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The Renku Sessions: A Better Look – Week 20


Thank you to everyone who has participated in this renku. You all made important contributions, whether you have a verse in the final work or not. There were 128 offers for verse twenty, from 24 poets.

Dan Campbell is our selector this time and here is his report: 

“Many thanks to everyone who participated in week nineteen. I would like to thank John Stevenson for his guidance in reviewing the contributions. As a renku novice, I studied several guides last week on renku but it soon became clear that it would take more than two or three hours of study to fully understand this ancient and rather complex form of poetry.

One article that I especially enjoyed was John Carley’s last article as editor of Simply Haiku where he wrote that ‘renku is indeed reliant on the generative mechanism of “link and shift.” But it is also a dialogic entente characterized by mercurial mood changes and tangential associations. It is an art form which uses words, in all their gloriously synesthetic aspects.’

It was a pleasure to read the many excellent contributions and it was somewhat painful to limit the selections.


blowing soap bubbles
with a wand near the windmill

Michelle Beyers



the first warm day
makes us feel like a king 

Laurie Greer



an east wind
in the runway sock

Robert Kingston



a fine mist settles
on upturned soil 

Debbie Scheving



new sweetness
in the honeybees’ hum

Lorin Ford



the consolation
of a cool spring mist

M. R. Defibaugh



steady rain
soaks fresh plowed fields

Alfred Booth



clouds floating by overhead
on the east wind

Dana Rapisardi


And our final selection is:


a fine mist settles
on upturned soil 

Debbie Scheving


Debbie’s verse was selected because of its upbeat and positive tone. And it has not one, but two spring kigo, the mist and plowed soil. John described the link to my verse in this way. ‘Both verses feature something descending upon something else. But the new verse features a contrast. While the chessboard is the passive recipient of dogwood blossoms, the tilled soil actively engages with the moist air to create the promise of new growth to come.’“



John speaking again:

Congratulations, Debbie and congratulations, everyone. We have now completed our renku. There is one remaining task – selection of a title. As a practical matter, we will probably keep the working title (all of the posts relating to this renku are tagged as “A Better Look”). But this does not preclude our exploration of other title options. A renku’s title is usually a phrase that appears within one of the verses, often but not always the first verse (hokku).


Here is the complete text of our new renku, which will be archived on The Haiku Foundation site


A Better Look  


hovering back 
for a better look 

John Stevenson 


the scarecrow’s hat
skims across the pond     

Pauline O’Carolan 


finds the farm wife 
undoing her braids 

Ellen Compton 


the creak 
of the mailbox 

Angiola Inglese 


rising scent 
of bosc pears  
wrapped in cellophane 

Michelle Beyers 


his chiseled chin  
and my smooth thighs  

Wendy C. Bialek 


‘after Picasso 
only God’ 
said Dora Maar                                       

andrew shimield 


cat devouring 
a bird 

Kiti Saarinen 


fresh snowfall 
fills the tracks 
of a thief 

Carol Jones 


our train chugs into 
the station at the ski resort 

Maxianne Berger 


time was 
a cigarette commercial 
would feature here 

Lorin Ford 


the slow drawl 
of her favorite cowboy 

Marion Clarke  


the Kama Sutra 
with rope tricks 

Laurie Greer 


their summer house now 
her writer’s retreat 

Michael Henry Lee 


a solitary goldfish 
in moonlight 

Nimi Arora 


red sun paints fire 
on burnt out rooms 

Jackie Maugh Robinson 


not a scratch 
on the baby 
grand piano 

Tracy Davidson 


carrying a pail  
of pollywogs  

Linda Weir 


dogwood blossoms
sprinkled on chessboards
in the park

Dan Campbell


a fine mist settles
on upturned soil 

Debbie Scheving



Please enter your suggestions for a title and any comments you may wish to make about your experience with this renku session, in the comments box, below. On Thursday, January 28, there will be a final posting in which I will comment on some of the title suggestions and on my own perspective in this session.

Looking forward to seeing your comments and title suggestions! 







The Haiku Foundation reminds you that participation in our offerings assumes respectful and appropriate behavior from all parties. Please see our Code of Conduct policy 



This Post Has 26 Comments

  1. it was quite an experience for me…..the first renku, i was in, where a different person was called to select the including section. to learn all the “different” looks is an awakening experience. thank you to all the participants, and the always awesome, guidance from john.

