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The Renku Sesssions: Pilgrims' Stride 5

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.

Thirty-five poets gave us one hundred three verses in celebration of the moon. In addition to the verse I have selected, I would like to mention and commend offers from pat nelson (hobo coffee), Alan Summers (shoemaker), carole harrison (attic moonlight), mark harris (long white hair), Christopher Patchel (blue moon), and Sandra Simpson (moonlit carnival). There were also many verses that were good in themselves, even if presenting some problems for use at this point in the renku.

Our moon verse comes from Lorin Ford. It adds the theme of the arts (music) to the prologue.

Here is the verse you must link to:

a sonata
on the concert Steinway
played to the moon

    –Lorin Ford

The next verse, the sixth and final verse of the prologue, is also an autumn verse. It is the second in a sequence of three autumn verses (5 through 7). Here seems like a good place for me to say something about the progression of images within a series of seasonal renku verses. If you look at the list of season words we are using, you will note that each entry has an indication of whether it should be considered an early, middle, late, or “all” season image. “Moon,” for instance, is listed as “all autumn.” I ask you to pay attention to this because there should be no retrograde movement in the use of season words. That is, a season word listed as “early” should not appear after one listed as “late” in a sequence of seasonal verses. Since “moon” is an “all autumn” season word, any autumn season word will work in verse six. But if you select a “late autumn” image for verse six, you will be forcing the author of verse seven to use only “late autumn” or “all autumn” images. Renku involves a certain degree of thoughtful consideration of your partners. So, here are the verse six requirements:

  • contains an autumn season word or phrase (preferably not a “late autumn” image)
  • Written in two lines, without a cut
  • Linking with the fifth verse, and only the fifth verse
  • Shifting to a new topic and setting
  • Maintaining a tone appropriate to the prologue

Add your suggested two-line link below, in the Comments box. You have until midnight EST, Tuesday, April 8, 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 10 here on the blog, and provide information and instruction 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 Stevesnon

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

This Post Has 89 Comments

  1. Thank you, everyone. You have provided me with another hard choice! (That’s a good thing.) See you on Thursday morning.

  2. one for the fun…

    a sonata
    on the concert Steinway
    played to the moon

    in a legend
    a scarecrow joins the crowd

  3. a sonata
    on the concert Steinway
    played to the moon

    a goose call sawing
    through the yellow fog

  4. a sonata
    on the concert Steinway
    played to the moon

    lantern light
    from a swaying boat

  5. a sonata
    on the concert Steinway
    played to the moon

    cooked apples
    steam in the cool air

  6. paulownia leaves
    falling to the Holsteins

    (Holsteins are black and white cows who love sweet paulownia and gather under the trees on windy days)

    Sara Winteridge

  7. the saddleback pigs
    put out to pannage

    (locally pigs are put out ‘to pannage’ to eat acorns to prevent wild ponies/ cows eating them becuse they are toxic to them in large quantities). Saddlebacks are black with a white ‘saddle’.)

  8. the albino blackbird
    listens for worms

    (worms aren’t an insect (autumn kigo) but ‘worm’s cry’ is.

    Sara Winteridge

  9. I am glad to see continuing offers from some of those who have already had a verse selected. Although, with so many poets, I am unlikely to use a second verse by the same poet (or only much later in the renku, if so), it’s a game and everyone who is enjoying it is encouraged to keep playing. Show us what we might have had!

  10. Aah thanks Ford-san, you are so kind. This has been fun. So dynamic and stimulating.

    domo,
    Patrick

  11. . . for fun & because it occurred, though most likely not the done thing at all:

    a sonata
    on the concert Steinway
    played to the moon

    crickets add their plainsong
    to autumn’s voice

    -Lorin Ford

  12. Mr. Sweeney-san … goodness, I’m not used to this san-ing 😉 … your verse is melodic, beautiful!

    – Lorin

  13. a sonata
    on the concert Steinway
    played by the moon

    -Lorin Ford

    West to the birth of cool
    East to the unborn wind

    -Patrick Sweeney

  14. 5.
    a sonata

    on the concert Steinway
    
played to the moon

    –Lorin Ford

    6.
    Kaffeehaus peach strudel
    at a sidewalk table

    – Paul MacNeil

  15. a sonata
    on the concert Steinway
    played to the moon
    Lorin Ford

    the riverboat arrives
    at high tide

  16. a sonata
    on the concert Steinway
    played to the moon
    Lorin Ford

    cobweb vibrating
    under a red leaf’ s weight
    Vasile Moldovan

  17. We are at the midpoint of our weekly writing period. As usual, we are already supplied with a number of offers that would serve nicely for this verse. But there is plenty of time to make additional offers and who knows what good things may yet come through!

