The Renku Sessions: Pilgrims’ Stride 14

by John Stevenson on June 5, 2014

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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

    –kris moon

freshly-caught fish
sizzles in the pan

    –Aalix Roake


John Stevenson June 11, 2014 at 11:15 am

Thanks to all! We resume tomorrow morning (eastern US time).

Stella Pierides June 11, 2014 at 2:53 am

the square root
of 17

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