The difficulty facing us was the divergence of goals between rules and the poetic validity of these renku. When we followed all the rules strictly we became dissatisfied with each renku submitted . . . and we therefore focused our discussion upon poetic principles. For the renku discipline we decided on the following:
1. The hokku (starting verse) should be strong and engage the imagination.
2. The renku should be structured by pairs; each pair of stanzas should constitute a complete poem.
3. Each verse should be strong, unique and fresh; cliché or common thoughts do not work.
On that basis we both found a great deal of joy reading many of the renku submitted, but we both had delighted in one in particular...with one reservation that proved to be a regional awareness. Upon closer reading even that reservation was overcome.
Another thing we both enjoyed when reading the renku were verses that engaged the senses. Did the verses have that tactile and sensory range that is so delightful in good poetry? Did the images and the experiences of each verse feel real to us? Since we are not writing Japanese renku we felt it was essential that the verses be such that we ourselves could experience them. But most of all we found the most enjoyment in listening to the music of the renku...of the words...and the music between the poets. What kind of repartee developed in the renku between the poets? Was it alive? Was it moving? Was it engaging?
After reading and rereading and after telephone conversations, we have decided that “Tide Swell” should be given the Grand Prize; “Steamy Windows” should be given First Honorable Mention; and “Ever Reviving” should be given Second Honorable Mention.
Jerry Ball is a founder of Haiku North America and the Southern California Haiku Study Group and has been President of the Haiku Society of America for two terms. He has published five books of haiku, the most recent being Pieces of Eight (2005).
Merrill Ann Gonzales has provided art for literary journals for three decades together with poetry and haiku. On February 2, 2005 she created snowbird press. She won (with John Stevenson) a 2005 Bernard Lionel Einbond Award for Renku (which was published in Frogpond 24:2, 2006) and earned an Honorable Mention in the Harold G. Henderson Haiku Contest for 2006 (published in Frogpond 30:1, 2007).