The Renku Sessions: Pilgrims’ Stride 29

by John Stevenson on September 25, 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.

Our final moon verse is to be drawn from eighty offers by seventeen poets! Those already included in the renku offered some gems this time. Among them:

all those hiding places
in the craters
of a bomber’s moon

    –Alan Summers

easy enough
to wait for Godot
when the moon butts out

    –Betty Shropshire

a new crater
between Mare Serenitatis
and Lacus Somnorus

    –Vasile Moldovan

farmers view
the harvest moon
from the nursing home

    –Ellen Grace Olinger

the moon returns
to reveal the spiritualist
has disappeared

    –Marion Clarke

ginkgo leaves
taking on the color
of the moon

    –Alice Frampton

the moon
a mix of dusty rocks
and spare parts

    –Carole MacRury

between Laika’s orbit
and the moon

    –Lorin Ford

The choice for our twenty-ninth verse is made between offers by Carmen Sterba (moon beams / skim away shadows / on a turned cheek) and Patrick Sweeney (continents join / under this moon / the bones of my head), both of whom have been great contributors. There are some issues with each verse that cannot be resolved without more extensive revision than I have done with previous verses. So I am considering both links exactly as they were offered. Both verses have the issue of containing elements of human anatomy that might relate to “tongue” (verse 25) or to the head as suggested by the red wig (verse 10). Carmen’s verse uses the word “shadow(s),” which is used in verse eleven and “skim away” seems pretty close to “scrapping” (verse 24). Patrick’s verse contains multiple cuts, though they are especially apt considering the images it contains. Having said all this, both verses are fresh, lively, and well suited to this place in the “ha” portion of our renku.

Here is the verse you must link to:

continents join
under the moon
the bones of my head

    –Patrick Sweeney

The next link, the thirtieth, is also an autumn verse. It is the final verse in the middle (“ha”) section of the renku. Here are the formal requirements for verse twenty-nine:

  • Autumn image
  • Written in two lines, without a cut
  • Linking with the twenty-ninth verse, and only the twenty-ninth 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, September 30, 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, October 2 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

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

    –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


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


Per Diem for October 2014: The Sound of Music

by Jim Kacian on October 1, 2014

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Why are we all bobbing our heads at the same time? Guest editor Marilyn Appl Walker asks:

Why do we like music? Studies have concluded that music has therapeutic value; it touches us emotionally. Music flows from our alarm clocks to wake us, it fills our cars as we drive, it gives us chills, it makes us cry, it makes us want to dance, and it comforts us. And finally, what would a candlelight dinner be without a romantic song?

From the ice cream truck to the opera, from Beethoven to the Beatles, from hymns to honky-tonk, and much more, Per Diem poets share the beauty of music in our daily lives in this collection of personal, amusing and heartfelt experiences. It has been my pleasure assembling this haiku concert. I hope you, as Per Diem readers, will savor the songs!

It’s hard for haiku, given its limitations, to set your toes tapping, but at the very least we can notice they are. Enjoy!


Book of the Week: Between Two Waves

by Jim Kacian on September 29, 2014

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H. F. “Tom” Noyes, who moved to Greece as a young man, never tired of his relationship with water and especially the sea, as can be seen in this version of his 1996 collection (Editura Leda).

You can read the entire book in the THF Digital Library.

Do you have a chapbook published 2009 or earlier you would like featured as a Book of the Week? Contact us for details.

Haiku featured in the Book of the Week Archive are selected by Jim Kacian, following a concept first explored by Tom Clausen, and are used with permission.

shooting the rapids— even the back of his head looks surprised
arguing a point the tug that never moved has passed
deepening autumn— soundless drift of leaves against the boathouse
raking aside leaves on the backyard pond I release the moon
light snowfall on the tucked-in heads of drifting seabirds
moonless night— the autumn sea just a sound here at my window


The Kindness of Strangers 4: On Success and Poetry

by Jim Kacian on September 26, 2014

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bowlWe often think of a successful life as one where much has been achieved by one person or many possessions have been gathered, but often the outer signs of success are of less importance to the individual.

Many find happiness in small things no matter how much or little they have. Others never feel fulfilled regardless of their successes. The artist poet often has more dimensions to haiku and challenges the form in new ways.

In poetry, encouragement can spark new creativity in a writer. For some, the approval of others is of less importance, but for others the opinion of others carries much weight and can reduce us to a different kind of beggar than the one lacking food or shelter.

Meaningful haiku is often about satisfying a loss or a longing for something, about fulfilling a need in the writer, as well as the reader. Kikaku was a haiku poet and a disciple of Basho himself, later scorned by his master. In many ways we are all beggars to our calling.


this wooden gate

shuts me out for the night

winter moon

the beggar—

He has heaven and earth

for his summer clothes

this snow is mine

thinking that way it seems lighter

on your sedge hat

Artists often make excellent haiku poets, filling the form of haiku with new dimensions. Here, American artist and haiku poet Pamela A. Babusci writes on the topic of begging from an emotional perspective.


pouring tea
into a chipped cup . . .
loneliness returns

lonely tonight i drink all the moonbeams

my begging bowl

is for love & nothing more

why is it


with dead blossoms?

—Anna Maris


The Kindness of Strangers is a six-part series by Swedish poet Anna Maris of haiku written in consideration of poverty, homelessness, begging and our responses to these issues.

Do you have a feature you would like to share with the haiku world? Contact us with your idea.


Book of the Week: Outside Robins Sing

by Jim Kacian on September 22, 2014

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Paul O. Williams sustains a reverie for a nearly lost natural world and for the humans who share it in this elegantly produced chapbook from 1999 (Brooks Books).

You can read the entire book in the THF Digital Library.

Do you have a chapbook published 2009 or earlier you would like featured as a Book of the Week? Contact us for details.

Haiku featured in the Book of the Week Archive are selected by Jim Kacian, following a concept first explored by Tom Clausen, and are used with permission.

the far mountain— some pane of glass throws back sunset light
the old garden fence keeps the goldenrod from the goldenrod
for a moment in the nearby air the hummingbird's eye
the stained glass windows deepen their fires— winter evening
gone from the woods the bird I knew  by song alone (for Nick Virgilio, 1928-1989)
the conductor raises his baton— outside robins sing