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The Renku Sessions: Breathing In – Week 9


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.

Seventeen poets offered a total of forty-seven verses this time. Here are just a few of those that captured my imagination: 

sample slices of ice core
under the microscope

                                          Liz Ann Winkler

The image of a cross-section of time and all the answers it can give us about the past represents an enlargement of the speculation at the core of Marietta’s verse. When a question is asked in a renku verse, I like to see it answered, but indirectly, in the following verse.

Although the ice in this verse covers all seasons and a vast number of years, the word itself is a winter kigo (seasonal reference). I have seen long discussions about whether a term like this, which is a kigo but clearly not used in the sense that makes it a seasonal reference, must be treated as a kigo.

’59 eldorados
cruisin’ rodeo drive

                                          Betty Shropshire

A great many topics are raised in this verse – antiques, fashion, commerce, status, etc. Also, the diction is unique in comparison to what we have in our renku, so far. Like Liz Ann’s verse, above, it provides an indirect reply to Marietta’s question. 

a smelly sand dollar
left in a pocket

                                          Carmen Sterba

The idea of including a verse that is based upon a strong scent is very appealing (even if the specified scent isn’t). The next verse is going to be a summer verse and we should have only one such verse in this renku. I wonder if, taken with this one, it might seem that we had a sequence of two summer verses. Wish I had thought to announce that in advance. Perhaps better late than never, our remaining four verses will be, in this order, summer – nonseasonal – autumn – autumn. One of the autumn verses will be a moon verse.

renewing my membership
to the flat earth society

                                          Andrew Shimield

People will believe anything, it seems. I recently heard an interview with an astronaut, in which he said that members of the Flat Earth Society argued with him, suggesting that he merely hallucinated the experience of orbiting the earth. A rather persistent hallucination, considering that he experienced it over a six month period.

an endless journey
on a strip of Moebius

                                          Angiola Inglese

This verse takes the nature of time to be the essence of Marietta’s verse. I think that people who believe in eternal life have not thought it through. If, after a hundred trillion, billion years we are no further along in the time that our eyes must see, our ears hear and our souls experience consciousness…

the football’s arc
towards a sideline

                                          Agnes Eva Savich

I would like to have used this verse, just based upon the quality of the image. I love the way that it extends the questioning tone of the prior verse through the physical suspension of the football in flight.

the ancient discus thrower
at rest in bronze

                                    Victor Ortiz

Interesting that the physical tension of athletic competition can be viewed as restful.




the rainbow snake redrawn
as nucleic acid

                                          Lorin Ford


So, our question about a real creature, mistaken for a myth is answered with a mythical creature easily related to newly (in the big picture) discovered truth. If the creation of life really was attributable to the rainbow snake, that snake would have or be DNA.

To see where we can go from here, it may be helpful to google the rainbow snake. There are a great many interpretations possible.



  • A summer verse
  • Three lines, without a break
  • Linking with verse eight but not, in any significant way, with the first seven 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


Please use the “Leave a Reply” box, below, to submit your verse nine offers. I will be reviewing them until the submission deadline of midnight, New York time, on Monday, October 29. My selection and commentary, together with an invitation for the tenth verse will appear here on Thursday, November 1.

I look forward to seeing your links to the rainbow snake!

John Stevenson

This Post Has 73 Comments

  1. a mango and sunset
    blend into one
    at the reggae fest
    cool cave walls
    after a long hot
    hike uphill
    mixing watercolors
    to capture the hues
    of a blazing sunset

  2. Lorin, that’s one amazing verse! Love the collocation of a traditional way of experiencing the world with a different (and similar) way to make sense of the source of life. A lot to think about!
    I didn’t read the early entries about incorporating a blossom in this stanza until just now, and so having just finished the following offerings, there won’t be one.
    the rainbow snake redrawn
    as nucleic acid
    -Lorin Ford
    a dry sky
    with dry ice
    a mirage
    at the horizon
    of a desert road
    a summer classroom
    with watercolors

    1. Many thanks, Victor. 🙂
      You know, John is not strict about how many verses people offer, so you could also do a summer flower on if you wanted to. (as long as it’s in by the deadline)
      – Lorin

