The Renku Sessions: Pilgrims’ Stride 28

by John Stevenson on September 18, 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.

Sixty-six verses, from seventeen poets, were our totals for verse twenty-eight. We’ve had a rollicking set of offers, as befits our “ha” section, which will conclude with the next two verses. A few of many favorites from this round:

“ring a ring o’ roses
we all fall down”

    –Margaret Beverland

another game of blind man’s buff
at the nudist colony

    –Jennifer Sutherland

birdie num-nums
a hit at the party

    –Lorin Ford

no sleep amongst
the loud cheers and woots

    –Carman Sterba

bouncing ping pong balls
on my bald head

    –joel irusta

Our twenty-eighth verse comes from Maureen Virchau. Once again she provided many good choices. I have made a very slight change in the verse I’ve selected, just to avoid consecutive verses staring with “a.” Try saying this verse three times, fast!

Here is the verse you must link to:

stirring the crowd
with the slur of a slur

    –Maureen Virchau

The next lik, the twenty-ninth, is an autumn moon verse. It will be followed by two additional autumn verses. As is always the case in renku, any mention of the moon or moonlight that is not specified otherwise is presumed to refer to an autumn moon. This verse and the next one will complete the middle or “ha” section of the renku. We can still be a little crazy with this one, though the renku rollercoaster has already passed the highest arcs and sharpest turns. Here are the formal requirements for verse twenty-nine:

  • Autumn moon image (any mention of the moon or moonlight)
  • Written in three lines, without a cut
  • Linking with the twenty-eighth verse, and only the twenty-eighth 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, September 23, 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, September 25 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

{ 36 comments }

The Kindness of Strangers 3: On Our View of Beggars

by Jim Kacian on September 19, 2014

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bowlThere are strong connections between haiku and begging. Many of the classic haiku masters were beggar monks who scorned possessions for a life in simplicity. Today we are again meeting austerity and begging on our doorsteps in many parts of the world, where it was long gone.

In Europe, many look at beggars with contempt, but instead we can choose to view them with openness, and our encounters with them as opportunities for those who have wealth to share it.

Instead of seeing begging as something shameful, it may be better to think of those destitute as potentials, who, given the right nurturing and a little help on the way can and will achieve something great.

Instead of seeing poverty as something ugly, we might open our minds to the beauty that is also there, take our inspiration from those on the streets and share our wealth with them in return.

The first haiku master, Matsuo Basho, was not a beggar himself, but an observer of the practice of begging.

this my heart

you will know — with this flower

and this begging bowl 

Come out to view
the truth of flowers blooming
in poverty 

Now I see her face,

the old woman, abandoned,

the moon her only companion 

Like Basho, haiku poet Nana Fredua-Agyeman from Ghana is also an observer of austerity and describes it beautifully in his haiku.

looking at the sun

for a silver coin

roadside beggar

harmattan night

a beggar’s breath

disperses the crowd

city cleanup

the remains of her shelter

carried off

—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.

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Book of the Week: The Monkey’s Face

by Jim Kacian on September 15, 2014

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harter_themonkeysfacecover

Penny Harter’s mature volume from 1987 (From Here Press, Fanwood NJ) evokes the connectedness, both visceral and uncanny, of all things, between species and between ourselves.

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.




fingering the bones around the soft spot— the newborn's head
full moon— light in the cracks of the sidewalk
scattered paper— tire tracks cross the headlines
distant thunder— overhead, a satellite moves in the dark
snow finished— the blaze of winter stars
the monkey's face between my hands— winter twilight

{ 3 comments }

The Kindness of Strangers 2: On Everyday Magic

by Jim Kacian on September 12, 2014

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bowlWriting a good haiku has many different components. Excellent haiku often come from simplicity and in finding profound meanings in very modest things. One of the masters of finding that magic in everyday life was the beggar monk Santoka Taneda’s favorite poet, Taigu Ryokan. He pushed the form of haiku to its limits and did not care much for any of the rules. His poems still feels modern, although Ryokan was born in 1758, over 100 years before Santoka.

Taigu means great fool, a name which Ryokan chose for himself. His poems are full of the wonders and joy of small things, even though he chose to live his life in the face of adversity. A haiku poet will do well to let him or herself to occasionally be a great fool and laugh both at ourselves and the world around us.

In order to find the magic in our everyday lives we need to be playful. To view things with fresh eyes as though they are completely new to us and allow ourselves to be amazed. It is a gift to see our world through the eyes of a child in haiku and re-discover the magic of our own surroundings.

I forgot my bowl again

my lonely little bowl

please nobody pick it up

last year a foolish monk

this year no different

My life is like an old run-down hermitage

poor, simple, quiet.

Not much to offer you

just a lotus flower floating

in a small jar of water

there is a bamboo grove in front of my hut

every day I see it a thousand times

yet never tire of it

Palestinian haiku poet Rita Odeh has that same playfulness in her haiku. Like Ryokan, she also depicts adverse conditions of the destitute and sees both beauty and humor where it occurs.

That full moon

a coin falls into

the beggars palm

Winter solitude

only a sparrow

to share my meal

A rainy night

even without sandals

the clouds jog

—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.

{ 5 comments }

The Renku Sessions: Pilgrims’ Stride 27

by John Stevenson on September 11, 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.

Fifteen poets collectively presented fifty-four verse offerings this time, a good turnout considering that we lost part of our submission period to site maintenance. My post will once again be abbreviated, because of a combination of the time lost to site maintenance and the demands of my day job.

We had an auspicious debut from Maureen Virchau. She offered fourteen verse twenty-seven suggestions, the majority of them encouraging strong consideration. Only technical matters have prevented her from joining our renku on the first try. Some examples of technical issues:”telephoto lens” in an earlier verse precludes photographs or glasses, “century” in an earlier verse precludes us from specifying a number lower than one hundred, “scraping the ice” in a recent verse precludes “buffing out the scratches.” I hope Maureen will keep playing and, if so, I expect we will soon be including a verse from her.

Our twenty-seventh verse comes from Sandra Simpson. Alcohol is often included as a renku topic. “Voddy tonny” may be an idiom in more general use than I know of but I read it as having a sort of “baby talk” quality and that could be fun to play against in our next verse. I’ve made a couple of changes in Sandra’s original text – principally, moving line three to the beginning to avoid a cut and changing “second” to “next” in order to skirt the retrograde numbering issue. Not that it is in any way a requirement, but I am pleased with the symmetry in our renku – having two love verses from male poets and two from female poets.

Here is the verse you must link to:

a large voddy tonny
for the woman who may be
his next wife

    –Sandra Simpson

The next verse, the twenty-eighth, is non-seasonal. It will be followed by an autumn moon verse. Here are the formal requirements for verse twenty-eight:

  • Non-seasonal (should not include words or phrases from our season word list)
  • Written in two lines, without a cut
  • Linking with the twenty-seventh verse, and only the twenty-seventh 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 16, 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, September 18 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

{ 69 comments }