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The Renku Sessions: Barely Time – Week 13


Hello again. This is John Stevenson and I have been facilitating a twelve verse renku, in the Jûnichô style. Over the course of this session, we have added one new verse each week, selected from your offers.

Our final set of offers numbers 173, from 33 poets.

This particular renku format offers an unusual degree of flexibility. While we are not constrained to follow the “jo – ha – kyu” rhythm of longer renku, I am inclined to look for an ageku (final verse) that works in the way that renku are traditionally concluded. We have already been bold in some ways. A blossom verse in which the blossom is not the kigo and, in fact, not a kigo at all according to our list of season words and phrases, is something I’ve never encountered before. I like that, even if it is never to be repeated. But I would like to conclude this renku in a less novel fashion.

So, here is how I see the ageku. Renku do not conclude with a conclusion. There is no sense of “the end.” It is as if the renku will be going on without us and the ageku simply marks the point at which we leave the party. This verse does not have the sense of concluding a sequence and the open-ended quality, which is an element of all renku verses, is perhaps slightly more prominent in the ageku.

Given these considerations, here are some verses from which I will select our ageku:



swallows depart
through the temple windows

Carol Jones



balloons of all colors
swept off by the wind

Keith Evetts



the swing in the yard
still moving

Sushama Kapur



I let the kite
have all the string

Chris Patchel



exiting the swing at
the top of its arc

Michael Henry Lee



a butterfly

Lorin Ford



waters of spring
fill the furrows

Susan Grant



shining wind
on the tarp’s sleeves

Amoolya Kamalnath



a pinwheel planted
in a flower pot

Debbie Scheving







I let the kite
have all the string

Chris Patchel



Our Renku:




short night
barely time
to count the stars

Keith Evetts


9/11 still fresh
in our memories

Lorin Ford


somehow forgetting
the baby
in the back seat

Tracy Davidson


a racehorse
named Tortuga

Dan Campbell


the fog
has borrowed its scent
from the pines

Polona Oblak


he licks the apple juice
on her chin

Nancy Brady


walking barefoot
we take each other

Jonathan Alderfer


snow moon
rests on granite

Susan Grant



Betty Shropshire


missing keys
of the piano

Amoolya Kamalnath


falling among

Richard Straw


I let the kite
have all the string

Chris Patchel





We have now completed our renku, which will be archived by The Haiku Foundation. We will keep the title “Barely Time” but I enjoy considering other titles that we might have used. The title of a renku usually is a word or phrase from the hokku (first verse). To have a title from a later verse tends to call the reader back to the top of the page. All the same, there are many examples of renku with titles drawn from verses other than the hokku. I enjoy considering other title options and would love to hear your suggestions during this week. (Although we will keep “Barely Time” because all of the archived posts are keyed to that phrase.)

Please enter your title suggestions and any observations about this renku experience in the comments section, below. On Thursday, September 15th, I will post a few final reflections on this session.


Looking forward to hearing from you all one more time,

John Stevenson




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This Post Has 32 Comments

  1. this was quite a journey, for me… began with a big bang and as it tightened so quickly, it twisted and tumbled and turned in very unpredictable ways.
    i found this session to be more challenging for me … due to its brief life.
    (at times i felt lost on the path, my inner self told me not to use fruit and blossom, in verse # 11, but i didn’t listen to it all the time)

    i love the minimalist approach here….and john and all the poets verses included have indeed created a magnificent, tall “sculpture”!

    it just keeps on getting better, and better!
    i love these sessions, i love doing renku with you all….hope we all can meet again soon….don’t want to get too rusty again.

    thanks for all your hard work and guidance, john.

  2. “barely time” is my all time favourite title and hokku in all the renku sessions i have read.

    other poetic phrases that i find note worthy are:

    somehow forgetting

    missing keys

    walking barefoot


    falling amoung poppies

  3. I let the kite
    have all the string

    Chris Patchel

    Wow, wow, and more wow …. i love it, love it and the more i read, the more i love it!!!!!! Chris…….you certainly placed a proper crown on this “barely time” renku !

    so loving and soooooo relieving, with this letting go……

  4. For me, “somehow forgetting” conjures up a plethora of emotions so would choose that as an alternative to Barely Time if I had to choose another.

