Twenty-eight poets offered us sixty-six verses for our sixth position. In addition to the verse I have selected, I strongly considered offers from Terri French (scarecrow arms), Christopher Patchel (two potatoes), Marilyn Appl Walker (the river boat arrives), and Patrick Sweeney (West to the birth of cool).

Our sixth verse comes from Karen Cesar. I am pleased with the way it brings our prologue to a conclusion with a sense of lightness, suspension, and anticipation. The season word is an “all autumn” selection, as requested, and it seems that we were due for a verse without human images. The verse subtly parallels the construction of its predecessor, offering the silent echo of a nature song in response to the sonata. And the light humor of a “reed section” seems just right here.

Here is the verse you must link to:

a dragonfly hovers
over the swaying reeds

    –Karen Cesar

The next verse, the seventh, begins a new “page” of the renku. Our tone, up to this point, has been serene and somewhat formal. In the next section (the “ha” or “development”), we will cut loose. Topics and emotional qualities that were not appropriate for the prologue are now welcome. Word play can be more prominent. Variety is still the norm and we may now be less constrained in seeking it. Here are the formal requirements for verse seven:

  • Contains an autumn season word or phrase (last in this sequence of season verses, to be followed by two non-seasonal love verses)
  • Written in three lines, without a cut
  • Linking with the sixth verse, and only the sixth 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, April 15, 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, April 17 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 shrines–
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
r

    –Lorin Ford

a dragonfly hovers
over the swaying reeds

    –Karen Cesar

This Post Has 64 Comments

  1. Thanks, once again, to all of our creative partners. I hope everyone will rejoin the game on Thursday morning (eastern US time)!