  18. Thanks John;
    Sorry to make you repeat yourself, but the discussions left me confused. All set now.

  19. Aalix,
    “Very simple question – is there a season word in this verse or not?”

    here are the verse six requirements:

    contains an autumn season word or phrase (preferably not a “late autumn” image)
    Written in two lines, without a cut
    Linking with the fifth verse, and only the fifth verse
    Shifting to a new topic and setting
    Maintaining a tone appropriate to the prologue

  20. Sorry John, did not mean to sound accusatory – I am easily frustrated 😉

  21. a sonata
    on the concert Steinway
    played to the moon

    morning fog, lighting
    my way with a pumpkin

    – Sandra Simpson

  22. a sonata
    on the concert Steinway
    played to the moon

    morning fog, I light
    my way with a pumpkin
    – Sandra Simpson

  23. a sonata
    on the concert Steinway
    played to the moon

    the foreign sumo wrestler
    not so adept with salt

    – Sandra Simpson

  24. Ok I read the comments again and I thought I had figured it out , but I am still confused. It seems you are saying one thing one place and another in an other comment.
    Very simple question – is there a season word in this verse or not?

  25. Mary,
    “I am confused about the schema. Should v 4 not be no season? ”

    I’m probably confused, too. Verse 4 (grandmother’s silverware / polished every monday) should be and is a non-seasonal verse. None of its elements appear on our list of season words and phrases. Were you thinking something different?

  26. Hi John,
    Its great that this is happening and I love the work so far. I am confused about the schema. Should v 4 not be no season?

    Here is my late autumn offering

    a sonata
    on the concert Steinway
    played to the moon

    from gold and bronze
    all changes to monochrome

    mushroom orbs hidden
    in the fallen leaves

  27. a sonata
    on the concert Steinway
    played to the moon

    through a wave
    of pampas grass

  28. a sonata
    on the concert Steinway
    played to the moon

    another rendition
    of autumn leaves

  29. Thanks John – no blossom love or more moon unless directed, will do 🙂 I am enjoying it
    – reading renku / taking part is a process.

  30. a sonata
    on the concert Steinway
    played to the moon

    a boy runs into
    the new coolness

  31. Devora,
    Yes, relax 😉 and trust in Sabaki’s guidance. He’s the one with the challenging job of composing the renku so that it works as a renku and as a poem, and under far more challenging circumstances than usual.

    ” Perhaps you were you thinking along the lines of John’s answer to me that, in your verse, there are “general topic areas among renku practitioners [other] than the seasonal and other ‘set’ verse topics.” – Devora

    No, I was thinking of linkage only. You have an outline of ways of linking in the url link you posted to JEC’s piece, ‘A Brief introduction to Renku’, but rely mostly on your intuition when linking: trust the reader.

    The ‘general topic’ John referred to in relation to my ku was “. . .the arts (music) . . . ”

    As well as the ‘set verse topics’ (blossom, moon, love) there are as many broad general topics as come within human experience: war, religion (in this renku, ‘religion’ is a topic covered in the hokku), sport, work , science, hobbies . . .

    Some of these general topics ( eg as a sport: canoeing) will be evocative of or designated as a seasonal activity. Others, such as ‘the arts’ or ‘war’, will not have inherent seasonal implications. Some topics are considered unsuitable for the more calm & stately tone of the jo / preface (such as ‘war’, ‘murder’ & perhaps even ‘rowdy drinking’ :-), or farce, or cleverness and wit), as among many other considerations Sabaki has to keep in mind the overall tone and movement of each of the four parts (‘sides’) of the poem.

    Just jump in with some verses, Devora. Analyse later.