  2. debbie’s ageku is a great pick, dan
    congrats to debbie for a fine last verse.!

    a fine mist settles
    on upturned soil

    Debbie Scheving

  3. Thank you Dan, for considering my humble offering for this last verse and for highlighting here in the forum. I have been actively participating only for the last few verses and I’m rapidly growing fond of this collaborative work.

    Debbie, congratulations for your lovely closing lines.

    John, new to this endeavor, I believed the title had been chosen in relationship to the opening ku. I still believe “A better look” is a good title.

  4. I vote for A Better Look (if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it)
    Perfect ageku, Debbie. Thank you.
    And thanks to John and all the contributors for a wonderful experience. Your creativity has been a joy.

  5. Thank you John and all poets and THF. A fun learning experience to be able to watch this renku unfold and test the waters and follow the commentary. A beautiful positive closing Debbie.

  6. Because it is like a mosaic of something here, yet not, something etherial like mist (like princess k’s liquid voice idea) here is a possible title:

    a better look: a mosaic scent of finer mist

  7. Congrats to Debbie for an upbeat end to the renku.
    I’m so accustomed to thinking of it as “A Better Look” I can’t imagine (or even think) of another title.
    I am very grateful to everyone for all that I learned participating in this process, and I’m definitely looking forward to when we begin another renku!

  8. Congratulations, Debbie, and well chosen, Dan—a fine ageku.

    Thank you, John, for your leadership and guidance; I think “A Better Look” is a great title. ?


  9. Thank you John for guiding us through this renku and everyone for your input and communal spirit. It has been a wonderful, sharing 5+ months where I’ve learned heaps and been surprised by the twists and turns of the journey. Hopefully I’ll be able to join in again. Well done Debbie. Your poem leaves us settled nicely on an optimistic note.

    For the title, maybe “A Better Look” is good and firmly embedded in out minds. I looked at alternatives with combinations of words and phrases. . .

    Moonlight Scent
    Red Sun Retreat
    Cellophane Scent
    (A Pail of) Pollywogs … because this is such a fun, new word for me. Pollywogs!

    Best wishes all. Take care.

    1. I’m glad this word brought you joy, it is a favorite of mine. Always brings a smile to my face.

  10. what a good ending. Well done Debbie.
    Just to give some competition to ‘a better look’
    how about:
    the scarecrow’s hat
    rising scent
    a pail of pollywogs

    1. Andrew, I’d also thought of “rising scent” as a possible alternative to “a better look.” The dragonfly might’ve wanted a better look because of some rising scent !

      Whatever the title, the renku itself is broad and grand and was fun to participate in ..

  11. Dear John Stevenson and Dan Campbell, my profound thanks for this choice of featuring so many talented poets. What a plethora of choice, judicious selection, beyond words!
    Congratulations to Debbie.
    It was a wonderful journey, through select words. My suggested title would be
    ‘travelogue on tab’

  12. Congratulations to Debbie for her ageku and Dan to have it checked.
    For me, the eternal beginner, it was exciting to have a verse in this renku and being able to select the next one: I thank John for his leadership and for the confidence.
    Participating in the renku has enriched my experience and my still uncertain practice.
    The title “a better loock” is very suitable, we all need to look far and see something finally peaceful.
    All the hope to meet again soon and take care of you.

  13. Congrats Debbie – a lovely and hopeful verse to end the renku, and thanks to Dan for taking on the task of selecting the ageku, and John for his continued guidance.

    I also want to thank all of the poets who participated in the renku – I always enjoy reading the many different ideas that are put forth in the verses, and always learn something new simply from the reading of the submitted verses. BTW, what happened to the earlier sessions from this renku? I can only go back as far as session 11 – perhaps they were lost in the website transition?

    Just for fun, I will suggest a title for the renku:

    mujo, jinsoku.

    Mujo, jinsoku is a phrase lifted from a renku titled:

    by Kago-no Chiyo-ni and Sue Jo.

    translated by Lenore Mayhew and William McNaughton in Modern Haiku, XIV:2, 1983. It bears this Translators’ Preface: This kasen renga was written by Kaga-no Chiyo-no (1703-1775), sometime in the last years of her life, and Sue Jo, an older woman who had been her friend and mentor since Chiyo’s childhood.

