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-six poets produced a total of ninety offers to complete our first sequence of love verses! It was truly difficult to choose this time. There were really lovely scent-based verses (Dru Philippou’s harmonizing scents and Terri French’s the scent of his cologne are particularly tempting) but, even though the “atmosphere” in Norman Darlington’s verse is essentially figurative, previous verses featured images of things either in the sky or airborne; so it seems necessary to pick up on “scents” somewhere further along the trail. I love Karen Cesar’s together so much but I’m going to hold off on second verses from any of our poets, at least for a while. I was also very pleased with Marion Clarke’s wishing but, with music in verse five, a jukebox would tend toward retrograde movement here. Others among the many tempting verses include offers from Sandra Simpson (in the darkest) and Shrikaanth Krishnamurthy (her patience). If we were writing with an exclusively American group, I would gladly have chosen Christopher Patchel’s ask your doctor but I’m not certain how widely recognized this American television ad is outside of the USA.
Our ninth verse comes from Paul MacNeil. We do not yet have a first person verse. And the tongue twisting quality of this one creates a new and different sense of pace than hitherto featured in our renku.
Here is the verse you must link to:
trying to reply
“I plight thee my troth”
The next verse, the tenth, has no seasonal or other specific topical requirements. This is an opportunity for us to introduce some general topics that have not been touched upon. Examples might include an animal (one not assigned to a season on our list of season words), medicine/illness, politics, a non-English word or phrase, or athletics (again, not something associated with a particular season). Please resist the temptation to cover two or three of these in a single verse. It’s like taking a second helping (or third!) before everyone at the table has been served. Here are the formal requirements for verse ten:
- 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 ninth verse, and only the ninth verse
- Shifting widely to a new topic and setting (and perhaps shifting in a way that has not yet been used?)
Add your suggested two-line link below, in the Comments box. You have until midnight EST, Tuesday, May 6, 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, May 8 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
thick with teenage pheromones
trying to reply
“I plight thee my troth.”