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The Renku Sessions: Hokku Invitation

renkuchainWelcome to The Haiku Foundation’s Sixth Renku Session.

I’ll be your sabaki for this renku that we begin today. Thanks to Jim Kacian and John Stevenson for giving me this opportunity. I’ve learned the art of renku from Norman Darlington, Moira Richards, John Carley and Eiko Yachimoto. I’ve been writing renku from 2005 and I’ve been a sabaki of many renku trips and was the guest renku editor at A Hundred Gourds 5:2.

Renku or renga (collaborative poetry) is a genre of Japanese short forms of poetry. Two of the most famous masters of renga were the Buddhist priest Sogi (1421–1502) and Master Basho (1644–1694). Renga/renku was one of the most important literary arts in pre-modern Japan. When teaching renku to beginners in schools and colleges or during Haiku festivals that we have in India, I felt the shortest renku, junicho, was a wee bit too long, for all we can spare for renku is around 2 hours and John Carley’s Yotsumono [of just 4 verses] is surely not for beginners who need to learn the nuances when going on a renku trip.

Necessity is the mother of inventions— I’ve been thinking for some time now about this problem when teaching renku to beginners and I hit upon a new form of renku! Thus, my version is based on the need to have a shorter version of renku, without sacrificing on the aesthetics of this 400 year-old art form that has come to us from Master Basho’s time— the shofu-style of renku which is essentially anti-thematic. “Rasa” means the emotional essence in Indian aesthetics. “Rasika” is one who enjoys the rasa. So I wish to call this short renku “Rasika”.

Rasika has 8 verses set as in traditional junicho style. The jo-ha-kyu are not clearly demarcated. The number of kaishi (writing sheets) is just one. I’m keeping this renku very flexible regarding the inclusion of the usual 4 seasons in renku, meaning spring, summer, autumn and winter. Since we do not have the space and the number of verses to include all the four seasons, we can pick and choose just 2 or 3. It has the conventional moon and blossom verse and of course the “love verses’ without which a renku seems incomplete.

Important to note: The link and shift is strong, and the shifts can be wide, since it is not a 36 verse structure of Kasen, which can afford to have small shifts. So shall we say, to coin a new phrase, we’ll be following – link and leap!

As often practiced:
Long verses will be of 3 lines [about 14 sound structures or syllables] Short verses will be of 2 lines [about 11 sound structures or syllables counts]

Rasika Schema:

  1. long – hokku | autumn moon*
  2. short – wakiku | non-seasonal*
  3. long – daisan | winter
  4. short – non-seasonal
  5. long – end of summer/love (rainy season)
  6. short – non-seasonal/love
  7. long | spring blossom *
  8. ageku | non-seasonal or spring *

The asterisks show the important verses in this renku.

Please submit:

1. Long – hokku | autumn moon

Open to everyone. A three line verse. A regular hokku (haiku), with a good cut (kire). A moon verse. Can be a verse with or without human presence. Around 14 syllables.

I would like not more than 3 candidates per poet and please post them by Monday, 9th October.

The selected hokku will be posted next Thursday morning (Eastern US time) and instructions will be giving for submitting the wakiku.

Kala Ramesh


*  The notes for ‘Rasika’ are taken from A Hundred Gourds 4:2 March 2015. My sincerest thanks to Lorin Ford and William Sorlien for all the ‘Rasika’ renku published in the subsequent issues of AHG.


This Post Has 102 Comments

  1. I know I’m late here, but couldn’t keep off : -)

    the koi’s breath
    bubbling the moon…
    old pond
    in the hay bales
    harvest moon

    1. Sanjuktaa,

      How I wish you had submitted your hokku offers earlier.
      A wee bit too late for the hokku has been selected and I’ll be calling for the next slot – wakiku today (Thursday 12 Oct).

      Do join in

      1. That’s okay, Kala! I never expected…
        Just found it irresistible .
        Will try to join in later.

  2. knocking hardly
    in the closed window
    some rays of moon

    lo a face
    like a full moon…
    my sweetheart’s

  3. the whole morning
    filled by its brilliance
    hunter’s moon
    midnight moon
    the baby’s cheek
    at her breast
    and third option, with homage to the host:
    the moon’s silence
    emits chills

    1. ooops, two ‘ings’ — sorry, let me fix that & add more dreaming room:
      new beginning —
      night migrants
      lit by the moon

  4. Dear Kala, it is so wonderful to have you here to lead us through a new renku. Welcome!
    fitful clouds
    the harvest moon
    looms large

  5. My October offering:

    warm glow
    over the mountain’s shoulder
    rising moon
    the heft
    of just the right pumpkin
    waxing moon
    gilt moon
    compelling the tide
    dares stars to follow

  6. hello Kala, look forward to following the development of this renku!

    evening breeze
    the path the moon makes
    across the lake

  7. Kala,
    Based on the inputs from Lorin and you, I wish to make a small change to my first entry as below
    Kindly ignore the earlier one


    hunters moon–
    in the stretch of the tide
    our parting steps

  8. harvest moon
    a bowl of nourishing soup
    I did not make


    our fingers
    stained with walnut tannin
    moonlight on the path


    waves of loneliness
    in a galley kitchen
    blood moon

  9. I just noticed my typo: Here is the correct verse

    all the crickets
    sing their last song
    autumn moon

  10. Such delicate verses.
    This is something to leave to the more experienced, I feel :)
    But I will be reading, and learning from them.

