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The Renku Sessons: Pilgrims' Stride 34

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.

It was like a homecoming this week, with twenty-three contributing poets and one hundred-two verse offerings. We are finishing strong, with many excellent offers from poets already included and with new participants joining in.

As has now developed into a standard format, I will begin with some especially interesting verses by poets already included in the renku. This time, I will add comments about each verse:

a frog swimming
to the surface

    –Maureen Virchau

This poet has joined us late in the process and shown extraordinary enthusiasm and creative energy. I could have mentioned many of her verse thirty-four offerings. This one is powerful in its simplicity and well exemplifies the idea that the poetry is to be a result of interplay between verses rather than contained within individual verses.

laughter entangled
in the strings of a kite

    –Betty Shropshire

Here is just the right tone for our kyu! For me, it both invokes spring/youth and suggests something about where we are in our collaborative writing process.

I give some of myself
to his birthday ballooons

    –Alice Frampton

In a different context, this could be read as either a lead-in to a love verse or a love verse in itself. It works nicely with the preceding verse – adding inflation to emergence.

the chrysalis stirs
in the kindergarten class

    –Carole MacRury

A lovely image and, it seems to me, a good setup for the blossom verse to follow.

a few more tail flicks
and the tadpole is free

    –Marion Clarke

This verse has many of the virtues of those cited above. And it is fun to recite!

the coils in
a toy’s dream

    –Alan Summers

I’m not sure how this satisfies the requirement of a spring image from our list but it’s utterly charming.

Our thirty-fourth verse comes down to a choice among four verses by poets not yet included in our renku. The verses are: ants open a crack between / their city and ours (Mark Harris), tadpoles to frogs / in a week (barbara a. taylor), early green buds / blurring the treescape (mary white), and bright tufts of eider down / splendid and thick (Willie). I like them all, so the process of elimination is going to be part technical considerations and part subjectivity. I did mention that this verse should not include any plant or blossom images, so I will pass over “green buds.” And, while tufts of eider down is a very appealing image, I don’t see it registering as a spring image based on our list of season words (my apologies if I missed it). From here on, it becomes entirely subjective. Our verse thirty-four comes from Mark Harris. I have always liked the spring image of “bugs” emerging. This verse suggests the obvious but too often overlooked linkage between human life and all life.

Here is the verse you must link to:

ants open a crack between
their city and ours

    –Mark Harris

The next link, the thirty-fifth, is the final blossom verse of our renku. The composition of certain renku verses is considered a special honor. That applies here. In Japanese renku, this verse is usually about cherry blossoms. In fact, the mere use of the word “blossoms” is presumed to invoke cherry blossoms unless something else is specified. Since we are a global renku team, any spring blossom from our list of season words will be considered. Here are the requirements for verse thirty-five:

  • Spring blossom image presumed to be cherry blossoms unless otherwise specified
  • Written in three lines, without a cut
  • Linking with the thirty-fourth verse, and only the thirty-fourth 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, November 4, 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, November 6 here on the blog, and provide information and instructions for submitting the next (and final) 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
rising

    –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
song

    –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

    –batsword

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

a gothic revival
emerges
with a single click

    –Marilyn Potter

ants open a crack between
their city and ours

    –Mark Harris

This Post Has 145 Comments

  1. Suggestions:
    Curtains, bathroom wall, kitchen wall, chesterfield, Art Deco, furniture, bedroom wall (I think we once had that) . . . Come on, think!
    Sheets, pillow cases, millions of things!

