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The Renku Sessions: Imachi – Week 17




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 16:

Many thanks to the ten participants who submitted offers for this verse.  There was some out-of-the-box thinking, from deeply resonant imagery to funny.  Renku is supposed to be fun, so that’s a good sign.  As this was our first autumn verse as well as the third verse from the end, I was interested in the ideas because they’d make a difference in the direction we’d go in the wind-down. Topics included skies and weather, autumn flowers, pumpkins, alcoholic beverages, harvest and harvest festivals, and autumn leaves.

We had some discussion of autumn leaves on the verse 16 thread. To recap briefly, even though changing and colored leaves are a staple of autumn imagery, they’re tricky in renku because the seasons of the saijiki do not line up with the way we westerners mark them. The various kigo associated with changing and falling leaves span mid-to-late autumn into winter. (William H. Higginson, Haiku World: an International Poetry Almanac, Tokyo: Kodansha, pp. 219, 281).  The challenge with international renku is that participants may live in different hemispheres and climate zones.  The cultural associations of the autumn season,  and ways of celebrating it also differ. How then do we honor each participant’s experience while communicating a basic common meaning? My own preference is to honor the traditional saijiki as a point of reference, though clearly some season references must be “westernized”.

The key is to think of kigo or season references not as an item to be checked off on therenku template but as a window into mood and emotion. Particulars of geography and culture may vary, but Bill Higginson has put his finger on what is universal about autumn as human experience:

“The word autumn may have a positive effect dealing with relief from the heat of summer and the quickening of commerce and academic life after the period of summer vacation, the bustle and fruitfulness of harvest, and the beauty of the natural world during the season. Or it may suggest the waning strength of the sun and diminished activity of plants and animals as the year moves towards winter – and the parallel weakening of humans as we age (Haiku World, p.176).”

In our imachi, autumn has a run of three verses, beginning with verse 16. I went over all the submissions, testing each in the sloth, examining how each linked and shifted from maeku and uchikoshi.  This time, other factors were also on my mind:

  • Was the verse’s season reference early, mid, late or all autumn? How would this affect the rest of the autumn run? If late autumn, would the choice of season reference be open enough for the next two autumn verses to develop a good sense of season?
  • What mood would the verse bring to the renku?  How would it open to a moon verse that comes next?

There were a few that worked well, each of which would have sent us on a different trajectory.  There was one, though, to which I kept coming back.  It’s by Jackie Maugh Robinson, and it is the verse we’ll place:


around the birdbath
snails cooling their heels

just your license
and registration, please

cornucopia celebrates
a daughter’s safe return


Initially I wondered if “m’am” to “daughter” tucked the verse a bit too close to the maeku, but I soon came to realize that it’s all in the assumptions you make about relationships. Mother and daughter? A grown daughter going home to visit her parents? Or even a woman returning to her own home from a dutiful visit to parents?  “Safe return” immediately made me think of the Parable of the Prodigal Son (Luke 15:11–32), in which case there’s an unexpected twist that it’s a daughter who’s coming back. I have a friend whose daughter has decided to skip college and join the army. While the mother is very proud, I can also sense her  fear.  Every reader, I suspect, has a story that could be brought to this verse.  That is the first reason why I felt it was so appealing.

The second reason has to do with the cornucopia. I know I said that the kyu means fast close and that linking should be simple and readily grasped, but if you know me by now, you’ll know that I will google to tease out all the possibilities. Translated as  “Horn of Plenty”, it comes from Greek and Roman art where it’s linked to various deities including Demeter, Persephone and Hades. IIn the United States has become a common decoration at Thanksgiving though I imagine that elsewhere in the world it’s  still basically a harvest motif that symbolizes abundance.

Abundance–what a wonderful way to begin our autumn season run.  Thank you, Jackie!


Here is our renku 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

around the birdbath
snails cooling their heels

Carol Jones

just your license
and registration, please
~Betty Shropshire

cornucopia celebrates
a daughter’s safe return
~Jackie Maugh Robinson


Call for Verse 17:

We are in our renku’s final phase, the kyu.  Kyu means “fast close”, the use of language and the linking should be simple and straightforward. We’re finished now with proper names, edgy or unpleasant topics such as politics, current events, death or illness. Nor should we have things that would draw a reader’s attention out of the poem—in other words, layering is fine but the verse must first and foremost read well on it surface level, without needing research to decipher.

