The Renku Sessons: Pilgrims’ Stride 34

by John Stevenson on October 30, 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.

It was like a homecoming this week, with twenty-three contributing poets and one hundred-two verse offerings. We are finishing strong, with many excellent offers from poets already included and with new participants joining in.

As has now developed into a standard format, I will begin with some especially interesting verses by poets already included in the renku. This time, I will add comments about each verse:

a frog swimming
to the surface

    –Maureen Virchau

This poet has joined us late in the process and shown extraordinary enthusiasm and creative energy. I could have mentioned many of her verse thirty-four offerings. This one is powerful in its simplicity and well exemplifies the idea that the poetry is to be a result of interplay between verses rather than contained within individual verses.

laughter entangled
in the strings of a kite

    –Betty Shropshire

Here is just the right tone for our kyu! For me, it both invokes spring/youth and suggests something about where we are in our collaborative writing process.

I give some of myself
to his birthday ballooons

    –Alice Frampton

In a different context, this could be read as either a lead-in to a love verse or a love verse in itself. It works nicely with the preceding verse – adding inflation to emergence.

the chrysalis stirs
in the kindergarten class

    –Carole MacRury

A lovely image and, it seems to me, a good setup for the blossom verse to follow.

a few more tail flicks
and the tadpole is free

    –Marion Clarke

This verse has many of the virtues of those cited above. And it is fun to recite!

the coils in
a toy’s dream

    –Alan Summers

I’m not sure how this satisfies the requirement of a spring image from our list but it’s utterly charming.

Our thirty-fourth verse comes down to a choice among four verses by poets not yet included in our renku. The verses are: ants open a crack between / their city and ours (Mark Harris), tadpoles to frogs / in a week (barbara a. taylor), early green buds / blurring the treescape (mary white), and bright tufts of eider down / splendid and thick (Willie). I like them all, so the process of elimination is going to be part technical considerations and part subjectivity. I did mention that this verse should not include any plant or blossom images, so I will pass over “green buds.” And, while tufts of eider down is a very appealing image, I don’t see it registering as a spring image based on our list of season words (my apologies if I missed it). From here on, it becomes entirely subjective. Our verse thirty-four comes from Mark Harris. I have always liked the spring image of “bugs” emerging. This verse suggests the obvious but too often overlooked linkage between human life and all life.

Here is the verse you must link to:

ants open a crack between
their city and ours

    –Mark Harris

The next link, the thirty-fifth, is the final blossom verse of our renku. The composition of certain renku verses is considered a special honor. That applies here. In Japanese renku, this verse is usually about cherry blossoms. In fact, the mere use of the word “blossoms” is presumed to invoke cherry blossoms unless something else is specified. Since we are a global renku team, any spring blossom from our list of season words will be considered. Here are the requirements for verse thirty-five:

  • Spring blossom image presumed to be cherry blossoms unless otherwise specified
  • Written in three lines, without a cut
  • Linking with the thirty-fourth verse, and only the thirty-fourth 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, November 4, 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, November 6 here on the blog, and provide information and instructions for submitting the next (and final) 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

a gothic revival
emerges
with a single click

    –Marilyn Potter

ants open a crack between
their city and ours

    –Mark Harris

{ 42 comments }

Book of the Week: haiku senryu and drawings

by Jim Kacian on October 27, 2014

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cooperstein_haikusenryuanddrawingscover

Claire Cooperstein’s attractive, self-produced (1986) chapbook is representative of the norm of its time: beautiful papers, crisp type, artless sketches, and an amiable attentiveness to “moments,” in this case with a personal formal style and no automatically enforced syllable count.

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 autumn moonlight the old peach tree blossoming one last time
Frost on the pane: a prism in the window rainbows on the wall!
At every feeder, juncos jostle for a perch: storm warning
No bath tonight— in the fresh-scrubbed tub a jumping spider
Small craft warning waves chasing sandpipers again and again
Behind the porch door his favorite fishing rod and a spider web

{ 1 comment }

The Renku Sessions: Pilgrims’ Stride 33

by John Stevenson on October 23, 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.

There were ninety-two offers, from twenty poets this time. Thank you, thank you, thank you times twenty. I love you all. This has been such a great experience.

I have been hoping that we might possibly have a kasen renku with thirty-six authors. This is still possible, though I wondered this time, since there were only a couple of verses submitted by poets yet to be included in the mix. They were enough,however, and so we go on with this hope. Please consider encouraging poets that you may know to participate in writing the final three verses!

In the meantime, I am deeply grateful to everyone for continuing to play and for offering such creative and stimulating verses. Here is a very small sample of those:

betting
on the horse
with the clever name

    –Maureen Virchau

sometimes people
tell me they lived
in our home

    –Ellen Grace Olinger

drying the dog
with my brother’s
squirrel hoodie

    –Peg Duthie

dismisses
the faux pas
with a gentle hug

    –Betty Shropshire

silk stockings
dry best
in the shade

    –Jennifer Sutherland

the weather man
points the way
with a laser

    –Lorin Ford

all the choices
boiling down to just one
and then this one

    –Alan Summers

looking forward
to disproving
today’s horoscope

    –Marion Clarke

whether Vermeer
did or didn’t
use a mirror

    –Christopher Patchel

Our thirty-third verse comes from Marilyn Potter. We do have references to computers/the internet but the stronger image here deals with architectural style. I especially appreciate the clean, logical line breaks in this verse.

Here is the verse you must link to:

a gothic revival
emerges
with a single click

    –Marilyn Potter

The next link, the thirty-fourth, is the first in a final sequence of three spring verses that will conclude our renku. It should not feature any plant images since the next verse must have a spring blossom image. 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:

  • Spring image (but not a plant or blossom)
  • Written in two lines, without a cut
  • Linking with the thirty-third verse, and only the thirty-third 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 28, 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 30 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

a gothic revival
emerges
with a single click

    –Marilyn Potter

{ 109 comments }

Book of the Week: Straw Hat

by Jim Kacian on October 20, 2014

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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 }

The Renku Sessions: Pilgrims’ Stride 32

by John Stevenson on October 16, 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.

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

{ 98 comments }