  3. Very clever verse, Lorin! Thank you for the stimulus.

    Verse 1:

    English roses live and die
    in Hyde Park
    by the Serpentine

    Verse 2:

    thunder and summer lightning
    polka in the sky
    and rain fills waterholes

    Verse 3:

    Dutch masters
    planted peonies
    in canvas vases

  4. another try:


    strangling wisteria
    stretches over
    the planned entrance


    cicadas louder than
    angry disputes about
    the gerrymander


    clutching plans
    the agronomist surveys
    blighted leaves

  5. Most people are scared of snakes even if they are non-venomous, but we seldom expect flowers to be toxic.
    colorful petals
    of hydrangeas carry
    traces of cyanide

  6. flies torment
    the first picnic
    of the season


    we doze off
    in a field
    of swaying poppies

  7. Congratulations, Lorin.


    flying even higher
    into blazing skies


    a tight squeeze
    on the cormorant’s throat
    bring home dinner


    a rough sketch
    of what, if any, moisture
    might transpire


    a rough sketch
    of scorching temperatures
    yet to come


  8. Lorin, your verse surprises and delights
    ever traveling
    this mobius loop
    of humanity
    from one taproot
    our infinite garden
    of unique flowers

    1. Oh dear. Neither is summery.

      from one taproot
      an early June garden
      of unique blossoms

  9. the judge awards
    a red rosette
    at the county show
    yarrow flourishing
    on the plot
    awaiting development

  10. ++++++++++++++++++
    the coastal road
    lit by color
    of bougainvillea
    those oleanders
    along the highway
    are colors of holiday
    the lifeguard is watering
    a vase of geraniums
    on the sunny beach

  11. Congrats to Lorin and others selected since I last checked in on this renku!
    hydrangeas in bloom
    by our old front porch
    still the same blue

  12. Congratulations to, Marietta, and Lorin. Well done ladies. Interesting searches.
    hag’s taper for
    the dark nights ahead

      1. Thanks, Lorin.
        It’s a lovely plant which has grown naturally at the entrance to the farm for the past four years.
        They like a poor, gritty soil structure, don’t pamper your next attempt 🙂
        It also grows here in the summer, those woolly leaves are so lovely.
        I don’t know if this link will work.

        1. Hi Carol, this link to the same website does work for me, though one needs to scroll down:
          I have a woolly-leaved, low-spreading plant which flowers from little star-shaped cups. I don’t know what it’s called as I originally took it as a cutting. But a Greek neighbour likes to have some every year. She told me she “makes candles” in the tiny cups to “light for the Virgin Mary”. Interesting, these various traditional, ritualistic uses of plants.
          – Lorin

          1. Glad that worked, Lorin. Thanks for letting me know.
            I’m wondering if the plant you mentioned could a member of the sedum family.
            I find these old traditions quite fascinating to read, both here and in other countries.
            Since your verse post I’ve been looking up the art work on a digeredoo, I had about thirty years ago, the places these posts take us, marvellous 🙂

    1. So interesting to learn what ‘hag’s taper’ was and how it was used, Carol! Mullein grows wild on roadsides near where I live. On a personal Caravaggio ‘pilgrimage’ some years ago, I noticed the painter included a Verbascum plant in the foreground of several works. An article describing The Entombment of Christ, in the Pinacoteca Vaticana, Rome, explains the symbolism:
      “In the bottom left of the painting is a plant known as Verbascum thapsus, common name mullein. Believed to possess medicinal properties and to ward off evil spirits, it symbolizes the coming resurrection and the triumph over death. Caravaggio also included it in his Saint John the Baptist (1604, Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art), and Rest on the Flight into Egypt (1586, the Doria Pamphilj Gallery, Rome).”