    It was great fun to be able to participate with everyone. Thank you John for your abiding skill and kindness. A deep bow.


  5. A fine ending, Chris. Congratulations. I’m always attached to the title by the end, but since it is tradition to toss in ideas, I will suggest Walking Barefoot. Thank you, John, for guiding us once again. In the end the verses were full of variety, and read well. There was some discussion re the concise verses, but they do reflect haiku trends.

  6. Chris, thank you for such a rich verse. For me it is perfect at so many levels. An abiding image and sense of feeling.

    I like the title, Barely Time. When I went through the Renku to see if anything else arose for me I preferred the current title even more. The Hokku offers dimensions of depth and infiniteness of time. Many of the verses relate to time in ways that develop another layer of meaning throughout.

    I also found the minimalism interesting but it seemed to hold well, and adds a style and interest to this Renku we have created. I went back to the verses and worked with them in the fashion of Makoto Ueda in his book “The Master Haiku Poet Matsuo Basho”, writing out the tendrils of connection and meanings each verse suffuses into the developing sequence of a Renku. It has enriched my understanding and even surprised me at the multidimensions simple verses have achieved – it has become a long document.

    John, I thank you for the insight and creative hold you have invested to bring this Renku to fruition. It has brought me joy and delights in the challenges each week to hone something that works in collaborative verse. The laughter and ‘wow’ factor has also been there as I read all your contributions. Thank you for that.


      1. Hi Amoolya

        There are a few of Matsuo Basho haiku books available at Amazon, including the one, Susan has mentioned.

        I hope the one you are looking for is available.

  7. another fun experience, and i love the ageku. well done, Chris.

    the role of sabaki takes a lot of skill and diplomacy and you handled it admirably, John.

    Barely Time definitely seems like the perfect title, even more since most of the selected verses verge on minimalism

  8. Congratulations, Chris, for lovely verse. It’s a perfect ending.

    Thanks, John, for all your helpful guidance through this renku. I continue to learn so much, and your patience throughout is outstanding.

    Title suggestion other than the one originally selected would be Missing keys.

    Looking forward to the next renku.

  9. Thanks for leading the sessions, John, and thanks everyone for making the writing and reading experience so pleasant and rewarding. The weeks this summer went by so quickly, which makes the “Barely Time” title even more appropriate.

    The links often were bewildering to me, but that can be explained by my inexperience with writing renku. (This was my first.) It’s too bad we couldn’t have worked on this one in person. Every link might then have become clearer, but we wouldn’t have spent as much time together or been able to offer so many verses.

    Have a good end of summer wherever you live. Take care.

    1. Richard, I, personally, have been having a cold , wet and nasty winter in a leaky house and am very glad September has arrived, the days are getting somewhat longer, the snow peas are beginning to set pods. the broad beans are in flower and soon it might even seem to be Spring.

      There: flat earth theory once again shown to be mistaken, though still popular in some world regions. :-)

  10. Wonderful ageku Chris, sending our small community of poets off into the ether—I hope we all reconvene in the near future. I prefer the line break you decided on for your verse. I like the way it looks on the page and how it breathes—first line in, second line out.

    John, heartfelt gratitude for your depth of knowledge, gift for teaching, and patience.

  11. A great ageku vs Chris i always enjoy your work. Thanks again John for leading another renku
    i hope another will start soon!

  12. Congratulations, Chris! Loved the verse.
    Thank you, John for this renku experience and all your explanations and the comments of the poets. I learnt so much.

    It’s a great feeling to be a part of the making of renku. I like the title taken from Keith’s hokku. I think it works well with all the verses.

    Happy that you found one of mine worth a mention for the last verse.

  13. Congratulations, Chris and I must say your verse was my first choice for the ageku, too. :-) Well done indeed. and of course, well-chosen on John’s part.