  2. ants open a crack between
    their city and ours

    –Mark Harris

    abseiling
    from apple blossoms
    tiny spiders

    – Lorin

    … by Summer, they won’t be tiny anymore 😉

  3. ants open a crack between
    their city and ours

    – Mark Harris

    how much further
    this fiddlehead
    can still unfurl

  4. ants open a crack between
    their city and ours

    –Mark Harris

    a cloud of blossom
    divides the sky
    and me

  5. ants open a crack between
    their city and ours

    –Mark Harris

    a cloud of blossom
    between the sky
    and me

  6. ants open a crack between
    their city and ours

    –Mark Harris

    a faint blush
    stains the blossom
    on the apple tree

  7. ants open a crack between
    their city and ours

    –Mark Harris

    a Burmese harp
    tuned to the key
    of fallen blossoms

    – Lorin

    (For anyone who hasn’t seen it ‘The Burmese Harp’, 1956, directed by Kon Ichikawa is one of the great Japanese films. There’s a restored version with good English subtitles on dvd )

  8. well, we already gave a cherry tree (Scott Mason) the sugar plum fairy (Jennifer Sutherland).

    though split by lightning
    the old coastal tea-tree
    blossoms too

    – Lorin

  9. first fine day
    and already
    blossom rain

    If nothing else I now have a more informed view of Fay’s ‘ant’ haiku after that kigo discussion : )

  10. “Whereas Fay Aoyagi’s haiku is strongly autobiographical, and wonderfully so, Mark Harris gives us this renku verse revealing how we are perhaps both separated, divided, and united by the other lifeforms, and that we really don’t own our cities, or nature. 🙂 ” – Alan Summers

    That’s an interesting interpretation, Alan. Even more interesting when placed beside your inclusion of this from Gabi in a subsequent post:

    “Dr. Gabi Greve (famous for her kigo websites and documentation):

    —————————–
    From Dr Greve’s kigo site:
    —————————–

    kigo for mid-spring

    ari ana o izu 蟻穴を出づ (ありあなをいづ)
    ants coming out of their hole
    …. ari ana o deru 蟻穴を出る(ありあなをでる)
    ari izu 蟻出づ(ありいづ) ants coming out (again), ants emerge

    Finally it gets warmer and the ants come out looking for food. This kigo shows the joy of springtime.” Gabi Greve, quoted by Alan Summers

    The bolding of Gabi’s final sentence here is mine.

    I was really pleased when Gabi included that. It was the beginning of her addressing the issue of h’oni in kigo (Japanese kigo. If anyone claims there is any other kind of kigo, that’s a whole different debate.) It seems all traditional kigo have a h’oni, a meaning which sets the mood of the kigo. ( I found out from Gabi that while ‘ants coming out of their holes’ has a h’oni (as do all the traditional kigo …about 200 of them … the more contemporary ‘kigo’ do not by asking her what the h’oni of ‘air conditioner is. 😉 ) This h’oni is the conventional emotional aspect that’s encoded. ‘ants coming of of their holes’ is a traditional kigo with the ‘heart meaning/ h’oni’ of ‘the joy of springtime’. The uplifted, joyous mood of a renewal in the order of things.

    If someone can demonstrate that “ants open a crack” has the same ‘heart meaning’ / h’oni, that ants beginning to undermine the structure of a city sets the same mood as ‘ants coming out of a hole’ / emerging’, that the mood of ‘ants open a crack’ is actually synonymous with the conventional joyousness of Springtime, renewal etc. according to the Japanese code for these things, rather than indicating Summer, I’ll admit that I’m barking up the wrong tree.

    (If there’s anyone out there who thinks kigo & it’s associated h’oni is or can in all honesty ever actually be anything other than Japanese, that’s a whole different debate. What we’ve been following … more or less … for this renku is an abbreviated Japanese saijiki translated into US English. )

    – Lorin

  11. “It’s correct to say that ‘ants’ is a Japanese Summer kigo, but ‘out of the hole’ is a SPRING KIGO regardless of what bug or insect it is. ” – Alan

    Thank you, Alan. You are right. Insects ” ‘out of the hole’ is a SPRING KIGO”, indeed. May many ants come out of your hole!

    In Japanese haiku, if ‘ant/s’ is qualified by the phrase that translates into English as ‘coming out of’ or ’emerging from’ a hole, or whatever their winter place of relative hibernation is, then it’s considered a kigo for mid-Spring.

