The Renku Sessions: Pilgrims' Stride 14

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.

Sixteen poets provided a total of sixty-nine verse fourteen offers. This is down slightly from previous levels of participation. If this is due in part to my post about how many distractions I had to face this week, I thank you for your forbearance and assure you that I am now ready to resume at full speed.

Here is an example of why a good verse is not chosen. I was very taken with Christopher Patchel’s prize turnips / at the county fair. I like the way is sounds, both in its own right and in context, and I like the sense of something not intrinsically beautiful being prized. But “turnip” is listed as a winter season reference in our season word list. It’s always good to check your verses against this list because the assignment of an image to a season is not always intuitive. Other good verses were eliminated because they poached upon topics that have set places in the renku – blossoms or love. If I have not announced that we are writing a blossom verse or a love verse, these topics must be saved for their assigned verse placements.

Our fourteenth verse comes from Aalix Roake. The combination of aroma and anticipated taste is a welcome addition to our renku. I have taken the liberty of deleting the word “hot” from the verse. We don’t need it since “sizzles” tells us that the pan is hot. Also, I would prefer not to link so obviously to “cool” in the preceding verse.

Here is the verse you must link to:

freshly-caught fish
sizzles in the pan

    –Aalix Roake

The next verse, the fifteenth, is a non-seasonal verse. We could perhaps use an overtly urban image at this point. Here are the formal requirements for verse fourteen:

  • Non-seasonal image (not containing any of the words or phrases from our season word list)
  • Written in three lines, without a cut
  • Linking with the fourteenth verse, and only the fourteenth 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, June 10, 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, June 12 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 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

Comments

  1. Sue Richards says

    freshly-caught fish
    sizzles in the pan

    – Aalix Roake

    she sells books
    on her market stall
    by weight

  2. mark harris says

    freshly-caught fish
    sizzles in the pan
    –Aalix Roake

    cries of joy or pain
    and the smell of piss rising
    from the subway mouth

  3. Karen Cesar says

    freshly-caught fish
    sizzles in the pan

    –Aalix Roake

    the recidivist
    shoplifter’s violated
    parole

  4. Karen Cesar says

    freshly-caught fish
    sizzles in the pan

    –Aalix Roake

    five Guantanamo
    detainees exchanged
    for a soldier

  5. Sue Richards says

    freshly-caught fish
    sizzle in the pan

    – Aalix Roake

    with a wary eye
    the zoo-keeper
    sweeps the concrete pens

  6. Karen Cesar says

    freshly-caught fish
    sizzles in the pan

    –Aalix Roake

    one thousand
    immigrant children
    bussed to the border

  7. Jennifer Sutherland says

    freshly-caught fish
    sizzles in the pan

    –Aalix Roake

    leaving a tattoo parlour
    with a tiger
    on his back

  8. Terri French says

    freshly-caught fish
    sizzles in the pan

    –Aalix Roake

    hard times
    a homeless man hums
    in the old bandshell

  9. Patrick Sweeney says

    freshly-caught fish
    sizzles in the pan

    -Aalix Roake

    wide-mouthed surd
    Salinger’s
    fifth text

    -Patrick Sweeney

  10. Christopher Patchel says

    few details
    about the truck for sale
    as is

    PS- freshly-caught trout? It’s summer (Higginson) and it’s even mentioned (though not actually listed) on the kigo list for this renku. Just a thought.

  11. says

    ahem, prepositional idioms!

    freshly-caught fish
    sizzles in the pan
    –Aalix Roake

    on Bangkok’s canals
    it’s business as usual
    after the coup

    – Lorin Ford

  12. says

    freshly-caught fish
    sizzles in the pan
    –Aalix Roake

    in Bangkok’s canals
    it’s business as usual
    after the coup

    – Lorin Ford

  13. Jennifer Sutherland says

    freshly-caught fish
    sizzles in the pan

    –Aalix Roake

    three ways
    to sharpen
    a kitchen knife

  14. Karen Cesar says

    freshly-caught fish
    sizzles in the pan

    –Aalix Roake

    to become
    or not to become
    my own worst enemy?

  15. Meli Kyriakos says

    freshly-caught fish
    sizzles in the pan

    –Aalix Roake

    whispering
    so the neighbors
    can’t hear

    – Meli Kyriakos

  16. Jennifer Sutherland says

    freshly-caught fish
    sizzles in the pan

    –Aalix Roake

    I got it, haddock
    what do you take
    for a haddock?

    Groucho Marx in Horse Feathers 1932

  17. Jennifer Sutherland says

    freshly-caught fish
    sizzles in the pan

    –Aalix Roake

    mermaids swimming
    in the fast lane
    at the local pool

  18. says

    “By the way, the moon appears twice in this renku.
    Lorin’s and Kris’s.” – Carmen

    Yep, Carmen, two moons in the renku 😉 The autumn moon (which needs no further seasonal reference, since autumn is the fall-back position for moon) and the ‘cool moon’ associated with summer. The moon plus any mention of cool or cooling in a renku verse is recognised as the summer moon, according to the convention. That’s how the game is played.

