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. 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.
Twenty-four poets offered us fifty-seven verses this time. It was fun to see a number of poets working with the image of a helicopter. Other verses that seemed tempting included offers by Marion Clarke (castle gates), Stella Pierides (chestnut on the stove), and Christopher Herold (patio heater). The final choice came down to a decision between the verse I have chosen and Scott Mason’s the straw cowlick. Either would serve effectively in this position, though I feel that the one I’ve chosen has the edge.
Our seventh verse comes from Alice Frampton. The only thing that gave me some second thoughts about it was its brevity. I personally enjoy brevity but not all renku practitioners agree on this point. One thing that is sometimes criticized is a tendency to make a natural two line verse into three unnatural lines (or a three line verse into two) in order to “fit” a slot. My feeling is that each of these three short lines is fully justified.
The autumn season reference is “fog.” While there can be many readings of such a verse, I am reading a sense of menace into it based upon the current use of drones in warfare. Such a tone has only now become permissible in the renku and its appearance here confirms that “we’re not in Kansas anymore.”
Here is the verse you must link to:
of a drone
The next verse, the eighth, is our first love verse of the renku. There are two points I would like to make about love verses. Firstly, these are verses about love between adult human beings. They are not concerned with love of country, ice cream, or a favorite pet. They can be, though they don’t have to be, erotic in nature. Secondly, as is the case with groups of seasonal verses, it is important to maintain a sense of forward movement in time. So a first love verse that deals with the death of a lover is going to be hard on the person writing the second love verse (though nothing is impossible). Here are the formal requirements for verse eight:
- Non-seasonal (avoids any topics assigned to a specific season in our list of season words)
- Written in two lines, without a cut
- Linking with the seventh verse, and only the seventh verse
- Shifting widely to a new topic and setting relating to love between adult people
Add your suggested two-line link below, in the Comments box. You have until midnight EST, Tuesday, April 22, 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, April 24 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
to the mountain shrines–
a sun-warmed stone bridge
of seed trays
in the glasshouse
polished every monday
on the concert Steinway
played to the moon
a dragonfly hovers
over the swaying reeds
of a drone