    “It just so happens that Mark Harris used ‘ants coming out of a hole’ which as both Dr Greve and John Stevenson state, is a mid-Spring reference.” -Alan

    !!! ?

    Actually, it doesn’t so happen that Mark has used ‘ants coming out of a hole’ at all! He has them opening a crack. Nor in any way does Mark’s verse indicate ants emerging again, in Spring, after an absence.

    ants open a crack between
    their city and ours

    –Mark Harris

    “ants open a crack …” , I respectfully suggest, is not clearly synonymous with the meaning encoded in “ants come out of” , emerge, etc. after a seasonal period of retreating into them.

    I like Mark’s verse. The point is, as far as I’ve been able to understand it, that ants doing anything apart from certain things denoted by specific kigo phrases which qualify ‘ant/s’ (like going into or coming out of their holes) remains a kigo for Summer.

    John, to your:

    “Is the point that “ants” is listed as a summer kigo and that some of us think that this means ants may not be depicted in any other season? ” – John

    Well, I certainly don’t think that ants may not be depicted in any other season than Summer! And I did not indicate that I suffered under any such misunderstanding. An ant floating downstream on a yellow grape leaf or an iceberg is clearly not indicating Summer. An ant colony in a glass frame in school biology classroom is not clearly indicating any particular season. The issue is that ‘ant/s’ is by default a Summer kigo just as the moon is by default an Autumn kigo and therefore ‘ant/s’ needs to be qualified if it’s to reference another season or even to indicate ‘all seasons/ the year around’. The saijiki shows us what agreed-upon qualifiers work to indicate a season other than Summer for ants or Autumn for moon.

    “When working with a season reference (kigo) we are sometimes working with a single specified word or phrase and sometimes with a more general conception. Mark Harris’s verse seems to be about the general concept of “bugs” coming out of the ground. I am considering it to be a mid spring verse.” – John

    I can see how you’ve interpreted “ants open a crack / between their city and ours”

    … ( though I hadn’t realised until now that the US English word ‘bugs’ is a general term for all kinds of insects … I thought it was a synonym for beetles! So actually, ants, butterflies, grasshoppers, fleas and many more things are actually all bugs! And so are viruses and bacteria! and electronic devices used to eavesdrop on people, too! And mistakes in a computer program, too. All bugs!)

    … but I disagree. I do not see in “opening a crack/ between their city and ours” any clear connection with “coming out of the ground”, emerging after a Winter absence from human notice. Our cities extend underground as well as up into the air. A crack between an ant city and a human city might be far underground. There is nothing here to show me that the ants’ action is not happening in the default season, Summer.

    If ants pour out of a crack in the pavement, seeming to have opened it, this happens (in my experience) most noticeably in the season in which ants are impossible not to notice: Summer. (not counting earthquakes, the presence of men with pneumatic hammers or Bunuel’s films. )

    But, you’re the sabaki, John. If you say blue cherry blossoms rise from the Autumn sea and are pollinated by mermaids, we must accept that, for the purposes of this renku, that’s how things will be.

    ants out of a hole —
    when did I stop watching
    the doughnut?

    (paper wasp Spring (September)2014)

    – Lorin

  12. I interpreted this as the ants checking to see if it was warm enough to emerge from their home. They only opened up a crack after all 🙂

  13. It’s correct to say that ‘ants’ is a Japanese Summer kigo, but ‘out of the hole’ is a SPRING KIGO regardless of what bug or insect it is. It just so happens that Mark Harris used ‘ants coming out of a hole’ which as both Dr Greve and John Stevenson state, is a mid-Spring reference.

    =========
    TWO QUOTES:
    =========

    Dr. Gabi Greve (famous for her kigo websites and documentation):

    —————————–
    From Dr Greve’s kigo site:
    —————————–

    kigo for mid-spring

    ari ana o izu 蟻穴を出づ (ありあなをいづ)
    ants coming out of their hole
    …. ari ana o deru 蟻穴を出る(ありあなをでる)
    ari izu 蟻出づ(ありいづ) ants coming out (again), ants emerge

    Finally it gets warmer and the ants come out looking for food. This kigo shows the joy of springtime.

