|You are invited to my renga gathering and you are the chosen guest to write the opening verse.
Hokku, 発句 (opening or starting verse) is the introduction or beginning verse of the Renga or Renku, a linked communal poem. As far back as the 13th century Japan, poets would gather to write a Renga in a kind of poem writing party each poet contributing verse in a linked fashion. Originally, as a complement to the host, one of the guest poets would write the hokku. The purpose of the hokku is to record the logistics of the gathering, when (season, month and/or time of day), and where (natural setting). By the time of Basho 16th century, the hokku could be found as a stand-alone poem.
It is the precursor of the haiku that came into popularity a bit later. It is this hokku rule of time and place that was carried over into the later haiku which established naming a season with images of the environment as elements of the traditional haiku.
The elements of the hokku are:
1. syllabic, 17 syllables or less. (onji or sound-symbol for which there is no exact translation in English, the closest we can come is syllable)
2. commonly written in 3 lines often broken at 5-7-5 syllables.
3. names the season, month, and/or time of day as well as the location where the Renga gathering occurs. All of the above can be named through symbols of the season etc.
3. usually written by a guest poet.
fūryū no hajime ya oku no taueuta
beginnings of poetry—
the rice planting songs
of the Interior
~~Basho translated by Shirane
If I were the guest poet writing a hokku in this time and place, (summer in Northern California) I could write a hokku something like,
shade of giant tree
lacy shadows cool poets
ebb and flow on a sea of