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 (reproduced below) 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.