    Eel can be cooked however people like to cook it, by the way. The favourites of my forefathers/mothers was pickled eel (cold) or jellied eel (room temperature or cold). That’s more British or European, though. The Koories used to cook it in its skin on hot stones. You can use a cast iron pan instead, and it’ll sizzle if you poke some holes in the skin, because there’s a fair bit of of fat in eels. I have no idea what the Japanese do with it!

    – Lorin

  19. says

    Lorin, your suggestion is a bit off because eel is grilled. I’ve often watched it grilled right in front of me on a typical summer day in Japan.

    freshly-caught eel
    sizzles in the pan

    –Aalix Roake

  20. says

    “But fishing, in general, appears most prominently in our season word list as a summer activity. The specific references are to “cormorant fishing” or “weir.” One can easily imagine that the fish in the frying pan was caught by one of these methods, . . . ” – John

    I can’t see ‘fishing’ as an activity on that list, John, but I’m grinning from ear to ear at your suggestion that Aalix’s fish (in New Zealand, after all) might’ve been caught by a tethered cormorant, ala feudal Japanese practice. The RSPCA would have something to say about that, I’d imagine. The other (spreading one’s net across a weir) is a romantic idea and appeals to me tremendously, but one would end up in jail or at least with a hefty fine if one tried it. :-)

    Fishing happens the year round , in Japan as elsewhere in the world. Now if it was whale meat sizzling in the pan that would be a valid Summer reference for me, because whale catching by we-all-know-who happens here in the Southern Hemisphere, in the ‘Whale Sanctuary’ area of the Southern Ocean, every Summer. But according to Japanese saijiki, ‘whale’ is a Winter kigo. (and a whale is not really a fish)

    Much depends on the perceiver and you’re the sabaki, John, but the problem with Aalix’s verse, as I see it, is that ‘fish’ is generic and non-seasonal and ‘fishing’ isn’t mentioned on that list we’re following as an activity of a particular Japanese season. On the kigo list we’re using, there are specific fish as kigo for Spring, Summer, Autumn and Winter (as one would expect of Japan … islands surrounded by sea & a great seafood-eating culture)

    The easy way around the problem, for those, like myself, who do see the problem of there being no seasonal reference in Aalix’s verse, would be to revise to a version that specified a ‘Summer’ fish or the like from the list:

    Summer

    sweetfish (ayu, all summer). A small fresh-water fish, a delicacy on the order of trout, which is sometimes used as a translation.

    first bonito (hatsugatsuo, early summer). First of the season.

    eel (hamo, all summer). Name in a saltwater environment.

    Bonito steaks are delicious when prepared and cooked well, but a freshly caught one would suggest the catchers are out on the open seas, which would affect the next verse perhaps.

    I’d suggest:

    freshly-caught eel
    sizzles in the pan

    –Aalix Roake

    The site can then be anywhere near a river, stream, creek or the like.

    An appetizing aroma, and more tender and tastier than snake. :-)

    – Lorin

  21. Karen Cesar says

    ” the occasional/vegan’s yen for free/range chicken”
    * “yen” is too similar to “wish” which appears three verses back ..
    ..

  22. Karen Cesar says

    freshly-caught fish
    sizzles in the pan

    –Aalix Roake

    the occasional
    vegan’s yen for free
    range chicken

  23. Dru Philippou says

    Jennifer says:

    “Dru,
    its not life or death..
    its renku”

    I am having fun but I would also like to learn along the way.

    John, I like what you see in terms of the linking. Thank you for elucidating.

  24. Marion Clarke says

    Sorry – I was a bit trigger happy there…

    on the radio they talk
    about mercury levels
    and quotas

  25. Lisa Meyers says

    John,

    Re: A) I may have counted wrong, or you may have counted entries that arrived after the deadline. In any case, the number of offers is close to sixty-nine, give or take a couple. And the most recent verses drew more like ninety offers.

    Well, all the more reason to wonder why so few entries. Perhaps my suggestion that it was a particular challenging link, because the verse was so (wonderfully) whole may be one reason. I didn’t even attempt a draft for this one, but I’ve also wondered lately about getting drowned out.

    Re: C) Yes. You are right about the formal requirements. Kris’ wanted only a summer season word.

    Also, your comment got published one minute before mine, and I was no doubt writing/submitting at that very moment. I probably would have revised mine if I’d seen yours.

  26. John Stevenson says

    Christopher,

    Yes, there are many different season word lists. We are working with the one specified above. Thus “turnip” was an issue and “county fair” would not have been, this time.

  27. Christopher Patchel says

    Re: turnips. Point taken. I didn’t realize they were listed (Higginson doesn’t list them). My google search talked of turnips having two seasons– summer and winter, so I figured they would work with county fair, which I associate with summer (but was later told that’s an autumn kigo)

  28. John Stevenson says

    Lisa,

    A) I may have counted wrong, or you may have counted entries that arrived after the deadline. In any case, the number of offers is close to sixty-nine, give or take a couple. And the most recent verses drew more like ninety offers.

