Welcome to our ninth renku session under the sponsorship of The Haiku Foundation. This will be a Jûnichô (twelve verse) renku, under the guidance of John Stevenson.
Last week we invited offers for verse two – a springtime image, in two lines. Twenty-six poets responded, with seventy-eight verses. Here are some of those that received special attention. Note that these are not ranked but are in the order in which they were received:
the tulips’ slow bow
to the artists
Liz Ann Winkler
(suggested by Polona Oblak)
This was discussed in replies at the time. And, if I remember correctly, Linda Papanicolaou showed us, in the previous session, that material that was not used earlier can be retrieved for later use.
a blossom rain fills
Michael Henry Lee
“Blossom rain” is a traditional late spring seasonal image (kigo). The poet is having some fun with the tradition by turning the expectations of renku poets of the past into a surprising forecast of tomorrow. The cherry blossom petals might be expected to fill a begging bowl, a Buddha’s lap, or some other physical object. But no – they fill a possible future.
a mallow flower linked
to Bashō’s horse
For several days, I thought that this would be my selection. Although Lorin presented it as “can’t resist,” suggesting that it was more for fun than for serious consideration, I loved the idea of putting a literary allusion in this position. The delicate scent of the hokku would be followed by the chomping sense of taste of a horse. And I liked the cheeky use of “linked” in this verse. But at least one of the sources I rely upon for English-language kigo (Haiku World, by William J. Higginson) lists “mallow” as an “all summer” kigo. There may be other sources that say something different but I didn’t find them. And I have a good alternative selection (see below).
already a host
Another literary allusion and, presuming that Marion knows that the second verse (wakiku) is traditionally written by the host of the session, an enjoyable play on words. Also, “already” moves us forward and reflects the fact that our movement in so short a renku is likely to be rapid.
a pussy willow
stuck up her nose
Liz Ann Winkler
I commented on this one as soon as it came in. The late, long-term Modern Haiku editor, Bob Spiess suggested that the humor of a haiku might make a reader smile but probably not laugh. This verse, taken with the hokku, made me laugh out loud. But we probably don’t want to have that effect so close to the beginning of our renku. We will certainly welcome it later.
tap of [a]small beak
breaking the shell
This one is a close link and shift. To the subtle scent of new growth, we add the subtle sound of new life beginning. And both of them “in the trees.” It also serves to instigate the forward movement of our renku by suggesting the moment of breaking out of a shell into the wider world.
prolific cherry trees
designed to impress
Barbara A. Taylor
We wouldn’t want the last line of the hokku and the first line of the following verse to both contain the word “trees” but this verse, with its suggestion of “sic gloria transit mundi,” seems promising and could have been modified easily without losing that element.
all the potholes
filled with cherry petals
See my comments about “blossom rain,” above. This one also plays with our expectations. Instead of switching from a physical landing place to a speculative future, it offers a particular and novel physical reality. And so many thoughts proceed from this choice. Where I live, this could be taken to sum up the entire spring season. And if we consider the road with potholes to be the renku path we are to travel, this idea of potholes filled with cherry petals is just the sort of light humor with which I hope we will progress.
OUR SECOND VERSE:
a pollen-covered bee’s
What was a wisp of scent in the hokku, a suggestion that spring has arrived, becomes a fulfillment of that promise in verse two. The bee says, “I know where the flowers are. Here are the directions. Follow me!”
Various renku poets will have opinions about rhyming (trees/bees) as a linking strategy. My opinion varies with the specifics. Clearly, I like the effect here.
Intriguingly, this verse does not count as our blossom verse since no particular blossom is implied or specified. That’s not a problem in this format, which leaves us free to place our blossom verse in any season. So, I will ask for a specific blossom image later in the renku, probably when we get to the summer verse. One of the pleasures of renku is seeing how choices made now affect what will happen later.
REQUIREMENTS FOR OUR NEXT VERSE
- Non-seasonal (no kigo)
- Three lines
- Linking with verse two but not, in any way, with the first verse (hokku). The linking here should be less close. This verse launches us into the wider associations that will fill our renku world.
- An indoor image, probably focusing on human beings (but not a love verse – that will be verse four)
Another quote from Earl Miner’s Japanese Linked Poetry (Princeton University Press, 1979), which I am currently reading. This time, he is quoting Sōgi (1421 – 1502). “The essence of renga is to give a mind (kokoru) to that which lacks a mind, to give speech to that which cannot speak.
OUR RENKU, SO FAR
scent of new growth
in the trees
a pollen-covered bee’s
Please use the “Leave a Reply” box, below, to submit your verse three offers. I will be reviewing them until the submission deadline of midnight, New York time, on Monday, September 17. My selection and commentary, together with an invitation for the fourth verse will appear here on Thursday, September 20.
I look forward to seeing your offers for the third verse!