  2. a dragonfly hovers
    over the swaying reeds

    – Karen Cesar

    stripping the willows
    the windstorm strips
    all longings to the bone

    Sonam Chhoki

  3. the master thatcher
    wires his fox cubs
    along the roof ridge

    (oops a person, but this ‘link/ don’t link’ thing is a challenge 😉

  4. a dragonfly hovers
    over the swaying reeds
    — Karen Cesar

    from kudzu flowers
    faint fragrances
    so like red wine

  5. a dragonfly hovers
    over the swaying reeds

    –Karen Cesar

    faint fragrances
    from kudzu flowers
    so like red wine

  6. a dragonfly hovers
    over the swaying reeds

    in the scrapbook
    pressed leaves
    turn to dust

  7. a dragonfly hovers
    over the swaying reeds

    – Karen Cesar

    late at night
    the call
    of migrating geese

  8. a dragonfly hovers
    over the swaying reeds

    in the market
    open mouths
    of frozen fish

  9. a dragonfly hovers
    over the swaying reeds

    gossamer
    snagged by the patio heater
    catches fire

  10. a dragonfly hovers
    over the swaying reeds

    –Karen Cesar

    a windstorm
    spins cool
    into cold

    – Leah Meyers

  11. a dragonfly hovers
    over the swaying reeds
    –Karen Cesar

    more and more clatter
    between the windstorm
    and the garden gate

  12. a dragonfly hovers
    over the swaying reeds

    -Karen Cesar

    plume of mountain tobacco
    mingles with the breath
    that was in her

    -Patrick Sweeney

  13. a dragonfly hovers
    over the swaying reeds
    — Karen Cesar

    the straw cowlick
    on a scarecrow
    in his best threads

  14. a dragonfly hovers
    over the swaying reeds
    — Karen Cesar

    more and more the clatter
    between the windstorm
    and the garden gate

    1. a dragonfly hovers
      over the swaying reeds
      — Karen Cesar

      near an old pond
      a stone-cut lotus
      half submerged

      Lakshmi Iyer

  15. Thank you, John, most useful feedback. Having fun while learning, how cool is that! 😉

  16. a dragonfly hovers
    over the swaying reeds

    barely able to hop
    from one persimmon to another
    little green birds

    – Sandra Simpson

  17. a dragonfly hovers
    over the swaying reeds

    gorging themselves
    on persimmons,
    these little green birds

    – Sandra Simpson

  18. a dragonfly hovers
    over the swaying reeds –Karen Cesar

    migrating geese
    at last out of range
    of CCTV

    a dragonfly hovers
    over the swaying reeds –Karen Cesar

    migrating birds
    just a pixelated cloud
    on Google Earth

    – Lorin

  19. a dragonfly hovers
    over the swaying reeds

    –Karen Cesar

    evening dew
    clinging
    to the horse’s mane

  20. a dragonfly hovers
    over the swaying reeds –Karen Cesar

    through the foggy night
    shadows
    stalking a shadow

    – Lorin

  21. . . . a couple for the fun, and for the practice! 😉

    a dragonfly hovers
    over the swaying reeds –Karen Cesar

    drawing closer
    in this fog
    all my shadows


    a dragonfly hovers
    over the swaying reeds –Karen Cesar

    in this foggy night
    shadows
    stalking a shadow

    – Lorin

  22. Thank you John, I had completely missed the arts link and so have messed up on a submitted ku. Apologies.

    The others I have submitted have people in them, so I’m really striking out (to keep the baseball analogy going)! Must.Pay.More.Attention …

  23. Keen observations, Polona. The avoidance of specific human figures is not a firm requirement at this point but it would be a polite gesture to the poets writing the next two verses. Since we are all writing at once, this may not be obvious but thank you for giving me a chance to say it.

    The matter of repetitious articles is also something to keep in mind, though it is something that can usually be adjusted later (and would be if we were preparing the renku for publication or a contest). I am looking upon our renku as more of an educational experience than a competitive effort.

    Another “flaw” that I have left in, at this point, is the repetition of “over” in verses two and six. This might be adjusted later or it might be left as it is. My feeling is that, in renku, forward progress is more important than perfection. In this, renku resembles life itself.

    And since I am giving some feedback, I would like to repeat something I mentioned earlier. In composing each new verse it is especially important to avoid any sense of repetition relating to the hokku (first verse) and the “leap-over verse” (the verse preceding the one to which you are currently linking). The leap-over verse, at the moment, is verse 5. As I noted when posting it, verse 5 introduces the topic of the arts. So, this topic should definitely not be reflected in verse 7 and, probably, not for another several verses after.

    One final, very broad, and perhaps personal observation. And by that I mean that this is not something I have been taught or heard others say. In my opinion, renku’s chief value is in the experience of writing it. The finished product relates to the writing like a box score relates to a baseball game. Those experienced in reading a box score can, of course, imagine the game quite vividly. But many more would rather just be at the game while it is happening.

  24. A few thoughts from a renku newbie if you would mind commenting, John.

    As the next verse will be followed by a pair of love verses (according to your instructions), would it be wise to avoid human presence at this point? Also, as the last two verses (plus an earlier one) began with the indefinite article, it would probably be a good thing to use some variation here?

    Enjoying the development so far, though 🙂

  25. this for fun…

    a sonata
    on the concert Steinway
    played to the moon

    a dragonfly hovers
    over the swaying reeds

    empty husks
    of roasted chestnuts
    litter the square

  26. a dragonfly hovers
    over the swaying reeds
    –Karen Cesar

    the helicopter pilot
    spots the accident
    near a large maple

  27. I love that hovering dragonfly – it’s waiting on us to follow it!

    a dragonfly hovers
    over the swaying weeds

    passing
    the castle gates
    a new coolness

  28. a dragonfly hovers
    over the staying reeds
    Karen Cesar

    divine service
    in the open air
    for the fall weat
    Vasile Moldovan

  29. a dragonfly hovers
    over the swaying reeds

    emerging from quiz night
    we gamble on a short cut
    through the hay-bales

    – Sandra Simpson

  30. a dragonfly hovers
    over the swaying reeds

    still arguing over
    the one about soba noodles,
    we order another round

    – Sandra Simpson

  31. a dragonfly hovers
    over the swaying reeds

    at the Getty museum
    we dart from canvas to canvas
    until … The Haystacks [italics]

    – Sandra Simpson

  32. a dragonfly hovers
    over the swaying reeds
    – Karen Cesar

    slight hum
    of a drone
    in fog
    – Alice Frampton

  33. a dragonfly hovers
    over the swaying reeds

    at the Getty museum
    we dart from canvas to canvas
    until … the haystacks

    – Sandra Simpson

    hmm, too close a link?

  34. a dragonfly hovers
    over the swaying reeds
    –Karen Cesar

    a goose is
    stuck in this renku
    flailing to fly on

    – Tal Goldman

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