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The Renku Sessions: Imachi – Week 14


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 13:

Many thanks to the 12 participants who posted submissions for this slot. The verse had to be seasoned summer and non-person; moreover it had follow a humorously sensual love verse as its maeku, and send the renku in a new direction.  Initially I wondered how people would handle the challenge but soon was pleased to see several possibilities that did the trick. A few people realized that some form of season reference to summer mountain or river/canyon imagery would work nicely—perhaps because as humans we have deeply embedded association of these landscape features with the female body and procreation.  The direction proved to be profitable.  The version we’ll place is this by Judt Shrode:

the Beckhams
laugh off rumours
of impending divorce

to imitate the love manual
we bend in strange new ways

on Forbidden Peak
a summer evening’s
rosy glow


Judt’s verse nicely covers two topic categories we haven’t yet had:  mountain and place name. Forbidden Peak is a splendidly pointed summit in the US Northern Cascades National Park, so named by the first party to climb it in the 1940s. Given the verse’s love maeku, the choice of this particular mountain lends an extra frisson, as does line 3’s “rosy glow”, suggestive of flushed skin.

I enjoyed watching the verse develop on the comments thread. In its first version, time of day was sunset, a regression to the hokku’s “sunshine”.  The solution was to retrieve the  alpenglow imagery from an unused verse offer of Judt’s from the verse 12 slot—proof that an idea may be floated before the renku is ready for it but its turn may yet come. In final form the verse has gained in tightness and complexity. There’s recasting in the syntactical flow (“. . . we bend in strange new ways/ on Forbidden Peak. . .”). Linking is now bi-directional with verse 13’s purely landscape imagery taking on afterglow from the maeku while in turn enriching the maeku with its own eroticized imagery.  There’s also a whiff of intertextual reference since  “forbidden” is an important part of the Adam and Eve myth, and if you recheck the verse 13 comments thread you’ll even see an alternate idea of Judt’s that featured the Snake River.  Coincidence or associative thinking? Ah, poetry! as Paul said. Nicely done, Judt!

Here is now our imachi so far:

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

to imitate the love manual
we bend in strange new ways
~Paul MacNeil

on Forbidden Peak
a summer evening’s
rosy glow

~Judt Shrode


Call for Verse 14:

We’re on the verge of moving into the kyu—or could do it any time now since imachi doesn’t really have sides. More about kyu next week; in the meantime, we need a second summer verse. We’re pretty flexible on this one, so go where your inspiration takes you.

Specifications for verse 14:

  • Two lines
  • Summer season
  • Non-person verse
  • Outdoors
  • Link to the maeku, shift from the uchikoshi.
  • 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 animal topics/categories of mammal, reptile, insects, arachnids, wildflower, garden vegetable or fungi (do check your saijiki for compatibility with summer, though).


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, 16 July, Eastern USA time.
  • The selected verse will be announced the following Thursday morning: 19 July, Eastern US time.

Happy writing!


This Post Has 80 Comments

  1. Thank you, everyone. There was a lot of fun and creativity on this thread. Submissions are closed now. See you Thursday!

  2. *
    the prickly heat
    diapered in rice paper
    pissing away the day
    a tipsy mosquito
    it’s ladies night

    1. Thank you, Princess K. The first and third are person verses, which we can’t have here, but the mosquito verse meets specifications. Thank you.

  3. Eek!! It’s definitely difficult to co-exist with the big predators as we encroach more and more on their traditional territory. I never hike alone, especially in the evenings, at the state park where I volunteer after seeing mountain lions and large venomous snakes. I do love seeing them from a distance as well as all the other critters.

      1. Yikes. I’m in the Sierras now and crossed paths with one of our local trash bin brown bears last week. Makes me rethink my position on the reintroduction of species like grizzlies.
        Fun what you do with those “z” sounds.

    1. Nice, Carol. But hold this one. Dragonfly is an autumn kigo. We have three autumn verses coming soon.

    1. Nice, Susan. A problem, though, is that while “sunflowers” is a good summer season reference “bees” is a spring season reference. Two conflicting kigo cause season confusion unless one is clearly in charge and changes the season of the other. In this case, because the sunflowers aren’t real but silk, I’d say “bee” dominates and you have a nice spring verse. Unfortunately not the season we need here.

      1. Interesting, Linda, as bees are not seen in spring at all here in Ireland and are a sure sign of the arrival of warmer summer weather. In fact a Belfast poet recently asked her Facebook friends how many bees they had seen in their gardens as she was concerned about the lack of both bees and butterflies.

  4. Verse 1:

    and the bear rests in the summer meadow
    after the hard climb

    Verse 2:

    far, far away a whale dives
    through the clear water

    Verse 3:

    from the heights
    the fawn smells fire

  5. on Forbidden Peak
    a summer evening’s
    rosy glow
    an eft prowls
    the leaf litter

    1. Hi, Sandi. I’d never heard of soldier lichen. I looked them up. Wow–as bright as the Queen’s guards–I learn so much on these renkus.

    1. Your newt sent me looking up kigo, as I once wrote a newt haiku and didn’t realize till after it got published in Yuki Teikei’s Bay Area saijiki that newts are amphibians not reptiles. YT lists the California newt as a winter season reference. In Japan they have one called a fire belly newt. It takes some digging to find “newt” in the more traditional saijikis” though I eventually found that WorldKigoDatabase includes it under “lizard”–yes, as a summer kigo.

      I like the idea of switching to a newt in this verse but I’m curious how you conceive of the link. Is it the creature’s color to “rosy glow” ?