      1. Thank you for the reply, and your link, Marietta, most interesting.
        There are many symbols within paintings and having the ability to find and read them
        must take many years of training, I did start taking an interest but this went by the wayside many years ago. The art historian and critic sister Wendy Beckett, had a series during the ’90, this took my interest for a while. How I wish I’d kept it up.
        Thanks again 🙂

        1. Hi Marietta. I’ve been looking, yet again, at the painting, there is something that wasn’t quite right, to my eye, from a perspective point of view. I see the six people and the mentioned plant. It could be me but I see a seventh person in the picture.
          Who’s is the hand behind John the Evangelists head? Far too large for the hand of Mary, and the length of the arm would be far to long.
          There’s a very faint shadow in the background, which would put this hand in perspective.
          What do you think?

  13. Still playing along:
    a family gathering
    to ooh and aah over
    night-blooming Cereus*
    *Hylocereus undatus, the white-fleshed pitahaya or pitaya, is a species of Cactaceae. It is a clambering vine with undulate stem margins. Its scented booms produce Dragon Fruit.

  14. Hello,

    Very interesting verse this rainbow snake reference and double helix ladder (ADN), which brought me back to summer (a short one in the Yukon) and how to choose the right days for either hikking the mountains or accomplishing some chores with open windows, like painting! Here Forget-me-not is the mountain state flower of Alaska and I find it ironic that is says “don’t forget me” as to say, “I am also the fabric of this country, part of its DNA” (as Alaska was the last states to join USA!)

    On another level, Forget-me-not flowers apparently got their name from a legend where a knight wanted to greet a lady but due to its heavy armor fell in a lake. Just before drowning, he threw her a blue flower while saying “forget-me-not”. It’s like a last attempt at being there, an echo the genetic heritage we leave when we are leaving this visible world. Part of our genetic continue to leave on, through the double helix ladder. And here, the painter’s ladder, would be creation/universe itself. Our own little contribution and “color” in the vast universe palette. So here’s my humble attempt at a verse:

    Forget-me-not drop on the painter’s ladder

    1. That’s interesting, Sandra. I didn’t know that forget-me-nots were Alaska’s State Flower.
      “. . .as to say, “I am also the fabric of this country, part of its DNA” . How true! As if reminding that ‘big things from small things grow’.
      – Lorin

    1. Well, I’d like to withdraw this! I was thinking of Fibonacci, but it’s way too close…writing too fast ?

  15. Clever correlation to draw, Lorin. I imagine a multi-coloured 3-D model of the double-helix, both from the Snake’s form and its stories passed down by humans. Congratulations.

  16. Wonderful, Lorin. I will be dreaming of cosmic serpents now. And thank you again John, for your selecting my verse for commentary. I imagine some of the debate around the non seasonal use of season words gets pretty nuanced. It never crossed my mind. Still playing along for fun before I head to El Salvador for a Habitat build.
    a circle of young girls
    braid daisy chains
    on the grassy lawn

    1. I would love to hear more about your Habitat build, Liz Ann. Will you be documenting it, eg., on Facebook? — Marietta

  17. nucleic acid / one I never had access to / Very clever
    Leary’s statue
    shimmering in the
    afternoon sun
    time lapse photography
    combines three
    lightning strikes
    a drive in double feature
    showing Fantastic Voyage
    and Innerspace

  18. Congrats to Lorin Ford for his beautiful verse, I just enjoyed reading.
    Thanks to John Stevnson for reporting my …. Moebius tape.

    1. ps, Angiola. . . my mother saw my name in the end credits of some film in the 1940’s, some musician or composer, and she liked it, so Lorin is my name. But I’m a GIRL 🙂 (well, an old lady now). I know it’s confusing.
      (I only discovered it was a Spanish boy’s name this century!)
      – Lorin

  19. quite impressive, mythology/religion and science covered in mere two lines!
    I have a question, John, and it might be of interest to all the participants.
    As we’re beginning the last third of the renku and we haven’t had a flower verse yet, perhaps the summer slot would be the most appropriate for it?
    Especially since we’re yet to have the (autumn) moon…

    1. That’s a good idea. We can also do an autumn blossom but summer gives us many more blossoms from which to choose.

    2. What a nice surprise when one least expects it! So glad it works for you, John. Lovely to have a verse selected for this renku.
      Thanks, Polona, I’m happy you like it.
      – Lorin

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