Hello everyone. I am John Stevenson and I will be guiding you through the composition of a twenty-verse (nijûin) renku.
Pauline O’Carolan is our selector this week. You gave her plenty to work with: 172 offers, from 40 poets. Here is her report:
“It was a real honour to read everyone’s proffered verses this week. I studied each verse more carefully than I’ve ever done before as a renku participant. There were many beautiful images incorporating the moon in varied ways and clever connections to the wakiku.
It was therefore disappointing when I had to overlook some striking verses because (a) they contained a break/pause in the three lines, or (b) they linked back to the hokku (all the verses where there were people or things doing various forms of looking, like the dragonfly’s looking); (c) they lacked a human presence, whether specified or implied (there were some very cute cat in moonlight verses) or (d) I couldn’t ascertain a link to my scarecrow’s hat verse. (Of course, re (d) that could well have been because the link was too subtle for my literal brain!)
I took to heart the quote John provided from Shinku Fukuda: “The renku really starts with the third verse. It should be different from the starting verses in scenes and places. If the [first two verses] are written about outdoors, the third had better be written about indoors, with persons.”
I looked for verses where there was little doubt that the scene was set indoors and where a person was present, preferably doing something in the scene, though also where they were present by implication. I also looked for the way the words worked harmoniously in the verse and thought about how the content of the verse might expand the renku to a range of themes and opportunities for our imaginations.
So here then are my appreciated verses with a brief comment on why I chose them.
of milky ways and moons
with midnight cereal
Wendy C. Bialek
Wendy’s verse met all the criteria although the human presence was implied rather than overt. The links to my verse I found were ‘cereal’ (scarecrow defending the cereal crops) and the ‘endless flow’ of water in the pond. The image of the endless night sky was very appealing and the enjoyment of the celestial by the unknown human eating cereal was a nice contrast.
This next poet was the most prolific provider of verses this week. I particularly liked:
solving 3 down
with a clue
gleaned from moonlight
I had to assume that the anonymous puzzle solver was inside working on the crossword. The word ‘gleaning’ linked by one of its meanings to a grain crop that the scarecrow may have been protecting. It was an interesting verse with potential to shift the focus of the renku in many directions.
tiptoe over Nana’s
A very clear indoors image featuring a person (child). As the child tiptoes, stepping lightly, on the lino (surface) so did the hat pass lightly (skim) over the water in the pond (surface).
in a pool of moonlight
This static image contrasts well with the moving image in the wakiku. The pool here links closely to the pond. A very pleasant and peaceful picture.
I wink at the moon
and sneak downstairs
for a midnight snack
Someone else eating by moonlight! I liked the humour in this verse and the clear imagery created by the use of the active verbs ‘wink’ and ‘sneak’. The movement in the verse (sneak) mirrored the movement of the hat as it skimmed the water.
the moon from their
The treehouse is an unusual interior and I get a strong visual image of the tree reaching into the sky and the people in the treehouse reaching up towards the moon. The ‘almost touching’ relates to the skimming of the hat, almost touching the pond surface. The treehouse is a construct as is the scarecrow.
full of moonlight
A peaceful image. Even though the householders are not present in the scene, they have left their presence with the washing up done before bedtime. I linked the sink which holds water with the pond that does too.
Our third verse (daisan) will be:
finds the farm wife
undoing her braids
This verse fulfilled all of John’s requirements as it:
- consists of three natural, unforced lines
- constitutes a single phrase, without a grammatical break
- features the moon
- is set indoors, with a human presence
- involves pleasant and peaceful themes
Ellen wrote two verses on this theme and I liked both of them, finally choosing this one for comment. It’s a clear image, very peaceful, with a person as the focus of the verse. ‘Farm’ relates closely to ‘scarecrow’. And braids are linked to head and therefore to the scarecrow’s hat!
I’d like to thank John for his most kind and generous assistance during a process which made me extremely conscious of the time and effort that a sabaki brings to the creation of a renku.
John speaking now:
Ellen Compton will be offered the opportunity to select our next verse. Please let me know, Ellen, if you would like to do so.
And now we move on to our fourth verse, which completes the opening section of our renku.
Our fourth verse should:
- consist of two natural, unforced lines
- constitute a single phrase, without a grammatical break
- avoid any seasonal topic
- involve pleasant and peaceful themes
Think of the fourth verse as making a new poem when added to the third verse. Repeat nothing from the first two verses. No body of water, for instance. I would advise us all to refrain from featuring creatures of any sort in this verse. We will want to have them later in our renku.
Here is what we have, so far:
A Better Look (working title)
for a better look
the scarecrow’s hat
skims across the pond
finds the farm wife
undoing her braids
Please enter your verse offers in the comments box, below. Ellen or I will be reviewing these offers until midnight on Monday, September 7 (New York time zone). On Thursday, September 10, there will be a new posting containing the selection for our fourth verse and instructions for composition of verse five.
Looking forward to seeing your offers!
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