      1. Omigosh I’ve been doing more reading and I see “forbidden” has a lot to do with the link, too.
        I once turned over a wine barrel planter in my yard and there underneath was a newt — California, I think, not rough-skinned. But I had no idea those things were so danged toxic.
        I’m still wondering, though, if we can get the verse to explain less and show more.

        1. Yeah, they’re seriously toxic!
          eyeing rough-skinned newt
          old garter first to blink

          1. Spent a while trying to figure what animals can see ‘a rosy glow’. As the common garter snake (like other snakes) can see infra-red and is the only animal that potentially can survive after preying on this newt, I hope this revison works.

      2. I had wondered about introducing a garter snake. I’d tried borrowing your “face-to-face” construction from Rocky and Bullwinkle, but it produced kannonnbiraki with the contorted lovers in the uchikoshi. Your new version works fine.
        How does a cold blooded animal emit infra-red?

        1. Wikipedia explains it well: “Colloquially, some refer to these organisms as “cold blooded” though such a term is not technically correct, as the blood temperature of the organism varies with ambient environmental temperature.”

  6. on Forbidden Peak
    a summer evening’s
    rosy glow
    an ant colony arrives
    to worship Cola God
    Michael Henry’s cheese-eating fire ants reminded me of this day when my husband left a glass of cola on the floor. We arrived home to find a line of ants streaming from the garden, up the steps to our first floor apartment, through a gap in the door and across the lounge for refreshments! 😮
    (I originally had a “line” of ants but this was visually too close to the “row” of icicles in our hokku)

  7. Love that verse Judt
    fire ants samba
    through the pimento cheese

    1. What an image, Michael!
      In fact, you’ve just reminded me of something that might work for my third offering – thank you! 🙂

  8. on Forbidden Peak
    a summer evening’s
    rosy glow
    fireflies in the back yard
    watching their conversation

    1. That’s very evocative, Linda. One of my most vivid childhood memories is those fireflies across the lawn on a summer night. We don’t have them in California and I miss them.
      Two things, though: 1) we can’t have people in the verse–even only implied by “watching”; 2) alas the flashing of fireflies is a mating display, so I’m afraid there’s kannonbiraki with the love verse uchikoshi. It would have been a nice verse for the maeku slot.

    1. That’s quite lovely, Elaine. Unfortunately, things dripping from overhead is regression to the hokku.

      1. How about:

        above the monkeys’ heads
        clouds on the verse of warm rain


        Does that make enough of a difference?

          1. OK. (It is basedon the Japanese term ‘clouds and rain’ for coitus, and rain is not falling.)

        1. Interesting, and always a fancy dance steering between cultural nuances. As imachi is a modernized Japanese invention, we’re kind of steering between the traditional and English linguo-cultural adaptations here. Different EL leaders handle things differently, but my approach in using season words is to be consistent with our own understandings while also avoiding any kind of confusion-inducing conflict with established kigo. Simplicity and clarity of wording is the key.
          “Rain” is in the Kukazu/Sarikirai charts as “falling thing” so even if “on the verge” it’s still a falling thing verse by virtue of naming the thing. I’ve also noticed seasonal associations in the use of temperature adjectives–“warm” tends to point towards spring; “hot” and “cool” summer. Mist (kasumi 霞 ), by the way, is classified as a rising thing , but it’s a spring kigo. One qualifies it as “summer mist (natsugasumi 夏霞 ) to get the season we need here.
          I’m taking my cues, BTW, from the World Kigo Database (

          1. Plus, as you’ve explained that your reference is to a Japanese idiom referring to coitus, there’s an even bigger problem: this is not the verse directly following the love run, whose third verse is about human coitus.
            I.E., love verse 3 is the uchikoshi for this one, so there’s kannonbiraki.

          2. No worries. This late in the renku we’re all becoming challenged to remember what has gone before.

      1. A thought on this one, though–
        We have an earlier occurrence of a water’s edge in the renku: Barbara’s “beach erosion” verse. Your offer and it are pretty different and Barbara’s is six verses back. If this were a longer renku this would be fine, but for a short renku like imachi it doesn’t help with our need to get variety. Is there another way of indicating a cool spot where snails gather? A well, perhaps?
        Another thing: We have a prepositional phrase with “at” four verses back, which is okay, excpept that we are getting a lot of that kind of construction and it’s something I’m watching. No one has yet used “by” or “around”.

          1. amendment-

            around the beer trap
            snails cooling their heels
            beer traps, used in gardens to lure slug sand snails away from tender plants.

      2. Hmm. I have to say, I think it’s lost a bit from the original. There’s something gently amusing about snails cooling their heels around a pond.

        1. The snails this year are literally having a hammering with the amount of song thrushes visiting the garden, such a beautiful bird, and I really like the snails such a colourful and appealing creature. The ground is like a baked biscuit, so they won’t be leaving any time soon.
          One more go at this 🙂
          around the birdbath
          snails cooling their heels

  9. nice verse Judt
    sunflowers tower over
    the garden wall
    all the cows gather
    under a shady tree

    1. Nice, both of them, Andrew. The cows really address our need for some critturs!

    2. a shady tree is perhaps a bit much with an oak and an orchard in previous verses
      so I’ll amend to:
      all the cows gather
      under a shady patch

      1. Good catch. One might also just say “in the deep shade” and not specify what’s casting the shadow.

  10. Congratulations, Judt a delightful image that speaks volumes, finding the right words isn’t getting any easier at this stage in the session, well done.

  11. Thank you for choosing this, Linda! What fun to be included in the renku!

  12. Judt, congratulations. Poetic and clever! I had real trouble with this so am very impressed. Best wishes, Pauline

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