Skip to content

The Renku Sessions: Imachi – Week 12


Welcome to another Renku session. I am Linda Papanicolaou. The renku I am leading this time is an Imachi, an 18-verse form from Renku Masters Shunjin and Seijo Okamoto (“Waiting for the Moon,” 1984). Like Junicho, the other form they gave us, Imachi is a single-sheet renku though it develops in a more traditional jo-ha-kyu structure and depends more on the flow of passages of verse in its linking.

A thorough discussion may be found in John E. Carley’s Renku Reckoner, pp. 51-56, online at Google Books. The section includes a discussion, a selection of seasonal schemata, and a lovely example, “Between the Jagged Rocks”, by JEC and Norman Darlington.


Choice of verse 11:

Many writers find love verses difficult so it was gratifying to see ten of you jumping in with offers to our second verse in the love run. Kudos to everyone for some good thinking.  The verse we’ll place is this by Andrew Shimield:

chalked on the board
as plat du jour

at a table the couple
whispers in French

the Beckhams
laugh off rumours
of impending divorce

The verse is complex in its linking and shifting:  “The couple” in the maeku morphs into “the Beckhams”, their private whisperings into joint laughter directed outward at the public rumors about their relationship. It’s a parallel construction of contrasts. Moreover, the verse simultaneously advances the renku by introducing multiple new topics–proper name, sports and fashion (clothing).  I pay little attention to glam celebrity news and before Googling knew little about this couple. Social media headlines tell me that the marriage has lasted 19 years and produced four children despite recurring rumors of infidelity, separations and the prospect of a divorce on which bookmakers are taking odds. Add to this the couple’s nickname, “Posh and Becks”, that his business has bailed hers out of difficulties, and that he has 40  tattoos–most of which commemorate family events. Backstory does add a touch of levity to the verse, doesn’t it?

What I find interesting about it is how the verse squares with that list of love topic categories that Bill Higginson compiled:

seeing a potential lover
falling in love
waiting for lover
tryst or assignation
absent lover
love’s passing

As one of the major fixed topics in renku, love dates from the very origins of renku in a courtly culture where marriages would have been arranged for dynastic purposes and erotic pleasure was extra-marital. Medieval Europe also developed a literature of courtly love which expressed somewhat differently although the above topic categories would have been familiar to them too. This must say something about human desire that love was retained as a topic when renku was reformed and simplified in Basho’s era. Over the past couple of centuries sexual attraction may have become a basis for marriage but the topic list is still with us in the plots of countless movies and romantic novels. Despite its pop culture contemporaneity, “the Beckhams” is thus a traditional renku verse. It hints at “love’s passing”, though  “absent lover” and “waiting for lover” are there too as it offers wiggle room to keep things going.   Meanwhile, the verse accomplishes what what we need in this slot: it builds on the maeku, cranks up the sexual tension and sets a linking challenge for its successor. Thank you, Andrew. Nicely done!

Our poem to date:

a row of icicles
blue sky and sunshine
dripping from the eaves
~Simon Hanson

on Earth Day, deep breaths
for the scent of it
~Lorin Ford

see how overnight
the apple orchard’s turned
all blossom
~Polona Oblak

opening my journal
to a blank page
~Maureen Virchau

the boy carrying
the sousaphone
almost disappears
~Paul MacNeil

Friday school shooter
with his father’s gun
~Pauline O’Carolan

red tailed hawks
ride out the winter
in a big oak
~Michael Henry Lee

again, steep beach erosion
after lashing waves
~Barbara A. Taylor

chalked on the board
as plat du jour
~ Marion Clarke

at a table the couple
whispers in French
~Carmen Sterba

the Beckhams
laugh off rumours
of impending divorce
~Andrew Shimield


Call for Verse 12:

This will be our third and last love verse. Let’s see what you can come up with!


Specifications for the verse:

  • Two lines
  • Non seasonal
  • Person verse
  • Outdoors or indeterminate
  • Love topic (see Bill Higginson’s list of topics above)
  • Link to the maeku, shift from the uchikoshi.
  • Avoid foreign language or food
  • Anything in the hokku is off limits for the duration of the renku.
  • Also, don’t include a moon–that topic is reserved for later in the renku.
  • Please also check your offers for repetition of topics, aspects or significant words from earlier in the renku—this is not necessarily a blanket proscription, but if you can find a different way to get your meaning across, so much the better.
  •  By the way, we do not yet have the topics/categories of mountain, river, vehicle, beasts (meaning mammals), insects, science/tools, reminiscences or nostalgic (historical) images.


Registering your verse offers:

  • Use the ‘‘Leave a reply’ box down at the bottom of this thread to submit your offers.
  • Please hold revisions or corrections to a minimum, but if you must do so, use the “Reply” link on your own post rather than initiate a new submission.
  • Post your submissions before midnight Monday, 2 July, Eastern USA time.
  • The selected verse will be announced the following Thursday morning: 5 July, Eastern US time.




