Welcome to The Renku Sessions. Renku is a participatory literary game, following a set of rules that are implemented by the leader of the session (sensei). Success, as with all games, is achieved by playing well and creatively within the rules to reach the goal: a collaborative poem featuring many voices and widely ranging subject matter. The object, as with all games, is to have fun. The more you incorporate the rules into your practice, the greater your achievement, the more fun you have. If you would like to see a sample of a completed renku go here.
I’m John Stevenson, and I will serve as your guide for this session, a thirty-six verse (kasen) renku. I’ve supplied the opening verse (hokku), and have offered some suggestions about what I’ll be looking for in the second verse (wakiku), and in general throughout the session.
Here is the verse you must link to:
to the mountain shrines—
This is the opening verse, and I’ve taken the title of the renku from it. The opening verse in a renku should
- reflect the season in which the renku is begun (in this case, spring, because of the northern hemisphere poet offering it.) This seasonal reference is accomplished through the use of a season word (kigo), a traditional word or phrase associated with a specific season in renku practice. In this verse, the season word is pilgrim or pilgrimage, which is traditionally a spring activity in Japan. A link to a list of season words for your use in this renku appears below.
- offer an indirect compliment to the host. In our hokku, this compliment consists of an acknowledgment of The Haiku Foundation’s role in bringing haiku poets together.
- contain a “cut” (after the second line in this case).
- be written in three lines (for English practitioners).
- set an appropriate tone for the opening sequence of six verses; the jo or prologue. The late Professor Shinku Fukuda said of this portion of the renku it is as if “we are writing in a suit and a tie.”
What We’ll Be Looking For — Next Link
The second verse is written
- often by the host.
- with reference to the same season as the first verse (spring) and can be closely linked to it, a continuation of the scene.
- in two lines (again, for English) without a “cut.” In fact, the cut will not be a feature of any of the remaining verses. The poetry will come from the interplay between verses more than within each individual verse.
- within the tone of the prologue — here in the range of serenity, gratitude, wonder, slight humor, affection, and the like.
Add your suggested two-line link below, in the Comments box. You have until midnight EST, Tuesday, March 11, 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, March 13 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
to the mountain shrines—