    According to comments by Jane Reichold, on the ahapoetry website, mujo means the transience and unpredictability of life. Jinsoku means rapidity. Taken together, the phrase refers to life’s speed and transience.

    John’s hokku:

    hovering back
    for a better look

    John Stevenson

    On first reading immediately reminded me of Chiyo-ni’s well know verse:

    dragonfly hunter
    how far has he traveled
    today I wonder?

    Chiyo-ni (translator un-noted)

    Said to be written after the death of her son, her only child.

    Fukuda Chiyo-ni (Kaga no Chiyo) (福田 千代尼; 1703 – 2 October 1775) was a Japanese poet of the Edo period, widely regarded as one of the greatest female haiku poets.

    1. “BTW, what happened to the earlier sessions from this renku? I can only go back as far as session 11 – perhaps they were lost in the website transition?”
      Yes. A section of the posts was lost, along with other posts from the same period, in the course of the website transition.

  14. Wow. I feel honored to have a verse selected for the ageku. Thank you to Dan as this week’s selector, and to John for your guidance here. And to everyone for the kind and insightful comments. I was a little uncertain about the double kigo, but couldn’t leave the image of the mist and soil. It has been both fun and instructional to watch the renku develop. Being a novice still, I’m always amazed by the variety of topics in the end result. Re the title, I’m for keeping it as is.

  15. Congratulations on your selection, Dan, and being selected, Debbie. A very good ending.

    Well, what a journey! Longer than the 20 weeks alloted because of the website disruptions. An anchor during a difficult year. It’s such a joy to collaborate in creating our poem from nothing to a satisfying ending. Being the first selector was terrifying and enjoyable.

    I wanted to make mention of how pleasant the atmosphere during the last weeks has been. The earlier acrimony between some participants was unpleasant and I hope it never happens again. I put it down to the stress of these times where many people are suffering from anxiety. We’ve shown we can do better and I’m hopeful we will continue to be kind to one another.

    I think the title is perfect and hope there’ll be another renku very soon so that we can again create the art of poetry together.

    Thank you to John for keeping us on track; not always easy! And for the time you spent guideing the selectors.

    Best wishes and good health to all!


  16. Congratulations, Debbie and your choice is excellent, Dan. This ageku seems to me to take us to a new beginning.
    John, my vote is for “A Better Look” as title.
    My thanks to John and to all who’ve participated for a positive and interesting renku experience.

  17. congrats to Debbie .. Dan, lovely choice .. ☺.. thanks to John for all these weeks of guidance .. to The Haiku Foundation for a place to congregate, and to the poets gathered here for becoming this community ..

  18. Thank you John and all who participated. These renku are always a great fun, creative , learning experience that never gets old. Peace and Love to you all ! ?

  19. I want to thank John and everyone for this growing experience. This was my first renku and the whole experience has been one of excitement and challenge and endearment for every poet. I liken the experience to long art studio courses where artists spend hours and hours, days and nights in a room together (here 20 weeks, longer than a university semester) working on a collaborative project sharing opinions and ideas. Anytime there are artists discussing near and dear to them art, well, things fly. I am greatful for the learned ones who are adept at creating verse from the heart. You taught me so much. Thank you, John, for your guidance.

  20. a fine mist settles
    on upturned soil

    Debbie Scheving
    Congratulations Debbie! This is a beautiful verse on its own, and one that works magnificently as the final words in this renku. Thanks, Dan and John for the illuminating comments and careful work on the selection. I’m honored that you picked out one of mine to note.
    This is only my third renku, but each has been a great experience–by turns thrilling, frustrating, educational. Getting to spend a week as the selector was unforgettable! Thanks, actually–to everyone who took part.

  21. Great selection, Dan! I love the fact that both ‘dogwood blossoms’ and ‘fine mist’ are falling, scattering gently on something and that ‘upturned soil’ like a chessboard is something ‘touched’, ‘played’ by mankind in that it has been ploughed so to speak. Clever link and shift!! Congratulations, Debbie!!

    ps. thank you for mentioning one of mine.

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