This Post Has 73 Comments

  1. Many thanks , everyone, for some lovely ideas. Submissions are now closed. See you Thursday!


    1. ooh, that’s nice, Judt. I’ve just gone googling and learned that I was wrong in what I thought alpenglow was. Also learned new vocabulary: “golden hour” and “belt of Venus”

      1. That’s lovely, Agnes. Do you know “Kubo and the Two Strings”? My students love that movie, and I get a lump in my throat when the lanterns come on

        1. The only problem is that “lantern” is a kigo— I once encountered this with a western context lantern verse I thought for sure was unseasoned but sabaki, who was Japanese, apologized that she could not read my verse other than autumn. The floating lanterns take place on the last evening of the Bon Festival.

          1. Aw I didn’t know it was a kigo, but I suppose it does happen at specific times. The one that inspired me was a Hawaiian Memorial Day lantern fest. I do love the Kubo movie, saw it with my kids. So mystical and magical! <3

    1. Hi Agnes. Just to say, I’ve been fiddling with ‘alpenglow’ for a couple of days. Then there’s your lovely ‘glow.’ Coincidence, completely.

  2. Thanks Lorin
    I took Higginson’s list as suggestions, not requisites.
    I have a simpler approach and see a run of 3 love verses as beginning, middle and end.
    A sort of jo-ha-kyu of love.

    1. What an interesting way of thinking of it, Andrew.
      Suggestions not requisites yes. There are aspects of traditional renku that just don’t align with modern experience, even though some things never change. The love verses are one of those cases where we have to find our own authenticity.

      1. I think it only important to NOT out be of sequence. No divorce as opening stanza; marriage not before first date, etc. Only logical. Yet with no narrative, equal bits of time can be OK.

        Thinking of Emil’s love song from South Pacific:

        Some Enchanted Evening………[you will] find her across a crowded room, then it continues .. once you have found her .. Never let her go . . .!

        Ahhh, love.

        1. I think it’s probably easier to avoid narrative if there are only two love verses at a clip–as in kasen where they come two and two in each ha side. I can’t remember where–from Chris Herold, maybe?–I picked up a liking for pushing things to three love verses when the renku form allows. That does run a risk of tumbling into narrative, though, particularly if we have a sequence such as “a couple” in the first verse (yeah, I know, “couple” is singular but it’s still a plural of people), a third person plural again in the second verse (“the Beckhams” ), and another instance of third person plural in the third verse. What I’ve seen in reading this thread is that the offers that change up in person and/or number do better to avoid narrative. Ah, variety.

    2. Thanks for responding, Andrew, Yes, I tend to think in terms of “beginning, middle and end” too (as John Carley did, but he wasn’t strict about it. . . his view was more like Paul’s, “not out of sequence”, the “lost-soap-in-the-bath trick” before the shotgun wedding, etc. … and, like Basho (he said) John tried to palm love verses off to someone else whenever possible. ) :-)
      – Lorin

  3. .
    head to toe in lauren
    the praying mantis
    famished flies feast
    her bloated stomach in knots
    with a round of applause
    the family jewels

  4. in faded ink a tatoo
    of Publishers’ broken link

    a kick in her illusions
    of happy ever after

    1. in faded ink a tatoo
      of Publishers’ broken link

      a kick in her illusions
      of happy ever after

      1. Hi, Sprite. I do like the third person singular in that second one. It’s a good shift after two verses that depict both partners, and we don’t have a “she” in the renku yet. Thank you.

        1. not too rusty as though I don’t appear much on english sites I’m much busier with French renku nowdays and there’s not as much in terms of guidelines there so I end up doing a fair amount of translations of bits and bobs to build us some kind of resource file for new comers to access. Very time consuming but very rewarding. I’ve also discovered the very little read lymain french translator or Basho and haikai: Rene Sieffert. So refreshing for me to have it directly from Japanese in my mother tongue without going through another language.

          Just finished leading a Kasen. Will follow this one now for a while

    2. Thank you for posting, Princess K. Enjoyed the “family jewels” offer.
      I’ve received an email from Pauline that she is getting 404 errors when she tries to submit and I just got one myself when I tried to post offers for her.
      Is anyone else having difficulty? I’ll daisy-chain her offers here:
      Thank you for the Beckham verse, Andrew. Really enjoyed it!

      Verse 1:

      “I used to love you
      but it’s all over now”

      Verse 2:

      in Italy the cuckolded
      clown cries

      Verse 3:

      Tosca stabs Scarpia
      with a knife


  5. this golden photo-album
    since the siver wedding


    after the hot love
    a new wave of warmth

      1. Nice, Vasile. Leading into the verse with “this” and then showing us the relationship through photographs creates a nice shift of angle of view.

  6. While the imachi has been in progress I’ve been enjoying rereading some of the old journals that used to publish renku columns–World Haiku Review and Simply Haiku among them. Among the nuggets people may find useful is this section on love verses by John Carley from a longer essay on renku in the New Zealand Poetry Society:
    “Love verses should really only deal with relationships which might find sexual expression. Therefore they feature adults. Get tactile if you like, but love verses stop short of pornographic levels of detail, or really coarse suggestiveness.
    “Both Edo period and contemporary renku (Shomon haikai-no-renga) do have love verses which centre on homosexual attraction, or are capable of such a reading. By contrast Japanese friends have told me how scandalised they were to read Occidental sequences that had love verses talking about children or animals, before realising that there was a very unfortunate misunderstanding at play!
    “A confession: I really don’t like love verses. In this I’m similar to Basho – who kept them down to the absolute minimum or made sure his mates got them. I suspect his reasons were the same as mine – we’re both rubbish at writing them.”