    – Lorin

    other than the ‘set verse topics’ (blossom, moon, love) are as many as come within human experience, eg. debt, drinking alcohol, eating dinner, pruning the roses, paddling a canoe, housework, feeding the chickens, flying a helicopter … etc. etc. Some of these topics will be associated with a particular season so one wouldn’t usually propose a verse with ‘paddling a canoe’ in it for a designated Winter verse.

    These

  32. Sara,
    I could post a scheme for the entire thirty-six verses but I am reluctant to do so for a number of reasons. First, it would take a lot of space if I posted it as a permanent part of the site and I am already concerned that there is more instruction than some people can comfortably absorb on the portion of the text that is repeated from week to week. I could just put in now, using one of these comment boxes but then anyone who doesn’t see it soon might very well miss that it was posted at all. And finally, I’m not sure that it really would be as useful as you may think. It will show that, somewhere up ahead, we have a couple of series of love verses, blossom verses, and moon verses. So, don’t write a love verse, blossom verse, or moon verse until you are cued to do so. That’s really all there is to it.

    As for my quoted material – I just mean that, in order to make a complete poem out of a verse, we are likely to want to use multiple images and play them off of each other. But this in not needed and, in fact, can make the renku read like a haiku sequence rather than a renku. The image(s) you should play off should be contained in the verse to which you are linking. The poetry that your verse provides should be based upon it’s interplay with the previous verse, rather than being accomplished within the verse itself. I hope I’m making this more clear rather than less so.

  33. Hi John, where could we find a list of what material should be used in which verses and therefore reserved for later. (I did look for the book you mentioned but couldn’t find it)

    ”Some of this comes from our instinctive urge to make a complete poem with our verse. But renku verses other than the hokku are not intended to have the potential to stand alone as a complete poem.” That’s a tricky one to evaluate for me – any further thoughts.

    thanks, Sara

  34. ” In fact, it seems as if you incorporated two intents in one verse: “the idea of polish” and “the idea of social status.” As a newbie, I’m curious to know whether that is acceptable.”

    It is not only acceptable; it is nearly inevitable. We can easily get a little crazy trying to account for all of the possible qualities of any particular image. I recommend two things in this regard:

    1) Relax
    2) When writing your verses, keep it simple. In particular, be careful about including material that will be needed later and is not currently needed. Examples would include blossoms in a non-blossom verse. Some of this comes from our instinctive urge to make a complete poem with our verse. But renku verses other than the hokku are not intended to have the potential to stand alone as a complete poem.

  35. a sonata
    on the concert Steinway
    played to the moon

    a boy runs in
    the new coolness

  36. a sonata
    on the concert Steinway
    played to the moon

    a park keeper drains
    the outdoor swimming pool

  37. a sonata
    on the concert Steinway
    played to the moon

    mine eyes have seen
    the morning glory

  38. Your intent is interesting, Lorin. Thanks for taking the time to talk about it.

    In fact, it seems as if you incorporated two intents in one verse: “the idea of polish” and “the idea of social status.” As a newbie, I’m curious to know whether that is acceptable. Perhaps you were you thinking along the lines of John’s answer to me that, in your verse, there are “general topic areas among renku practitioners [other] than the seasonal and other ‘set’ verse topics.”

  39. sorry–forgot what season I was in–I’m supposed to be writing about autumn

  40. a sonata
    on the concert Steinway
    played to the moon

    white pear blossoms
    confetti the guests

  41. a sonata
    on the concert Steinway
    played to the moon
    – Lorin Ford

    inca berries ripening
    in paper lanterns

  42. a sonata
    on the concert Steinway
    played to the moon

    three peaches in a basket
    and juice on my chin

    – Sandra Simpson

  43. a sonata
    on the concert Steinway
    played to the moon

    from the paper bag,
    perfume of a peach

    – Sandra Simpson

  44. a sonata
    on the concert Steinway
    played to the moon

    choosing the most orb-like
    of the peacherines

    – Sandra Simpson

  45. a sonata
    on the concert Steinway
    played to the moon

    there, on the hillside
    the first red leaves!

    – Sandra Simpson

  46. To Devora’s first question to John, re linkage, and “the poet will have her own ideas about the linkage”, I can confirm that John’s 2nd point is one I had in mind:

    “2) The link for me is related to the idea of “polish.” I see the verses connected literally through the luster of objects and figuratively through the ideas of removing flaws and creating elegance.”

