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Call of the Page (Alan & Karen)

Monday, August 05, 2013

Renku poetry: A Cup of Snow - One of the earliest examples of the rokku form in English.

© 2013 Haiku Society of America
direct link:

A Cup of Snow

Hortensia Anderson, New York, New York
John E. Carley, Lancashire, England (sabaki)
Alan Summers, London, England
Carole MacRury, Point Roberts, Washington
Michael Dylan Welch, Sammamish, Washington

laughing with delight
a cup of snow
a moon-eyed girl           

half gone, the last jar
of ginger jam      

roadside shop
the chain-saw artist
asks me my sign          

a faint glow in the sky
before sunset          

first chill night
the smell of cedar
in the quilts       

tic by toc
the leaves begin to fall

dab, dab, dabbing
at her cards the old lady
yells “bingo!”       

a mosquito bite
on the toddler’s cheek        

their second date
she drinks him
under the table    

we roll with the waves
of the water bed       

and bathe eche veyne
in swich licour
of which engenderĂ©́d . . .  

the scent of wild rose
in the birthing suite   

deepening depression
the telephone
stops ringing      

a late-night diner
the hum of the fridge       

constant as the
poverty of poets
autumn moon         

three generations
peddling fallen walnuts    

leftover candy
the pumpkin’s toothy grin
starts to sag        

candle wax obscuring
the way of light     

tamarisk honey
the el-tarfah of dry tears        

with each breath
the desert’s fire and dust         

searching for an airplane
without wings       

                     affair the after
way wrong the home coming       

each snowflake different
his wife’s kiss       

the lack of a sharp knife
and a whetstone        

the apathetic gaze
of man and beast     

from rock to rock
the grizzly’s nose      

the sniper scope
on the Canon Sure Shot       

fighting through the shed
to reach the mower      

we fill our pails
with plum blossoms
and then?           

the spring dawn
spills down the mountain

el-tarfah ~ The manna of the Sinaitic peninsula is an exudation from the “manna-tamarisk” tree (Tamarix mannifera), the el-tarfah of the Arabs. At night it is fluid and resembles dew, but in the morning it begins to harden. The Arabs use it like honey or butter with their unleavened bread.

and bathe eche veyne/in swich licour/of which engenderéd . . .
~This verse is in Middle English. It is taken from the second couplet of the General Prologue of The Canterbury Tales by Geoffrey Chaucer, generally dated between 1340 and 1370. As with all texts of this antiquity there are many variants. A recent, re-versified translation by A.S. Kline gives the full couplet as:
And bathed each vein with liquor of such power
That engendered from it is the flower

John E. Carley
“A Cup of Snow,” written by e-mail in the first months of 2008, is one of the earliest examples of the rokku form in English. The rokku is a mold-breaking type of renku sequence originated in the early years of this century by the Japanese poet and critic Haku Asanuma. 

The form is modular rather than having a set length, permitting as many verse movements as the participants wish to complete, up to six. Season and seasonality are important, but not in a structural manner; the same is true for moon and blossom verses. A high rate of change is guaranteed as nothing may endure for more than two verses. 

Also, the penultimate movement of any rokku is inclined towards experimentation. I served as sabaki, but the renku effectively wrote itself, the very different personal styles of the participants being vital to the effort to break new ground. Sadly, one of us is no longer present, though her writing, as ever, stands out from the page. So we dedicate this renku to Hortensia Anderson, who passed away in May of 2012.

Hortensia Anderson
June 24, 1959 – May 21, 2012
Her book:
The Plenitude of Emptiness
hortensia anderson : collected haibun
with an introduction by Jim Kacian

“I have my copy already dog-eared and it is brand new! The haibun are potent and profoundly moving. This is a must-read. Get this book!” —Denis M. Garrison, poet, writer, editor, publisher: The MET Press

“I have tried to read Hortensia’s haibun with a critical discerning eye but I cannot. Again and always, the flow of her words and the intense images they allow me to create pull me under and away into a riptide of emotions.” —Jane Reichhold, poet, writer, editor, publisher: AHA Books

“The term ‘essential reading’ is horribly overused, but this book really is essential reading for anyone interested in writing the best, direct, real haibun being written today.” —Alan Summers, renga poet-in-residence for the City of Hull

The Plentitude of Emptiness:;jsessionid=F211C07FB1AB7624791D6636E2A574CA


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