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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

      Comments are closed.

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