The Renku Sessions: Pilgrims’ Stride 32

by John Stevenson on October 16, 2014

Bookmark and Share

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.

Verse thirty-two is selected from a total of sixty-six offers by fifteen poets. I’ve had a unique experience in this round because I’ve spent the last three days on a cross-country train, traveling from Albany, New York to Seattle, Washington, and on from there to the Seabeck Haiku Getaway. While on the train, I have been following activity on this site with intermittent internet access. Here’s hoping that I didn’t miss anything in the course of this somewhat distracting process.

A sample of some of the verses offered by poets already included in our renku:

reversing her luck
with a pinch of salt

    –Maureen Virchau

an aura of secrets
within confessional walls

    –Carole MacRury

I wonder if she knew
her aprons were art

    –Ellen Grace Olinger

saddle soap
burnishes fine leather

    –Betty Shropshire

does anyone know
who ordered the pizza?

    –Jennifer Sutherland

everyone praises
the hostess’s kimono

    –Lorin Ford

Two verses submitted by Carmen Sterba caught my attention. This will be a good opportunity to explain something about the selection process. The verses are: smooth ride home / on a skateboard and no more wet newspapers / since the online version. The first is very much my favorite. It features a fluid construction that compliments the image it offers and reflects nicely on what we are all about in the closing (kyu) section. Unfortunately, the opening verse (hokku) is a travel image. Although these are very different instances of “travel” it is most important to avoid any link between the hokku and all subsequent verses. The second offer has some potential for linkage to prior verses (dampened soil in verse three, the suggestion of the internet in verse fifteen, paper in verse twenty-five, and used books in twenty-six). There is also “reading” in the leap-over verse, generally a serious defect. None of these are as important, however, as a potential linkage to the hokku. It could be (and has been) said that earlier verses could also be read as “travel” images. In a renku that values inclusiveness over all other considerations, some flaws that would otherwise be written out of the text are going to be allowed to stand, and merely noted.

Our thirty-second verse comes from Carmen Sterba. I am choosing to read the lack of wet newspapers as a happy development, though it certainly could be read as ambivalent and containing a tinge of nostalgia.

Here is the verse you must link to:

no more wet newspapers
since the online version

    –Carmen Sterba

The next link, the thirty-third, is also non-seasonal. Like all verses of the closing section (kyu), it should feature a brisk, optimistic, and somewhat formal tone. Here are the requirements for verse thirty-three:

  • Non-seasonal image (containing nothing from our list of season words)
  • Written in three lines, without a cut
  • Linking with the thirty-second verse, and only the thirty-second 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, October 21, 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 23 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

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
song

    –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

    –batsword

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

the scarecrow reads
renku to the rabbits

    –joel irusta

pickled grapes and walnuts
swaddled in silk
in my messenger bag

    –Peg Duthie

no more wet newspapers
since the online version

    –Carmen Sterba

{ 83 comments }

Book of the Week: Straw Hat

by Jim Kacian on October 20, 2014

Bookmark and Share

fukutomi_strawhatcover

Tateo Fukutomi published this book (Kaiteishinsha, 2000) in Japanese and English, a commonplace now but relatively rare at the time. The interplay of naturalism and whimsy is to become a regular feature in contemporary Japanese haiku in translation.

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.




A gathering of insects I have become a green friend
A crew man has his straw hat attacked by swallows
At sunset sitting on the bed in an astronaut-like mood
Our holiday a funeral hearse sucking up the red leaves.
A water sprite carrying his cane of lotus root over his shoulder
Memory of the atomic bomb every time the wind pulls off my hat I put it back on

{ 1 comment }

Book of the Week: Haiku, Senryu, Tanka, & Poems

by Jim Kacian on October 13, 2014

Bookmark and Share

johns_haikusenryutankaandpoemscover

Donald Johns is not a household name, and we offer this selection as a reminder of the kinds of work typical in a book of its time (Four Winds Press, 1982): informed in a certain way, friendly, casual.

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.