    ===========
    JOHN STEVENSON
    ===========

    John Stevenson November 1, 2014 at 8:15 am said:

    “Regarding the question of the season reference in the verse by Mark Harris, the following is extracted from the list we are using for this renku: “bugs come out (keichitsu, mid spring). Of the earth.”

    ———————–
    John goes on to say:
    ———————–

    Note: Red Pine translates this venerable Chinese expression as “insects astir”, a very worthy expression, in The Collected Songs of Cold Mountain [Han Shan] (Copper Canyon, 2000). —wjh ”

    ——————–
    John further says:
    ——————–

    “When working with a season reference (kigo) we are sometimes working with a single specified word or phrase and sometimes with a more general conception. Mark Harris’s verse seems to be about the general concept of “bugs” coming out of the ground.”

    I personally have to agree with John on what he further states:

    “I am considering it to be a mid spring verse. So, our next verse can be mid spring, late spring, or all spring.”

    Alan note: It’s taken me quite a while to get round my head that certain words used with certain phrases can suggest different seasons. For a Brit snow means Winter, but of course it can and does enter Spring now and again.

    Bill Higginson and Penny Harter state this:

    Kisetsu (season, seasonal aspect): The seasons.
    The seasonal aspect of the vocabulary (kigo) and subject matter (kidai) of traditional tanka, renga, and haiku; a deep feeling for the passage of time, as known through the objects and events of the seasonal cycle.

    William J. Higginson with Penny Harter, The Haiku Handbook: How to Write, Share, and Teach Haiku, published by Kodansha International. Copyright (C) 1989 by William J. Higginson.

    ===========
    Back to Dr Greve:
    ===========

    Ant (ari)

    ***** Location: Japan, worldwide
    ***** Season: Various, see below
    ***** Category: Animal

    Explanation
    Although ants are with us most of the year, in summer they are at their best and therefore mostly a kigo for all summer.

    ============
    kigo for mid-spring
    ============

    ari ana o izu 蟻穴を出づ (ありあなをいづ)
    ants coming out of their hole
    …. ari ana o deru 蟻穴を出る(ありあなをでる)
    ari izu 蟻出づ(ありいづ) ants coming out (again), ants emerge

    Finally it gets warmer and the ants come out looking for food. This kigo shows the joy of springtime.

    ants out of a hole —
    when did I stop playing
    the red toy piano?

    Fay Aoyagi, 2006

    =============
    kigo for mid-autumn
    =============

    ari ana ni iru 蟻穴に入る(ありあなにいる)
    ants going into their holes

    *

    kindest regards,

    Alan

  14. Lorin’s right, ant is a summer kigo according to the ” Five hundred essential . . .”
    It’s last on the list.

  15. “There’s a naked bug at Cold Mountain
    with a white body and a black head.
    His hand holds two book – scrolls,
    One the way and one its power.”

    From Twenty Four Poems By H’an- Sh’an as translated by Gary Snyder.

  16. Is the point that “ants” is listed as a summer kigo and that some of us think that this means ants may not be depicted in any other season? If so, that is an error. Just as the moon is presumed to be an autumn image but can be placed in other seasons, many other images may be assigned primarily to one season but also appear in others based upon season-specific aspects of their appearance, behavior or context.

    cool (suzushi, all summer). Associated with evening in Japanese tradition.

    new coolness (shinryoo, early autumn).

    blossom cool (hanabie, late spring). A cool spell while cherries are blooming.

    This is what is happening here. While “ants” in general are listed as a summer kigo, the time when they are emerging from the ground is a spring kigo.

    Perhaps the fact that they are shown in this particular list of season words as “bugs” come out (of the earth) may be confusing. You won’t find this listing by searching the word “ant” but it most certainly applies to ants and it most certainly is a mid spring season reference.

