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The Renku Sessions: Breathing In – Week 11


Welcome to our ninth renku session under the sponsorship of The Haiku Foundation. This will be a Jûnichô (twelve verse) renku, under the guidance of John Stevenson.

Twenty-two poets and fifty-four verses this week. I can see that many faithful participants will not have verses included in the final text of our renku. I can only hope that they will have had an equal share in the pleasures of this process and that they will know that they have my profound gratitude for their contributions. Here are a few comments on some of this week’s offers:


blending the “Royals” with
the rest of the world

                                    Michael Henry Lee

In addition to all of the other considerations in selecting a renku “ensemble” of verses, I often look upon verses as potential commentary on the experience of the collaborative writing and the interpersonal characteristics of those engaged in it. This verse makes me think about something I learned from reading Earl Miner’s Japanese Linked Poetry (1979, Princeton University Press). Not all renku verses are expected to be exceptional (royal) but, rather, are expected to produce a mingling with more ordinary (mundane?) images. This of course, is truer of longer renku; thirty-six, fifty, and one hundred verse formats.

wee would-be runaway born
with a spirit wild and free

                                    Jackie Maugh Robinson

I was looking for something big and perhaps wild for this spot. Jackie has heard the call! Unbridled lyricism.

a hypodermic needle
caught between the thorns

                                    Barbara A. Taylor

Several topics that we haven’t yet touched upon are brought forward in this verse – addiction, in particular. But also, environmental concerns, class issues, illness, even death. And it’s interesting to me to see such a close link (roses, thorns) take such a leap in tone and attitude.

the shared ennui
of the departure lounge

                                    Andrew Shimield

This verse takes the stationary nature of plants somewhere else through the consideration of stationary moments experienced by travelers. Imagine the ennui we would encounter if we were to “live and die” in one spot.

taking selfies
with cruise missiles

                                    Victor Ortiz

I appreciated Victor’s comments about trying to write with some consideration for what comes next. This verse could certainly help to set up, for instance, an autumn moon verse or a northern hemisphere Halloween verse. In the meantime, it sets off, for me, a game of “People Will Take Selfies With Anything.” (fill in the blank)

sung by the homeless

                                    Pauline O’Carolan

This is gorgeous. I normally am turned off by the use of “the homeless” in haikai. Unless it is offered by someone who actually was homeless, like haiku poet Tom Tico (who rarely, if ever, used that term). But it works for me here.

search party sent to locate
a missing island

                                    Linda Weir

This was my runner-up selection. From the rootedness of garden plants this takes us to the realization that even “solid ground” is ephemeral.

playing another
“get out of jail free” card

                                    Betty Shropshire

Another effective play on the contrast between rootedness and freedom to move on.



the whole band
headbangs in unison

                                    Agnes Eva Savich

I expect that there may be some doubt and maybe even some consternation about this selection. We do have a neck and (implied) head in verses four and five. But this is no tea service, no winter wonderland. This verse rocks and that’s just what I want for this climactic moment in our renku!



  • An autumn verse (possibly our moon verse)
  • Three lines, without a break
  • Linking with verse ten but not, in any significant way, with the first nine verses




breathing in
scent of new growth
in the trees

                                    Shane Pruett 

a pollen-covered bee’s
waggle dance

                                    Polona Oblak

china cups
filled with oolong
and memories

                                    Liz Ann Winkler

the delicate neck
of his housemaid

                                  Maureen Virchau 

I pull up my hood
to avoid the snow
and your words

                                 Marion Clarke

UN laughter
heard round the world

                                Chris Patchel

is it so long since
dugongs were taken
for mermaids?

                                Marietta McGregor

the rainbow snake redrawn
as nucleic acid

                                          Lorin Ford

English roses
live and die
in Hyde Park

                                          Pauline O’Carolan

the whole band
headbangs in unison

                                          Agnes Eva Savich


Please use the “Leave a Reply” box, below, to submit your verse eleven offers. I will be reviewing them until the submission deadline of midnight, New York time, on Monday, November 12. My selection and commentary, together with an invitation for the eleventh verse will appear here on Thursday, November 15.

I look forward to seeing your autumn offers!

John Stevenson


This Post Has 63 Comments

  1. the whole band
    headbangs in unison
    Agnes Eva Savich
    moonlit batons
    tossed into the night sky
    by the feisty majorette
    a new nip
    in the morning air
    quickens her sun salutation

  2. the whole band
    headbangs in unison
                                              Agnes Eva Savich


    moon bathing,
    a flute in C-flat
    joins in

  3. Diwali fireworks
    burst across the sky
    outshining the moon
    highlights the names
    on the war memorial

  4. As an avid rock fan, I love this verse from Agnes!
    over the pumpkin patch
    one bad moon

          1. Great! . . .just do it without the break, Marion. :-)

            that AC/DC
            T-shirt the skeleton
            in my closet
            – Lorin

  5. flat earthers
    searching for an edge
    until moonrise
    weighing which rocks
    from tranquility base
    to take home

  6. Great verse, Agnes. I love it when the band members’ long hair whips about in a frenzy!

    Verse 1:

    she walks alone
    under a cold moon

    Verse 2:

    lone piper
    marching through moonlight
    on the parapet

    Verse 3:

    watched by an indifferent moon
    Eleanor Rigby waits
    by the window

    1. Thank you Pauline! Hells yeah, it’s awesome when they’re all in sync like that. I couldn’t help but see the connection to the nodding roses. And the live and die part.

