Windswept Walk

Around 1990, I started five “chain renku,” of which “Windswept Walk” was the first one started and completed. It was domestic in its travels, staying in the United States except for brief side trips to British Columbia and Ontario. This was put together the old-fashioned way, by postal mail. How it worked was that I sent the hokku to one other poet, and that poet and each successive poet sent it to the next poet of his or her choosing, without my ever knowing where it went and to whom. It was a leap of faith that it would ever make its way back to me, but eventually, after taking just over a year to complete, the original handwritten document came home on 2 July 1991 after visiting thirty-six different poets. On its way hither and yon, I estimate, with help from Mapquest.com, that this renku travelled 32,241 road miles (51,885 kilometers)! Notes about the composition of this renku appear at the end.
        First published in Frogpond 15:1, Spring–Summer, 1992. This renku won the Museum of Haiku Literature Award in 1992 from the Haiku Society of America, and also appears with my Notes About Windswept Walk on the Haiku Society of America website with other winners of the 1992 Museum of Haiku Literature Awards (scroll down a bit on this site). Also published in the Journal of Renga & Renku #1, December 2010, pages 91–94, together with my “Notes About Windswept Walk” and some more recent comments by John Carley.
        As mentioned, “Windswept Walk” was one of five chain renku I started. One other chain renku, titled “Young Leaves,” was completed later and in 1999 was also published in Frogpond—and was much more international in its travels. The other three chain renku never made it home and seem to be lost to the four winds. I still wonder what happened to them.

 

 

windswept walk                                                               Michael Dylan Welch

   an orange leaf                                                                Foster City, California

      turns over                                                                     6 June 1990 [originally written 26 March 1990]

 

skyward,                                                                               Adele Kenny

the wild geese—their echo                                         Fanwood, New Jersey

                                                                                                12 June 1990

 

between her white teeth                                             Emily Romano

   a cherry tomato                                                             Boonton, New Jersey

      explodes                                                                       24 June 1990

 

such boredom                                                                    Alexis Rotella

after the fireworks                                                          Mountain Lakes, New Jersey

                                                                                                26 June 1990

 

the black swan                                                                  David E. LeCount

paddles the moon                                                           La Honda, California

into its wake                                                                      30 June 1990

 

a doe and her fawn                                                         Elizabeth Searle Lamb

hidden in shadow                                                            Santa Fe, New Mexico

                                                                                                7 July 1990

 

house at auction:                                                              Lee Gurga

all the lawn ornaments                                                  Lincoln, Illinois

faded to grey                                                                     14 July 1990

 

I prefer some clouds                                                      Hal Roth

the morning after surgery                                            Vienna, Maryland

                                                                                                22 July 1990

 

giggles & respect kenichi’s yard kanji beware of mountain crone

 

                                                                                                Marlene Mountain

                                                                                                Hampton, Tennessee

                                                                                                2 August 1990

 

flowing from his wet brush                                         Jane Reichhold

grass words tickle her fancy                                        Gualala, California

                                                                                                6 August 1990

 

buckets set up                                                                  Werner Reichhold

beside the bed                                                                 Gualala, California

the roof leaks                                                                    7 August 1990

 

heaven and earth together                                         Elaine Sherlund

cradle sleep with gentle rain                                      Gualala, California

                                                                                                10 August 1990

 

tiny feet                                                                               Caroline Sutherland

from the garden shower                                              Gualala, California

do a muddy stomp                                                          12 August 1990

 

luna wings stroke twilight tones of moth             Penny Crosby

                                                                                                Gualala, California

                                                                                                13 August 1990

 

after                                                                                      anne mckay

     his hands                                                                        Vancouver, British Columbia

     so gentle                                                                        23 August 1990

 

placing seed potatoes                                                   Joe Nutt

eyes to the sky                                                                 Staunton, Virginia

                                                                                                4 September 1990

 

in her dark hair                                                                  Elizabeth St Jacques

the blossom                                                                       Sault Ste. Marie, Ontario

whisper white                                                                   11 September 1990

 

Clearing brush he finds                                                  Gloria H. Procsal

someone’s wedding ring                                              Oceanside, California

                                                                                                18 September 1990

 

moving awry                                                                      Frederick Gasser

with the sunspot                                                              Youngstown, Ohio

a widow spider                                                                 21 September 1990

 

sioux medicine man                                                        Francine Porad

dances his prayer                                                             Mercer Island, Washington

                                                                                                25 September 1990

 

men picketing                                                                   Paul O. Williams

a Chevy agency                                                                 Belmont, California

a child asks, “parade?”                                                  27 September 1990