  17. Regarding the question of the season reference in the verse by Mark Harris, the following is extracted from the list we are using for this renku: “bugs come out (keichitsu, mid spring). Of the earth. Note: Red Pine translates this venerable Chinese expression as “insects astir”, a very worthy expression, in The Collected Songs of Cold Mountain [Han Shan] (Copper Canyon, 2000). —wjh ”
    When working with a season reference (kigo) we are sometimes working with a single specified word or phrase and sometimes with a more general conception. Mark Harris’s verse seems to be about the general concept of “bugs” coming out of the ground. I am considering it to be a mid spring verse. So, our next verse can be mid spring, late spring, or all spring.

  18. Hi Alan,

    I respectfully remind you that for this renku we are using
    “The Five Hundred Essential Japanese Season Words.”

    Where it does state that Ants are a summer kilo

  19. I really like the mid-Spring verse by Mark Harris:

    ants open a crack between
    their city and ours

    –Mark Harris

    From Dr Greve’s kigo site:

    kigo for mid-spring

    ari ana o izu 蟻穴を出づ (ありあなをいづ)
    ants coming out of their hole
    …. ari ana o deru 蟻穴を出る(ありあなをでる)
    ari izu 蟻出づ(ありいづ) ants coming out (again), ants emerge

    Finally it gets warmer and the ants come out looking for food. This kigo shows the joy of springtime.

    And of course who doesn’t know, or if they don’t, will surely enjoy this famous haiku:

    ants out of a hole —
    when did I stop playing
    the red toy piano?

    Fay Aoyagi, 2006
    In Borrowed Shoes. San Francisco: Blue Willow Press, 2006, 49.

    Whereas Fay Aoyagi’s haiku is strongly autobiographical, and wonderfully so, Mark Harris gives us this renku verse revealing how we are perhaps both separated, divided, and united by the other lifeforms, and that we really don’t own our cities, or nature. 🙂

    warm regards,

    Alan

  20. um …

    John and Mark,

    I’m a tad reluctant to point it out, especially after so many posts when the news is going to be most unpopular … but … and yet…

    Summer:

    “ant (ari, all summer). ”

    … and though it may not be on the list, I do get this one (even though I don’t live in a cold region!)

    bright tufts of eider down / splendid and thick

    Spring and the geese are moulting their winter down. It’s blowing all over the lake, or pond or reeds or whatever.

    (either that or there’s a hole in someone’s doona … 🙂 That’s a joke for the city folk, Joyce)

    – Lorin

  21. ants open a crack between
    their city and ours

    –Mark Harris

    give us your 400 species
    of dandelion
    and time to spare

    –Alan Summers

    n.b.
    With a nod to fellow renku participant and poet/natural historian/cliff climber Libby Houston

  22. Previously posted verses rewritten to avoid repetition of “plum” in renku. All “plum blossoms” replaced with “blossoms”:

    blossom petals
    nestled between slats
    of the park bench

    elegant petals
    of blossoms
    adorn the scaffolding

    a small girl’s peek
    from behind
    the blossoms

  23. Previously posted:

    still the sway
    of lion-toothed dandelions
    at the construction site

    Edited to eliminate repetition of “sway”:

    still the moxie
    of lion-toothed dandelions
    at the construction site

  24. ants open a crack between
    their city and ours

    – Mark Harris

    back on the farm
    for the first time in years
    peach blossom

    – Sandra Simpson

    (it’s a pivot but is that a cut in this context?)

  25. Hi John,

    Re:

    the coils in
    a toy’s dream

    –Alan Summers
    “I’m not sure how this satisfies the requirement of a spring image from our list but it’s utterly charming. –John Stevenson

    Thanks for the lovely comment on my verse. 🙂

    Coils are springs so there’s a pun on the season of Spring, plus Christmas gifts being given a full outing at the start of Spring.

    my very warmest regards,

    Alan

  26. I adore this haiku by Mark Harris, John. As I was reading down through your comments I was willing you to select it, so by the time you did I was as excited as if it were my own poem!

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