I am John Stevenson and I have been your guide for a twenty-stanza, nijûin, renku.
This will be the wrap-up for the “Way of the Wind” sessions. The completed renku has now been added to The Haiku Foundation’s archives: https://www.thehaikufoundation.org/renkuarchive/2021_wayofthewind.pdf
We have had some good suggestions for alternate titles this week. As I mentioned last time, we will keep “Way of the Wind” as our title, because it’s a good title and because almost all of the weekly sessions have been indexed under that title. And because the title of a renku most often comes from the first verse (hokku). The sense of forward motion is best served in this way, revealing the source of the title immediately, thus saving readers the suspense of wondering when it may come up later and drawing the reader’s attention back to the title when the phrase is finally encountered.
I asked for alternative titles because it’s fun to consider other titles and because the process recognizes highly resonant phrases that occur later in the renku. Here is the list of such resonant phrases that were offered over the course of the past week:
Bumps Along the Way
A Sidelong Glance
The Long Day Opens
A Chime of Pots
Low on the Hips
In Relentless Pursuit
Fires of Hell
That Delicious Fillip
A Warm Soak
Clang of the Gate
One offer was made of a phrase that does not actually occur in the renku:
As you can probably imagine, this would add to the suspense of wondering when the title phrase would appear by taking the reader all the way through to the end before revealing that the answer is “nowhere.”
The motivation for this offer seems to be to create a title that would tie things together by referring, thematically, to several verses within the renku. Never say never, but this is rarely the function of a renku’s title.
Keith Evetts raised a question this week. “I’d like to understand better the reasoning behind the stricture to avoid kireji/grammatical breaks, particularly in the three-line verses.”
Since the reasoning behind this is the product of centuries of tradition, I would only be guessing at the reasoning. I can point out that, among all of the renku verses, only the hokku has been viewed as the direct ancestor of the stand-alone poem we know as “haiku.” And it is the use of the kireji (which we most often express in English as a grammatical break) that contributes to this potential to stand alone, as a complete poem. Other renku verses contain kigo (season words or phrases) and other verses in the “jo” (opening section) and, to some extent, the “kyu” (closing) share tonal similarities to the hokku. But none of these factors has given the other verses the reputation of birthing haiku. The hokku stands alone because it serves as an example for all that follows. It puts multiple images next to each other in a way that creates a poetic experience for the reader. But renku are, above all else, collaborative. So, after the example of the hokku, all further poetic interaction is intended to take place in the interplay between verses, rather than within single verses. Almost everyone who comes to English-language renku, arrives through prior experience with English-language haiku. As a result, they arrive with certain habits relating to expected norms for that genre. But a renku is not a haiku sequence. So, repeated reminders about making the poetry in collaboration with the prior verse, rather than within the new verse itself, are naturally required.
And now, to announce what is next: On Thursday, September 30, Kala Ramesh will introduce a session in which she will lead us in the composition of a “Rasika” – 8-verse – renku. Many of you will remember Kala from the “Rasika” session she led here in 2017. For anyone not yet acquainted with her, here is her page from The Haiku Foundation’s “Haiku Registry:” https://thehaikufoundation.org/poet-details/?IDclient=132
I hope you will all enjoy working with Kala Ramesh!
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://thehaikufoundation.org/about-thf/policies/#code-of-conduct