    (I’m chuffed that my ‘butterfly returning . . .’ one got a mention, too. )

    ‘Barely Time’ seems to me to be the right title. (Of course, I think ‘Earthrise’ might’ve been a good one, too. :-) )

    I’ve appreciated your comments and explanations , John, and looked forward to reading everyone’s new verses and comments each week. I also appreciate the experience of seeing an expert navigate some difficult waters.

    Well done, All !

  14. Congratulations Chris! Lovely verse!

    I like the title ‘Barely Time’ for the renku. I think it comes along well with all the verses.

    I have thoroughly enjoyed participating in this renku though I joined somewhere towards the end. It has been a wonderful challenge for me to understand and play along. As I said earlier, I’m new to renku and even to haiku. Hence, I’m delighted that one of my verses was chosen into the renku in an earlier week and this time, a verse of mine has been mentioned. Thank you John! I hope to continue to participate in more renku in future and learn even more from each experience.

  15. Congratulations to Chris on the ageku – love it!

    Another very worthwhile learning experience, and also fun. Thank you John, for taking this on and for your very clear and convincing explanations as we went along, including second thoughts. An education on the burdens of a sabaki. And thanks to fellow contributors for so many stimulating verses and humour too.

    I notice that many if not all the verses in this renku are short to the point of minimalism. I enjoy that tendency in haiku/senryu; but I wonder whether a deal of abrupt, even staccato verses erode the poetic elegance for which the Junicho (and other renku) is billed? What do others feel?

    On the matter of linking, I appreciate the arguments that (almost) anything can link with (almost) anything else; and have read up various works on Basho’s classification and examples of linking including the ‘scent link’ (esp. Matsuo Bashō and The Poetics of Scent; Haruo Shirane, Harvard Journal of Asiatic Studies, Vol. 52, No. 1, Jun., 1992, pp. 77-110); but on occasion it can be hard to accustom to verses that sometimes seem to have been offered with no linking. Although they can be very stimulating, I wonder whether new arrivals to renku find them bewildering?

    I do hope the Renku sessions will continue – even, as for a while last year, with a succession of small tan-renga or maeku-tsukeku.

    It’s a joy to participate.

    1. My own personal preference is for 3-line renku verses that are 5-7 beats (stressed syllables) and 2-line verses that are 4-5 beats. But I don’t mind effective departures.

      I tend toward links that are discernable without being overly obvious (like a lot of your links, Keith.)

      1. That last part didn’t come out right, lol. Most of your links hit the sweet spot for me is what I meant, Keith.

        1. Chris – I think the rhythm, sound and musicality of a verse is of some importance, and the “twelve-tone” Junicho highlights stylishness (Seijo Okamoto)…

          And on links — thank you lol. ?

    2. Keith, i’ve noticed the preference for short verses as well. this approach can be effective (as shown in the 2013 HSA renku awards – see honorable mention ) and the yunicho is a very short form so it’s kind of fitting.
      my personal preference is for a few slightly longer verses in the mix, and i’m definitely not a fan of the ‘long verses’ being shorter than the preceding or following ‘short verses’ (same goes for short verses being longer than long verses)

      as for the linking, i like a variety of techniques, and don’t mind some loose linking, particularly in the ‘ha’ section of the renku with the jo-ha-kyu pacing.

  16. Perfect ending. Thank you Stevenson san for all your hard work . It has been great summer fun writing with so many terrific poets.

  17. Thanks! A good learning experience as always.

    I also considered breaking the lines of my verse this way:

    I let the kite have
    all the string

    And I’m still going back and forth.

    “Barely Time” is a great title for this shortest of renku forms. “Missing Keys” also has a nice ring to it.

  18. Thank you, John for taking time out of your busy agenda and leading us through this Junicho. It has had its up’s and down’s, however, I’ve enjoyed reading your comments and those of other participants.

    I like the working title from Keith Evetts verse, it has a wonderful serenity.

    Thanks for pausing on one of mine.

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