  7. another pumpkin
    launched skyward
    by the catapult


    jack o’lantern’s
    toothless grin
    flickers in the dark

  8. John, Marietta and anyone else who’s interested . . .
    Going back a few weeks to Marietta’s dugong . . . it’s proven to be non-seasonal. :-)
    Dugong (jugon in Japanese) is not listed in the general saijiki, but it is listed in the Okinawa saijiki under non-seasonal. The following ku by Gotou Buson is listed under dugong (jugon).

    nago no umi kara
    jugon no me
    the Marine Corps –
    dugong’s eyes
    from the ocean of Nago
    — Gotou Buson, (2006?)

    – Lorin

    1. Any of us new and newish to renku, myself included, are here to learn, your post is of interest, Lorin.
      To make the choice of season more clear why doesn’t a particular saijiki be given as a link by the person taking the session.
      When I first started posting, I think it was.
      There’s such a broad spectrum, now, as people post from all over the world, and seasons are different, which can lead to confusion.

      1. Yes, Carol, John suggested ‘The Five Hundred Essential Japanese Season Words’ as the source of kigo for the first THF renku, ‘Pilgrim’s Stride’. I think it was a good move, to get everyone started on the same page and give an idea of what a saijiki is.
        But considering that the big, general Japanese saikiji has over 6,000 kigo entries (& that’s not including the various regional Japanese kigo) ‘500 Japanese season words’ seems rather sparse and limiting.

        ‘Fireworks’ is listed as a summer kigo in ‘500 Essential Season Words”. But what is the season for fireworks? New Year’s Eve (which might be either winter or summer, depending on hemisphere) Chinese New Year, which falls in spring in China and autumn in Australia? Guy Fawkes night? Moomba? ‘Drought’ is listed as a summer kigo, which may well be illustrative of how the term is used in Japan and perhaps elsewhere in the Northern Hemisphere, but where I am we count drought in years, not in months. . . a summer ‘drought’ would be only “a dry spell”.
        Certainly, if an EL sabaki is going to use a saijiki, whether the Japanese big, general saijiki, a smaller version or a regional saijiki (Japan) or a saijiki-like list from any particular world region, I agree that he or she should say so at the beginning and make it available to all participants.
        Gabi Greve, in many places on her ‘World Kigo Data Base’, and Haruo Shirane in his books, emphasises the ‘Japanese cultural memory’ aspect of kigo. It’s very interesting to learn about it.
        But I was quite surprised by John’s mysterious informant telling him that just because something could be a kigo (such as a common, summer-flowering plant) doesn’t mean that it is a kigo. The only logical explanation I can draw from that is that what’s meant as a kigo is not a kigo until it’s listed as a kigo in a saijiki. Until then, no matter how familiar one might be with a thing (such as a flower) and its history and/or cultural significance in the English language, it doesn’t count as a kigo unless it’s in a (Japanese) saijiki.
        This is why at present I tend to agree with Andrew and would be happy to lose ‘kigo’ and gain ‘seasonal reference ‘or ‘season word’ for international EL renku.
        – Lorin

  9. the whole band
    headbangs in unison
    food offerings
    under the autumn moon
    to our beloved dead

  10. the whole band
    headbangs in unison
    our flickering shadows
    around a fire
    under the harvest moon

  11. Agnes, congratulations on such a different direction. Well done!
    the whole band
    headbangs In unison
    Agnes Eva Savich
    a river otter family
    playing in the light of
    beaver’s moon

    1. Thanks Linda! As a heavy metal fan, i was really taken there immediately with the “live and die” part.

  12. .
    red in tooth and claw
    the growing pains
    in the tom’s left eye
    through bare branches
    the calligraphy
    of a four letter word
    this indian summer
    i too
    become an astronaut

  13. Congratulations, Agnes!


    the whole band
    headbangs in unison


    Heaven’s River
    has never looked
    so resplendent


    doof, doof, doof
    way long past
    the glare of moonshine


    hurrah for
    magic mushrooms
    on their menu!


    lined up together
    only scarecrows protest
    climate change


  14. as midnight frost forms
    a white silky sheen spreads
    covering the lawn


    in one stormy night
    all the maple leaves fell
    turning the lawn red


    earthworm feast
    the lawn covered in leaves
    a blackbird listens

  15. Sweet Agnes : “I love rock ‘n’ roll so put another dime in the juke box baby”
    under a full wolf moon
    our van breaks down
    in the middle of nowhere

    1. YES. I love Black Sabbath. I think I was picturing Slayer here, as that’s the last metal show I just went to :)

  16. the whole band
    headbangs in unison
    I just love this verse! And I sure didn’t see it coming. Well done Agnes!
    Indeed, well done to all since it’s so fascinating to try to understand the possible links that have been offered for linking / shifting. I can’t say I always fully ‘get it’ but it’s fun to try.

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