In the curly Spring of a green and eager life— A nightingale sings.
Flying in moonlight as the year comes to an end— a flock of wild geese.
On the mountain trail to Sierra Minarets— a cricket sings.
Night blooming jasmine— But with the pale light of dawn the brief scent is gone.
Will the elm surviv e yet another Winter’s snow? Raking Autumn leaves!
I awoke this morn and suddenly I felt old. Did it freeze last night?

{ 1 comment }

Bookmark and Share

bowlPoverty has many faces. A lack of material possessions can by one person be seen as a disaster, where non-materialistic individuals may think nothing of finding themselves in that same situation.

Our attitude to poverty is connected to who we are, who we have been and who we intend to become. It is an issue of class and gender, of geography and demography of parameters and perimeters. In writing haiku about others, we project ourselves upon them and their situation.

As poets we do not have to have been homeless ourselves in order to observe and describe a beggar. But the way in which we write about others is determined by who we are ourselves and is filtered through our own experiences, hopes and fears.

Fukuda Chiyo-ni was one of the most respected haiku masters of the Edo period. Her haiku shows a strong flavor of who she, herself was.

on her day off

the prostitute wakes up alone

the night’s chill

since morning glories

hold my well-bucket hostage

I beg for water

on the road

today’s rain

the seed for clear water

Whilst the haiku of Chiyo-ny represents a female extreme, the contemporary Irish haiku poet Anatoly Kudryavidsky’s haiku gives a very different flavor on the same themes.

badlands of Almeria

a beggar’s

dark cracked hand

no mushrooms today—

bringing home in my bucket

rain water and stars

sunset in the park—

a man playing giant chess

against his shadow

 
—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.

{ 3 comments }

The Renku Sessions: Pilgrims’ Stride 31

by John Stevenson on October 9, 2014

Bookmark and Share

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.

Seventy-eight verse thirty-one offers came from fourteen poets. I feared, momentarily, that this might be the verse where it would no longer be possible to select work from a poet not yet included in the renku. But some contenders were offered, after all, and I am able to make my choice among them.

One contender came from jerry julius (falling leaves / blanket a sleeping lawn / in hues of gold) but, as I mentioned in last week’s post, we already have a number of verses specifying or strongly suggesting specific colors. Carmen Sterba, who seems always to have something good to offer, suggested before her discharge / looking pensively at the leaves / caught in the door and a leaf-bearing wind / blows away a corner / of schoolhouse dust. I take the discharge in the first of these to refer to release from a hospital; though it could be from employment, some sort of institution, or something else. None of those seems to carry quite the right tone for the closing (kyu) section of our renku. The second verse is well tuned, though I have difficulty with clearly envisioning a “corner of…dust” blown away. There were two especially interesting verses from Peg Duthie (au revoir / to the pewter quail / nestled in her palm and in my messenger bag / pickled grapes and walnuts / swaddled in silk). In the first of these the season word is “quail” but this is not actually a quail; it is pewter shaped into the image of a quail. This approach tends to weaken the seasonal resonance. In general, I prefer to see a seasonal reference used more directly – the moon is the moon rather than a crescent of melon, snow is cold weather precipitation rather than an element of a “snow job.”

Our thirty-first verse comes from Peg Duthie. I have changed the order of the lines to avoid a cut within the verse. Each line contains resonant imagery and the tone seems just what was requested for the beginning of our closing section.

Here is the verse you must link to:

pickled grapes and walnuts
swaddled in silk
in my messenger bag

    –Peg Duthie

The next link, the thirty-second, is non-seasonal. Like all verses of the closing section (kyu), it should feature a brisk, optimistic, and somewhat formal tone. Here are the requirements for verse thirty-two:

  • Non-seasonal image (containing nothing from our list of season words)
  • Written in two lines, without a cut
  • Linking with the thirty-first verse, and only the thirty-first 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, October 14, 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 16 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

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
song

    –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

    –batsword

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

the scarecrow reads
renku to the rabbits

    –joel irusta

pickled grapes and walnuts
swaddled in silk
in my messenger bag

    –Peg Duthie

{ 70 comments }