Next Line, Please

The Renga Goes On

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By David Lehman

August 1, 2017


 

We’re building a renga, brick by brick, haiku by tanka, starting with these three lines:

Work? No. Why? July. [Lee McAden Robinson]
Oceans imitate shell sounds [Paul Michelsen]
All summer I watch [Jeff Johnson]

After picking a two-line tail from the many excellent ones submitted in the last round, contestants were asked to create a haiku that would follow logically yet extend the poem in a new direction. “Next Line, Please” veteran Christine Rhein spoke for many when she observed that “these team-effort poems are great fun,” reminding her of “the wonderful sestina that formed here in early 2015, when I first discovered Next Line, Please.”

It was Christine’s two-line tail (“frantic little jackhammers— / seabirds, me, digging through sand”) that paved the way to Berwyn Moore’s winning entry:

Work? No. Why? July.
Oceans imitate shell sounds
All summer I watch

frantic little jackhammers—
seabirds, me, digging through sand,

crumble and carcass:
shipwreck, Jonah’s whale, salt-sting.
Sigh. Oblivion.

Elizabeth Solsburg and Jeff Johnson, who completed what they started last week, tie for second place. Elizabeth wrote:

Work? No. Why? July.
Oceans imitate shell sounds
All summer I watch

oysters bubble in the sand,
hoping for the hiding tide.

We, caught on the strand,
soles polished by unmade glass,
waiting for lightning.

Jeff gave us:

Work? No. Why? July.
Oceans imitate shell sounds
All summer I watch

the waves beaching themselves in
consummate redundancy.

Such dependable
expungement: castles leveled,
hosts of footprints gone.

I suggested to Jeff that a reversal of nouns in the last line might be all to the good, “footprints of hosts gone,” creating a ghostly effect, and I believe Jeff is amenable to the idea.

There are no losers this week, just a surfeit of riches. Sincere thanks to all.

For next time, I suggest we extend the renga with another two-line tail. You may add to any of the three works-in-progress quoted here, or to this one, which I crafted from multiple sources:

Work? No. Why? July.
Oceans imitate shell sounds
All summer I watch

the waves endlessly enact
ritual resurrections. [Millicent Caliban]

The weather geeks say [Angela Ball]
One thousand, and I shall have [Clay Sparkman]
Loved, undecided. [Diana Ferraro]

What we need is a two-line stanza, ideally self-contained, with 14 syllables divided evenly. Let me force your hand a little by stipulating that your entry include a color and any of the following words: “tide,” “ghost,” and “Jonah.” For example, “Time and tide wait for Jonah / under the ghosts of blue stars.” Which I just made up, but is a serious entry.

Deadline: Saturday, August 5, midnight any time zone.


David Lehman is a poet and the general editor of The Best American Poetry series. He teaches at The New School in New York City.

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