I am selecting this week and this gives me a chance to share some thoughts about what our tan-renga experiences have told me about the nature of the hokku and, therefore to some degree, about haiku.
I have often presented my ideas about how the nature of the hokku has informed our traditional expectations of haiku. We know that both will traditionally have an internal break. We know that both will have a season word or phrase. But there are other aspects of the hokku that have been less influential in forming our traditional idea of haiku. For instance, the hokku frequently reflects in some way the region in which the session is taking place. With more and more modern renku being written by people who are not physically present in a single place – in fact often spread across our planet – this aspect of hokku is no longer something that is expected. The hokku traditionally serves as an indirect compliment to the session’s host. But, again, an internet session does not have the same quality of hospitality that a face-to-face session has.
There is one quality of the hokku that I believe continues to create an expectation for our haiku, even though it is rarely presented as a requirement. Perhaps this is because it cannot be so easily pointed to as a season word or a grammatical break. This is the “open ended” quality of the hokku/haiku.
In my role as a haiku editor, I have often explained to poets who may be new to the genre that haiku are not riddles. They do not have a solution or a single correct answer. If a hokku had such finality, the writer of the next verse would have no choice but to deal with that solution or answer. But a renku opens in a manner akin to an opening montage in a movie, consisting of scenes setting a location and mood, before any of the plot action has taken place. Too much story is generally bad for a hokku and, by extension, for a traditional haiku.
I offer these thoughts, not especially in regard to your offers this week, but as thoughts that have come to me during the same period
Here is my short list of verses from this week’s offerings, with a few comments:
even the moon
wears a mask
Wendy C. Bialek
This is a moon verse that also covers the topic of “current events.” Since there is no other seasonal reference, we would be required to consider it an autumn verse.
while waiting in line
for the vaccine
M. R. Defibaugh
Also a “current events” image.
when we were still
And this is a moon verse that also covers the topic of “love.” As with the examples above, we would have to consider this an autumn verse.
thinking of her. . .
birch bark unravels
in the moonlight
Perhaps also suggesting love but lightly.
a full summer moon—
we discover ourselves
in the first light
A summer moon verse. What exactly is it we discover about ourselves? A capping verse could take us anywhere.
so many moons
Peggy Hale Bilbro
When we are coming to a moon verse in a renku, I usually stress that we mean the literal moon and its light. This verse mentions “moons” as units of time and, tongue in cheek, as bare bottoms. But it’s hard to imagine this memory without seeing it as moonlit.
make you unlock
the canary cage
This seems like a flat statement. Indeed, unless we imagine the break to occur at the end of line three, it lacks only a period to make it so. But that “statement” is so suggestive of many things that it can hardly be considered “flat” at all.
from a distance
Wendy C. Bialek
This verse seems very close to what I said, above, about an establishing montage. It is quiet and yet it foreshadows the potential for frantic activity.
left to cool
in the moonlight
Here is another “montage.” This one stimulates the senses of scent and taste. Note that the sense of scent and, especially, taste tend to involve stimulants that are physically close to us (as does touch) while sight and sound can often involve more distant stimulants.
a reflection good enough
And this creates a synesthesia moment – butterscotch being the apparent coloration of the moon and, upon reflection, something our imagination tells us would be good to eat.
Here is what I am offering for capping verses this week. I don’t want to say too much about it. What it invokes in me should not be allowed to cloud your own responses. But it does seem to me that there are multiple avenues here for linkage and a surprising shift.
moonlight dons a cape
of owl feathers
John Hawkhead will be offered the option of choosing our capping verse from among those offered in the coming week. John, please let me know if you are willing to make the next selection. As always, I am ready to make it if you would rather not and ready to consult with you, if you do want to choose.
This week, you are all invited to offer two-line capping verses. They may be either non-seasonal or autumn verses. Note that “owl” is generally considered a winter image but the idea of a cape made of owl feathers is not to be treated as the presence of an actual owl.
Please enter your verses in the comments box, below. John Hawkhead or I will review them until midnight on Monday, March 29 (Eastern US time). On Thursday, April 1, there will be a posting in which John or I will comment on some of the capping verse suggestions and select one of them to complete our latest tan-renga.
Looking forward to seeing your capping verses!
The Haiku Foundation reminds you that participation in our offerings assumes respectful and appropriate behavior from all parties. Please see our Code of Conduct policy https://www.thehaikufoundation.org/code-of-conduct/