    B) Everyone is still at the party and is welcome to keep offering verses. Those who have already had a verse included must know that their contributions are mostly for fun, at least for now. But fun is very much the point.

    C) I think you may be confused about which instructions relate to which verse. What you have quoted (“verse thirteen will need BOTH [my emphasis] the moon and the summer season word or image.”) refers to Kris’s verse, not Aalix’s. Kris’s fulfills those requirements. Aalix’s doesn’t need to.

    D) It is often the case with season words that they are not intuitive. One can say of the moon that it is visible at any time of year but, in renku practice, “moon” means “autumn moon” unless one explicitly indicates otherwise. Kris made it a summer moon in her verse by including the season word “cool” from our list of season words. This word, itself, could apply to other seasons but our list gives us the understanding that it is the particular coolness of a summer evening that is implied. The case for “fishing” is similar. There are various ways of approaching the subject. If one says “ice fishing” we have winter. But fishing, in general, appears most prominently in our season word list as a summer activity. The specific references are to “cormorant fishing” or “weir.” One can easily imagine that the fish in the frying pan was caught by one of these methods, though I think the summer reference is still valid even if other methods, more common outside of Japan, are imagined. There is also the summer kigo listed as “sweetfish” – likened to trout.

  29. Lisa Meyers says

    With respect, John, I offer not a verse but the following thoughts:

    Re: “Sixteen poets provided a total of sixty-nine verse fourteen offers. This is down slightly from previous levels of participation”(1). If this is due in part to my post about how many distractions I had to face this week . . .”(2)

    (1) Actually, there were 71 verse offerings. Perhaps the added 2 makes it on par with the others. But possibly this: I did notice that increasingly, over the course of the renku, fewer poets are participating, but many of the same poets, some of whom have already been selected or commended, are offering more. For example, one poet in this category offered 16 verses this time, another 10, and two others 8, accounting for 42 offerings. As far as I could tell, there were only 5 new or occasional contributors. And though there was no limit to the number of offerings or limits on who could offer, well, maybe . . .

    (2) No, I don’t think so. You were very responsive to questions as they were posted. However, the verse to link to was very challenging. Kris’ verse linked fluently – and beautifully – to the previous verse. And the “formal requirements” were particularly demanding. (See below.)

    And this: I must agree with Dru on the why’s of your selection, because, in addition to what she says, there is a also a problematic link based on your instructions that “verse thirteen will need BOTH [my emphasis] the moon and the summer season word or image.” Aalix’s offering has only a tentative summer image, because fish can be caught and sizzle in a frying pan in any season.

    And a note to Jennifer S: Fun yes; learning what’s expected yes, too.

  30. John Stevenson says

    Dru,

    Questioning the linking is a little like asking a comedian to explain a joke. Or, even more, like asking those who laughed to explain why they laughed. They may not all have had the same reason(s). Here are what I see as some of the linkages, but other readers might see other links with equal validity:

    1) There is a link of opposites – cool of the moon/heat of the frying pan (I wanted to downplay the word based quality of this, avoiding links of the category “dark”/”light,” “day”/”night,” or in this case “cool”/”hot.” This does not mean that the implied heat does not link as a contrast to the cool of the moon verse, just that I didn’t want it to be so directly stated in words.)
    2) There is a link of shapes – a round moon, a round frying pan.
    3) There is a link of sounds – “rising/sizzles” While this may not amount to a link in many cases, the “z” sounds are unusual enough to be striking, at least to my hear.
    4) There is a complex link between the rising of the moon from the horizon and the fish pulled involuntarily from the water.
    5) If I image this to be campfire cooking, there is the rising of heat, flame, and smoke, as well as the scent of food.
    6) There is, as you pointed out, a link through the use of summer kigo (season words).

    I could go on and so could others, I’m sure. Since I see everything as connected, the shift is the greater challenge for me.

  31. Jennifer Sutherland says

    Dru,
    its not life or death..
    its renku

    just go with it and have some fun :)

    What the Sabaki says ..goes..

  32. Dru Philippou says

    To clarify, “sizzles in the pan” has nothing to do with coolness, so I am doubly confused. How does this verse link to the previous verse. The only connection I see is that it has a summer kigo.

  33. Dru Philippou says

    John says: “Also, I would prefer not to link so obviously to “Cool” in the preceding verse.

    If I had known this before hand, I wouldn’t have attempted writing all those verses referring to coolness.

    It gets confusing when the instructions state to link it to the previous verse and are then told, after the fact, not to link it “so obviously cool.”

    Dru

  34. Jennifer Sutherland says

    okay so I know that this is not the place to share it but a steak restaurant has just opened up in my local shopping area and I am pescatarian :(

  35. Jennifer Sutherland says

    correction

    freshly-caught fish
    sizzles in the pan

    –Aalix Roake

    down the road
    a neon cow
    smiles from a billboard

  36. Jennifer Sutherland says

    freshly-caught fish
    sizzles in the pan

    –Aalix Roake

    down the road
    a neon cow
    smiles on a billboard

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