We have arrived at our moon verse. Along with blossom, moon is a focal point within the renku and has been central to Japanese linked poetry since the Heian period, and before that to moon rituals, myths and celebrations from China. By default, “moon” without further modification means the autumn full moon, a time of year when it appears in the night sky with particular splendor. On multiple levels the moon symbolizes Buddha and enlightenment, so the topic also has a spiritual dimension.

Go where your inspiration takes you. Since “moon” itself is the season topic you are free to zoom in on moon imagery and the linking should take care of itself. The World Kigo Database has a nice page with a range of moon kigo that you might enjoy. If you’d like to tuck in an additional topic from some of those we haven’t yet covered, that is also a possibility.  Just make sure it’s consistent with season.

One more caveat regarding the maeku’s season reference: In the United States cornucopias have become associated with Thanksgiving, which Higginson places as an early winter holiday (Haiku World p. 268). Since the harvest fruits that typically spill from it (pumpkin, grape, apple, walnut) are mid, late or all autumn kigo, I think we may “westernize” the maeku to a late autumn verse, though this at the earliest. Time cannot flow backwards within a season run, so we’re restrict to late autumn or all autumn season references from here on. Higginson’s Haiku World, Renku Home’s “500 Essential Japanese Season References”, and the World Kigo Database will give you the precise information.

Specifications for verse:

• Three lines
• Autumn: Moon
• Non-person verse
• Outdoors or indeterminate
• Moon as a topic is sufficient, but if you wish to include other topics they should be preferably be on-seasonal, or at least late/all autumn, Topics we don’t yet have that might be useful include tea coffee or alcoholic beverages, commerce, industry, science or tools. We also don’t yet have any mammals.
• Link to the maeku, shift from the uchikoshi.
• Anything in the hokku is off limits for the duration of the renku.
• 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.


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, 6 August, Eastern USA time.
  • The selected verse will be announced the following Thursday morning: 9 August, Eastern US time.


Happy writing!


This Post Has 48 Comments

  1. Many thanks for some lovely moon writing, everyone. The submissions window is now closed.
    See you Thursday.


  2. moonlight
    through spruce branches
    touches possum


    full moon . . .
    young buck
    among the acorns

    1. Edit to first of two. (Three lines intended.)

      moon beams
      through spruce branches
      to possum

  3. Just-for-fun offering:

    a golden glow
    precedes the super moon
    into the night

    full moonlight
    silvers forest branches
    of curious owls

    forever pressed into
    the stillness of moon dust,
    those first brave steps

  4. Sorry I’ve been out of internet contact much of this weekend so haven’t responded as much as I have been recently, but I am really enjoying all the lovely moon verses.
    Welcome to those who have just joined us.

  5. Congratulations, Jackie. A very original and refreshing verse with many layers of meaning. :)
    a few offerings:

    in the moonlight
    a screech owl
    makes itself heard
    hunter moon
    and all the leaves
    migrate south
    night clouds
    wrap the full moon
    in an embrace
    the night tide
    feeling that pull
    of the long moon
    above scythed fields
    the full moon
    ascends in silence
    a perfect pearl
    of the night
    this full moon rising

  6. Just to share in the moonlight:
    gibbous moon
    sailing on the way
    to bountiful

  7. *
    in a puddle
    of autumn rain
    a geisha loses face
    in moonshine
    a spider parts her legs
    in saucer eyes
    the pearls
    on the stray’s whiskers

  8. Very nice Jackie!

    cornucopia celebrates
    a daughter’s safe return
    Jackie Maugh Robinson
    moon view through
    the sheer curtain
    of the guest room

  9. Congratulations, Jackie. A cornucopia is such a joyful thing.

    Verse 1:

    while the wolf howls at the moon
    the sheep shiver
    in the fold

    Verse 2:

    all-seeing moon
    will watch over my pups tonight
    while I rest

    Verse 3:

    bright button moon
    in still water

  10. Very nice indeed Jackie, congratulations
    moon halo
    borrowed pearls
    under a street lamp

  11. Wonderful, Jackie
    the full moon
    passes over a beaver’s cache
    crammed with roots

  12. congratulations Jackie very nice
    a toast
    to the moon in
    our paper cups

  13. Congratulations, Jackie a wonderful verse with a delightful layering of thoughts for the reader.

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