    … and related to that, I had in mind the idea of class or social status: we have middle class /bourgeoisie or aspiration to such in the previous verse whether grandmother polishes her own silverware or has help. Silverware is/was a status symbol. A sonata played on a concert grand extends the idea of social class, whether that piano is located in a concert hall or in the living room of a middle class house.

    The ‘class’ or ‘status’ link, I believe, is one of the traditional ways of linking in renku.

    – Lorin

  47. grandmother’s silverware
    polished every monday
    –Polona Oblak

    a sonata
    on the concert Steinway
    played to the moon
    –Lorin Ford

    a dragonfly hovers
    over the swaying reeds
    -Karen Cesar

  48. grandmother’s silverware
    polished every monday
    –Polona Oblak

    a sonata
    on the concert Steinway
    played to the moon
    –Lorin Ford

    in the clearing
    a buck lifts his head
    – Karen Cesar

  49. Beautiful watching it unfold 🙂 I am enjoying it, even if blindly blundering along 😉
    Sara

  50. To Devora’s follow up question, if I understand it correctly:
    There are certain topics that are traditionally part of any Kasen renku. They include groups of verses for each of the seasons, sequences of love verses, and certain verses that present images of the moon, and blossoms. Separately, there is a sense that there are general topic areas that might be represented, most often by a single verse. They include things like “current events,” “industry,” “religion” (which is covered in our hokku), and many others. The general topic areas vary much more among renku practitioners than the seasonal and other “set” verse topics. I will be specifying certain set topics but only occasionally commenting on general topic areas.

  51. ok, just one more!!

    pampas plumes dry brush
    an autumn sky

    or

    pampas plumes
    dry brush an autumn sky

  52. Re: Your reason: Okay, and thanks for sharing.

    Do you mind a follow-up question? In my renku reading, I learned that as the sabiki, or conductor” of the renku, you have the right to pick the topic (in 5, the moon – “all autumn” – [which] “would be expected to feature in the fifth stanza,”* but in that same source, it noted: “No particular order [of topics] is imposed, but once a topic is ‘ticked off,’ it will not be referred to again.”*, and yet, for the 6th verse, your instructions say [that it] “contains an autumn season word or phrase (preferably not a “late autumn” image).” So that contradiction is a bit confusing.

    *Source: https://sites.google.com/site/worldhaikureview2/whr-archives/renku

    Thanks again.

  53. scarecrow arms
    conducting the wind

    or “conduct the wind” or “direct or directing the wind”

  54. Devora,

    As I said last time, the poet will have her own ideas about the linkage. I will add that you and everyone participating in the renku are entitled to your own sense of the linkage. But I am happy to share my ideas about it.

    1) The previous verse was a perfect set up for one kind of linking because “Monday” is “moon day.” So, there is a word derivation link, with nothing more than a mention of “moon” required.
    2) The link for me is related to the idea of “polish.” I see the verses connected literally through the luster of objects and figuratively through the ideas of removing flaws and creating elegance. These are attractive ideas in relation to renku and well placed in the prologue.

    As to why I chose this verse over others, that’s a more complex matter. Partly it relates to what I have mentioned; that it introduces the topic of the arts and the idea of creating elegance. Partly it is simply a matter of how the verse sounds when spoken, especially when spoken after the earlier verses are spoken. In the end, of course, my choice is subjective and there were a large number of qualified verses from which I might have chosen.

    It would be easier, in many instances, to explain why I didn’t choose a verse. I don’t intend to publicly criticize any verses that are offered but if anyone would like to know privately what concerns I may have had about a verse of their own, I would be happy to answer briefly (and privately).

    I will add that there remains at least one concern about the verse I actually have chosen. I will be attempting to apply what I learned about renku from Shinku Fukuda. He discouraged the use of the names of specific places or individual persons in the prologue. I have let this pass in our moon verse, partly because the name “Steinway” is so much more evocative of the instrument than of the manufacturer. But also because another piece of advice that Fukuda-san gave me about renku was, “First it has to be fun.” So, while I will be trying to make the rules known and to apply them generally, I do not want us to be burdened by a scholastic approach. Renku is also a game.

  55. Unlike the other selections, you didn’t explain why you chose this verse, and how it connected to the 4th verse. Perhaps you could. Thanks.

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