    1. Thanks for being here, Carol Jones.
      The framework for ‘Rasika’ is simply and elastic – so it shouldn’t be complicated.

      The hokku is just a haiku – so do give it a shot!


      But please do remember – in haiku the ‘moon’ by default is an autumn seasonal word and your verse doesn’t have to mention the word ‘autumn’. We follow this convention in renku too.

      Check Lorin Ford’s comment below.

    1. Making a jar of chutney every autumn for each of her children is an annual ritual performed by my mother, so I’m wondering if it’s better to specify this in the haiku, Kala?
      full moon
      one more quince
      for Mum’s chutney
      full moon
      one more quince
      for Mother’s chutney

      1. Yes, Marion,

        Definitely better to specify than to have the opening verse (hokku) begin with ‘her’ — which in a way might leave our readers wondering who this person is … ?!?
        Renku is about ‘storytelling’ in some ways and we need to pay attention to how we carry our narration forward.

  11. 1.
    gibbous moon
    getting the crib ready
    for her

    water snake crinkles
    the day moon

    warm balcony
    a bat flies through
    an almost full moon

  12. ps to all: in renku, the moon (as is, just ‘moon’) is an ‘all autumn’ kigo. If we want to indicate another season, it needs a qualifier, eg. ‘hazy moon’ for spring. If we want to be more precise about which part of autumn is intended (eg. ‘hunters’ moon’ for the next full moon after the ‘harvest moon’) we can check a saijiki / season word list. The easiest one to find online is ‘THE FIVE HUNDRED ESSENTIAL JAPANESE SEASON WORDS’:

    I’m hoping this might be helpful as a guideline to those who’re new to renku. :-)

    – Lorin

    1. Thanks Lorin.

      I should have stated that but hadn’t taken into account all the new comers.
      I’ll detail things for the next verse.

      Thanks to everyone for your good responses.

      1. You can always add anything you like, along the way, too, in this ‘comments’ section, Kala.

        My first time participating in a ‘Rasika’. I can certainly appreciate that it’s a great idea for live renku, when there’s a limited time to complete the poem, so kudos to you for thinking of it. :-).

        – Lorin

        1. Thank you, Lorin.
          A comment like this from you is something I’ll cherish for a long, long time.

  13. g’day Kala, welcome!

    Fun to write a rasika with you again.

    crescent moon
    a hungry dingo slinks
    through crunchy leaves


    rising moon
    the pumpkin’s smile
    grows even larger


    on opening the door
    soft moonlight filters
    into her cozy den

  14. a maple leaf
    poses in silhouette
    autumn moon

    black cat
    its back arched in the shape
    of an autumn moon

    autumn moon
    a romantic evening
    on the veranda

    1. Hi Rachel,
      Very nice verse but ‘moonlight’ is not regarded as a moon verse in renku.
      Even in haiku, ‘moonlight’ is not considered as a seasonal reference for moon.

      Just thought I’ll mention it here … :))

  15. I apologize every thing ran together and I corrected but can’t delete the incorrect post. Sorry.

  16. Kala,
    I am so fascinated. It reminds me of my first renku session with you.

    coconut leaves
    the swaying rib bones
    of the autumn moon

    1. I clearly remember that rasika trip, Ajaya.
      Enjoyed writing it with you :))
      I think it is published in AHG!

  17. Hello, Kala.
    Just dipping my toe in the water, here :)

    lone fisherman
    sings to his friend
    autumn moon

  18. This is my hokka,

    Rains switching my path
    Swirling in a bald mountain
    Water duped me

  19. Hello Kala,
    Thank you for your wonderful tips. Here is my first Renku attempt

    autumn moon–
    in the stretch of the tide
    our parting steps

    – Srinivasa Rao Sambangi

  20. kanpai Kala
    crossing the road
    an old scarecrow gets struck
    by the moon

  21. Welcome Kala ! I am so curious and excited to learn it.

    autumn moon
    in my joined palms
    the half moon

  22. Welcome Kala! ☺

    harvest moon
    the want ads
    on the table
    – Betty Shropshire

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