The Renku Sessions: Pilgrims’ Stride 15

by John Stevenson on June 12, 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.

Twenty-one poets have produced sixty-two potential verse fifteen entries. Many really resonant images are contained in verses offered by both regular contributors and some newcomers. An example of the latter would be whispering / so the neighbors / can’t hear by Meli Kyriakos. I also lingered over cries of joy and pain / and the smell of piss rising / from the subway mouth by mark harris, sweeping up / discarded tickets / from the station floor by Stella Pierides, with a wary eye / the zoo-keeper / sweeps the concrete pens by Sue Richards, and this portion / brought to you / by Monsanto (Christopher Patchel). I was intrigued by Jennifer Sutherland’s three ways / to sharpen / a kitchen knife but, with silverware mentioned in verse four, felt I must pass on it. Same goes for Scott Mason’s the subway grate / claiming another / stiletto – a great verse but perhaps not for a renku in which the hokku contains the phrase “pilgrims’ stride.” (Yes, I am aware that a stiletto is also a knife.)

While all of the above were tempting, the final choice was between two. One appears below and the other was leaving the tattoo parlour / with a tiger / on his back by Jennifer Sutherland. Her verse really offers the urban snarl that I was looking for.

Our fifteenth verse comes from Christopher Patchel. The situation depicted is familiar to almost anyone who has an e-mail account and pinning it to a fish in a frying pan is great fun!

Here is the verse you must link to:

a wealthy prince
exiled in Nigeria
soliciting my help

    –Christopher Patchel

The next verse, the sixteenth, is also non-seasonal. (In case it is helpful to know it, the seventeenth will be a spring blossom verse.) Since the verse fifteen selection I have made is not overtly an urban image, we could still perhaps use a strong urban image at this point. Here are the formal requirements for verse sixteen:

  • Non-seasonal image (not containing any of the words or phrases from our season word list)
  • Written in two lines, without a cut
  • Linking with the fifteenth verse, and only the fifteenth verse
  • Shifting widely to a new topic and setting

Add your suggested two-line link below, in the Comments box. You have until midnight EST, Tuesday, June 17, 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 19 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

a wealthy prince
exiled in Nigeria
soliciting my help

    –Christopher Patchel


Priscilla Van Valkenburgh June 18, 2014 at 2:08 pm

Edit for submission on June 17

Langston Hughes’ Weary Blues
rocking Harlem

John Stevenson June 18, 2014 at 7:53 am

Thanks, once again. We resume tomorrow!

Vinita Agrawal June 17, 2014 at 10:03 pm

airing the beds
listening to house of the rising sun

Priscilla Van Valkenburgh June 17, 2014 at 5:34 pm

Langston Hughes’ Weary Blues
rocked Harlem

Stewart C Baker June 17, 2014 at 4:58 pm

a routine spacewalk
from the ISS

Stewart C Baker June 17, 2014 at 12:52 pm

the skyscraper’s glass
reflects his empty cup

Stella Pierides June 17, 2014 at 7:30 am

tube workers on strike
queuing for the bus

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