 

the blind man lifting                                                      Dave Sutter

his face to the sun                                                           San Francisco, California

                                                                                                27 September 1990

 

Wind and Sea . . .                                                             vincent tripi

tiny name                                                                            San Francisco, California

on the painting                                                                 30 September 1990

 

brilliant on the easel                                                     Charles B. Dickson

the meadow’s wildflowers                                         Doraville, Georgia

                                                                                                31 October 1990

 

Amapola                                                                              Mitzi Hughes Trout

recalling mother’s perfume                                        Roswell, Georgia

on Saturday nights                                                          5 November 1990

 

“loneliest night of the week”—                               Geraldine C. Little

searching the stars for solace                                    Mt. Holly, New Jersey

                                                                                                22 November 1990

 

portmanteau                                                                     Hiroaki Sato

taken out of storage,                                                     New York, New York

dark with dew                                                                  21 December 1990

 

Plane rises dear of the fog                                          Doris Heitmeyer

into profound darkness                                                New York, New York

                                                                                                2 January 1991

 

Will we go hunting                                                          Sydell Rosenberg

for the Blue Moon                                                           Jamaica, New York

next New Year’s Eve?                                                    7 January 1991

 

bleak January day                                                            L. A. Davidson

forced narcissus showing white                                New York, New York

                                                                                                22 January 1991

 

first I saw her hair                                                            Virginia Brady Young

in the wind, then the wonder                                    Cheshire, Connecticut

of her smile                                                                        15 February 1991

 

no way to stop hearing                                                  Sylvia Forges-Ryan

that old lovesong                                                             North Haven, Connecticut

                                                                                                19 February 1991

 

florist shop door                                                               Karen Sohne

slowly swings shut                                                           North Massapequa, New York

closing out the street noise                                         5 March 1991

 

at the tap of                                                                       Minna Lerman

the baton . . .                                                                     Havertown, Pennsylvania

                                                                                                1 June 1991

 

both cats                                                                              M. M. Nichols

beside the big glass vase                                              New York, New York

the chrysanthemums                                                     14 June 1991

 

gathered in a white apron                                            Lequita Vance

seed for next spring’s planting                                   Carmel, California

                                                                                                 23 June 1991
 

Notes About Windswept Walk

The idea for “Windswept Walk,” a kasen renku, was to send the haiku to a poet friend, who in turn would send it to another poet, until thirty-six different writers had added their links. I first thought of this in the spring of 1990, and in March and June I sent out five “chain renku,” as I dubbed them. Windswept Walk is the third of the five such renku I started. The other four have yet to make it home [one other one later did]. I do not know if this is the first time such a renku has been completed. If so, it is unique in the history of English haiku.

        The idea also came up that I could send my link to two different people, who in turn would each send their links to two other people (thus making four renku), and so on. But a not-so-quick calculation reveals that, by the 36th link, a total of 36,359,738,368 different renku would exist if everyone participated according to the rules (the number of renku would double as each link is added). This mind-numbing possibility would rather tax the population of the entire world, let alone the haiku community. And guess whose mailbox they would all eventually tumble into?

        Anyway, as indicated, I sent my haiku to Adele Kenny on June 6, 1990 (the verse was actually first written on March 26). Over the months, “Windswept Walk” crisscrossed the country numerous times. Then, on July 2, 1991, a full year after its life began, I received the completed renku in the mail from Lequita Vance. What a joy to receive! Indeed, it has been one of the most exciting pieces of haiku mail I have ever opened, for several reasons. First, a seed sown long before had finally germinated—and had flowered profusely. Second, I found the links to be very enjoyable. Third, the list of participants reads like a who’s who of haiku. And fourth, I found it especially interesting to see who sent the renku to whom, when they sent it, and where the recipients live. In fact, it would be interesting to see how many miles it logged as it found its way from poet to poet, from friend to friend. If only it had accumulated frequent-flyer mileage!

        In closing, I would like to thank everyone for participating. Since I started four other chain renku, I would also encourage those involved to keep them going. Even if they’re not finished yet, I’d like to hear of their whereabouts (write to me at [address removed, then in Foster City, California]). The reading of a renku is usually enhanced by searching for the link or connection used by participating poets as they add their verses. This renku has the further enhancement of its unwritten links between people. Consequently, I would like to dedicate “Windswept Walk” to the memory of Charlie Dickson, who participated but never saw the finished product. As you read, you will no doubt see the variety of connections between the poems and the participants, and I hope you will enjoy it as much as I did that warm summer afternoon last July.