  7. Dear Linda,

    I didn’t know you might want accepted poets to submit again.
    So here goes:

    to imitate the love manual
    we bend in strange new ways

    united by old attraction
    we consummate our love

    famous breasts
    fill the big screen

    1. Already placed poets are most welcome to keep submitting, Paul. Very helpful.

    1. I get it that the dog is a conduit for communication in a family that may not express emotion direction to each other (a common pattern) but thinking about the John Carley quotes above I wonder if this is really a love verse. Can you probe deeper into your idea?

  8. Congratulations, Andrew. I do like this verse and its allusion ‘celeb. culture’, very much, and as someone mentions “the whisper element” goes well with rumours. I guess I’m not au fait enough with the strictures of ancient Japanese verse to understand how it can be read as hinting at “love’s passing”, “absent lover” or “waiting for lover”, though. It’s contemporary,
    the Beckhams
    laugh off rumours
    of impending divorce
    ~Andrew Shimield
    the usual free-for-all
    at Burning Man
    I much prefer Donne
    to Shelley
    hiding her feelings
    the Japanese wife
    – Lorin

    1. LOL my first thought was whether they’re disputing collectible record theater programs or comic books, but googled a bit and found that Beckham has a Rolls Royce. We’d probably want to move away from such a direct reference to the same couple in the following verse. I do like the humor.

      1. Lol…didn’t know Beckham has one! In fact, until this verse, didn’t know the name ‘Beckham’.

        1. Coincidentally I also first heard of Beckham in renku. Several years ago, though, when he was playing so not about lifestyles of the rich and famous. As I recall it was the p.o.v. of a spectator sitting way high up in the stands. Something about Beckham being no bigger than a speck.

          1. I didn’t know that a Phanthom is a car, so at first I read: village phantom….. :-)))

  9. Andrew: pop culture! Excellently done.

    over smooth stones
    we navigate these rapids
    by anniversary candlelight
    we reread our vows
    now that it’s over
    Shelly means more to me

    1. Linda, you mention that Andrew’s verse suggests love’s ending.
      Does that make my “now that it’s over” redundant or still move things forward??

      1. No one right answer to that question, Jackie. The trick lies in including enough for the next verse to link and take it in another direction. By “Shelley” I assume you mean Percy?

        1. Yes, Percy. Not keeping in mind the next direction is a weakness of mine. Thanks for the nudge.

          1. Ok, having mulled your question more, some further thoughts:
            By “redundant’ I think you may mean that the first line isn’t fully pulling its weight, which I agree. If you simply look at the verse, is it fully realized in its own right? What specifically about Shelley has made the connection for you? Can you go deeper from there and trust the link to do the connecting without spelling it out in words?
            Another sort of redundancy may be repeating the topic category of person name.Not that it’s against “rules” but in this case I don’t see added benefit. Here again you could think deeper into the idea. Could you make the connection without using the poet’s name?
            In a couple more verses we’ll be ending the ha section and the place name topic still hasn’t been used. Shelley in an end of love context makes me think immediately of sites in Italy associated with his death–Spezi or Viareggio. I vividly remember learning about that funeral pyre in a college English Lit class. There’s a lot in that narrative for you to create a fully-realized verse, and I think your instincts that it links are right on.

    2. A thought on your rereading vows offer: It’s really nice and a good example of how a love sequence can tie off with renewal rather than breakup–also we don’t yet have a religion topic category in the renku.
      The problem is that “by anniversary candlelight” seems in context to revert to the romantic restaurant in Carmen’s verse. Don’t know if you want to continue working on this one.

  10. thanks for choosing my verse, Linda
    I’ll follow the rest of the renku with interest

    1. Oh, by all means keep submitting as the spirit takes you–others who have been placed in the renku are doing so. Submitting offers helps steer the renku as it helps others know what you think might be good to come next.

  11. Great verse Andrew, right out of the gossip columns
    what if six
    turns out to be nine

  12. Congratulations, Andrew. I do like this celeb verse. All the rumours we hear about one thing and another relating to their relationships, goes well with the ‘whisper’ element.

      1. It certainly is, and also a lovely layered session.
        Nature and human nature at its best and worse, so far, so good :)
        Looking forward to the next selection.

      1. Good morning, Patti. Good, vivid imagery in both of these; unfortunately, I looked back in the list of specifications for the verse and see that somehow in my editing I had accidentally deleted that this is a person verse. I can see the analogy you’re making to human character but it’s rather more abstract than renku calls for in a love verse. Also, we have melting ice in the hokku so can’t go there again.
        Apologies to everyone for any misunderstanding. I’ve inserted “person” back into the list.

Comments are closed.

Back To Top