Praise for Stone Renga
I used to live in a place with no stones. Well, not exactly. There were stones that had been crushed by waves into ultra tiny pieces of sand that in this usually dry place was hard to dig up. It was also hard to grow any garden plants unless you used raised beds. I was so lonesome for stones I drove my pickup into the Texas hill country and loaded fairly large boulders out of a stream bed to carry back home and place around the yard. These days I might get arrested for stealing property. It’s getting stylish to have boulders in your front yard, especially if you live on a corner. About twenty-five miles away was an area with a lot of petrified wood. I have one piece on my altar and one outside on the front porch. I moved them with me when I moved away from the rockless place. I mention all this to emphasize how we humans are attached to stones, but we don’t think much about it. Our first houses were caves probably. Out first cutting tools were sharp rocks. Our kidney’s can even make stones. This book is so great because it brings to the fore our love and our dependence on stones. Rock along here, on a good read that is an individualistic American riff on the Japanese form of the Renga.
I paid for Crossing State Lines: An American Renga edited by Bob Holman and Carol Muske-Dukes in the MacDonald Book Shop in Estes Park, Colorado with a Visa at 4:10 PM on 8/03/12; I still have both receipts and the brown “book sense” bookmark with the shops owl looking over an open book. This all may seem trivial, however, this event was the seeds of the Stone Renga Project.
I’ve written haiku, tankas, and had not heard of a renga before and that fascinated my curiosity. The next March, when as Chair of University Authors’ Day at Texas A&M University-Corpus Christi, I was hosting a reception after Linda Hogan’s reading on campus. Linda and I had a checkered past, that is our paths have crossed a few times, first during my internship at San Francisco State University’s Poetry Center in ‘93, again in ’06 at the South West Writing conference at Texas A&M University in College Station and then again in 2013. When I drove Linda from her hotel in downtown Corpus to campus along the bay side, she had noticed the rocks in my Matrix consul, then again strewn around our home. It was then when I was talking about the summer before and showed her some large rounded stones plucked from the Colorado River where it skirts the east flank of Arches National Park as my wife, daughters and I were wading in a back eddy at the Big Bend BLM campsite. It’s a bit dangerous to swim there, but if you don’t wade too far into the river and you adjust to the cold mountain snow runoff you can enjoy a relaxing time in the blistering heat of the Moab furnace.
Linda loved these large and smoothed rocks and began asking about all the stones we had and the significance to us. They are a part of me and I’ve been collecting as long as I can remember, but maybe in ’72 when as a kid we toured the Southwest for three weeks with my brothers and parents. We stopped at Lehman Caves, Cedar Breaks, Bryce, Zion, Grand Canyon North Rim, Mesa Verde and Petrified Forest, culling a few rocks along the way. To this day I will throw a found sprig of rosemary, or juniper with berries or even, pine needles or a bunch of sequoia needles or a redwood sprig all onto the dashboard of whatever vehicle we’re driving at the time. I don’t think I truly answered Linda then or could now except that I do and it seems important to me when I do. I can look out this window as it pours right now and see the green Mariposa Granite chunk I picked up during the winter holidays in 2014.
When I brought out my copy of Crossing State Lines, Linda said that we should do a renga poem on stones. Alan Berecka and his lovely wife Alice, plus my wife Susan and I were in our living room enjoying some wine when that pronouncement was made and a few months later I convinced Alan that he knew many more poets than I that we should work together on this project. We began our planning in May of 2013 and launched our plan in September, though some poets could not wait, gathering and working with poets is like herding cats! So we had our first four sets of lines in August and our final set of lines, sixty poets later, in November 2015. We gave poets two weeks to read what had been written and contribute their lines and pass it along to the next poet. It was a joyful undertaking and not too difficult to prod most poets into action, though there were some poky poets and some hotspurs too. Past midway, we had one run of a new set of lines four days in a row. We were overjoyed and thought, Wow, this will be done quickly, but that pace did not hold. Though you, right now, are holding the finished single poem, that started as the Stone Renga Project. Thanks to Alan Berecka, all the poets who have contributed amazing lines, and my wife Susan, my daughters, Sophia, Anna and Elanor, plus my colleagues at Texas A&M University-Corpus Christi and last but not least, the earth and her stones that we are lucky enough to share.
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