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The Renku Sessions: Imachi – Week 19 Wrap-up




Welcome to another Renku session. I am Linda Papanicolaou. The renku I have been leading 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 18:

Many thanks to the thirteen people who sumitted offers for our ageku. To repeat the quote by John Carley that I cited in the call for this verse, t”“The closing verse of a renku sequence is the ageku, a name which implies not just an ending but also the fulfillment of anticipation. The sense is not so much of final as of finality. . . Ageku often acts as a counterpart to the hokku. If the first verse is charged with providing a greeting, now it is time for leave-taking and augury. . . ageku is expected to generate. a sense of completion, not just to the closing section of the poem—but to the piece as a whole. In order to meet these rigorous demands, ageku is exempt from the general conventions that condition what a verse may or may not reprise. It is even possible for ageku to return to some aspect of the hokku or wakiku in order to generate a strong sense of circularity—a practice which is otherwise condemned.”

Specific to our ageku,  it needed to be an autumn verse, and an outdoors, non-person verse. A particular constraint that still applied was that verse 16, the first of our three autumn verses, used a cornucopia for its season reference.  The agricultural produce commonly featured in horns of plenty include pumpkins, squash, corn,  apples, grapes, nuts etc.,  many of which are mid- to late-season kigo. Time cannot run backwards within a season run so this meant pushing the following autumn verses deeper into the season with late- or all-autumn season references.  It did preclude a number of favorite early- or mid-autumn motifs.  Another problem that occurred in several entries were references to harvest, which tended to create kannonbiraki with the cornucopia–even with strictures on recurrence loosened by the privileges of the ageku, we still had to pay attention to rules of  linking and shifting.

The verse that lit up the slot was one of Mary Kendall’s. I’ll give it to you here with its maeku and uchikoshi:

cornucopia celebrates
a daughter’s safe return

the full moon
passes over a beaver’s dam
crammed with roots

tempting piles
of crisp colored leaves

The language is simple and straightforward; evenso, the imagery is very finely tuned. If you recall, on the Verse 16 comments thread we had a discussion about the traditional saijiki’s treatment of autumn leaves as kigo because the span from color change to fallen leaves spans autumn into winter, whereas we think of piles of raked leaves on the ground—at least, those that are still fresh enough to retain their color—as part of the autumn experience. Mary’s verse picks that moment precisely—the point when the leaves are dry but not yet brown—which places the verse with finality at about as late in autumn as it can go. Then, what really makes the verse special is that first word, “tempting”. Temptation calls to mind the Biblical myth of Adam and Eve–the Fall–so one can see a bit of wordplay here, though in this case what’s forbidden is the pile of leaves.  How many of us have early memories of raking leaves, then succumbing to the urge to undo all our work by jumping in them? Confess–have any of us as adults walked past a pile of crisp, colored leaves and felt the what-if of childhood calling?

There’s a certain circularity here that I see as a sort of renku wave that runs through all three of the autumn verses, expressing in different ways.  Back while I was thinking about the cornucopia verse as a choice for the #16 slot, I wondered if the origins of the motif had to do with the ancient Greek myth of Persephone. I googled, expecting to find it as an attribute of Demeter since she wasthe goddess of the harvest. To my surprise found that it’s usually Hades (Pluto), god of the underworld, who’s shown holding a cornucopia. It’s a reminder that seasonal progression isn’t one of beginning/middle/end.  Rather, it’s cyclical.  In autumn (fall), things return to the earth, and winter is the necessary cold spell that gives rise to Spring. This aha must have stayed with me because I see it also in a different expression in the moon verse, with the sticks taking root in a beaver dam, and here in the ageku where colored leaves tempt us to become children again ourselves. I think it’s a lovely way to bring this endeavor of ours to a close and I’m very glad that Mary managed to rejoin us at this last moment. Many thanks!



Two matters remain, a title, and a bit of light editing for variety and flow.

First, the matter of title. Traditionally, a renku’s title is taken from the hokku. In some of the modern forms tyou may see titles selected from phrases elsewhere in the poem, though the risk when that is done is that the title tends to identify and pose a theme on the poem. I tend to be a traditionalist and like titles taken from the hokku. The mental image I have is that the poem is like a long banner, affixed at the hokku to a flagpole so that the rest of the poem unfurls freely in the wind. I am, however, open to ideas. Please post your suggestions in the comments thread.

Second, edits: My own approach is to go lightly and preserve the individuality of authors’ voices. I have only one edit.  Verses 4 and 5 each have present participles in the first line (“opening my journal” and “the boy carrying”).  Repetition can be judicious but in this case I don’t think it adds anything.  Verse 5 can’t be changed without substantially altering the verse whereas in verse 4 a tweak would be easy.  I’d like to change it to “I open my journal”   The final version of the entire renku is thus:


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

I open 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

the full moon
passes over a beaver dam
crammed with roots
~Liz Ann Winkler

tempting piles
of crisp colored leaves
~Mary Kendall


Final thoughts from the sabaki:

From the beginning when twenty-six writers posted offers for the hokku, it was evident that many would not have verses placed in an 18 verse renku. A glance at the archives shows that this is the norm for Haiku Foundation renku, and I can only say that I am glad and grateful for everyone’s continued participation. It has been a pleasure and privilege writing with you. The experience has confirmed for me that renku is a kind of performance art, of which the final, formal renku is one part. The other part is the process of composing it:  the full range of verses offered, discussions and even banter between participants. In live sessions, this remains only in memory as everyone departs in the night. Fortunately, here at THF it’s all preserved in the archives, including a great many verses that were wonderful even if not selected.  So we don’t forget them, here are some that I will especially remember:


on the rusty gate
the honeysuckle blooms
one more time
~Marina Bellini

hiss and sizzle
as lava meets the sea
~Sally Biggar

steam rising
from the lamb
born too soon
~Marion Clarke

slinking past the crows
this snowy morning,
one red fox
~Marion Clarke

thoughts of infinity
between barber shop mirrors
~Simon Hanson

Mount Fuji
via Hokusai
~Vasile Moldovan

silk snow
my wet nurse
getting older
~Guliz Mutlu

spring blossom
for the first time cutting
my son’s nails
~Michael O’Brien

hazy moon
the migrant leans
on his shadow
~.Pravat Kumar Padhy

deep in hibernation
the groundhog dreams
of vegetables
~Chris Patchel

often now
Father doesn’t remember
who I am
~Chris Patchel

between cold walls
fragrance of cut grass
~Margherita Petriccione

slipping in and out of
a silk kimono
~Princess K

all but one page folded down
in a thrift store romance novel
~Jackie Maugh Robinson

her name glows
on his floating lantern
~Agnes Eva Savich

whiskey the same color
as decaying leaves
~Agnes Eva Savich

the kneeling priest
with cherry blossoms
on the soles of his shoes
~Andrew Shimield

it’s been 6 months
since his last confession
~Andrew Shimield

the puppy’s whole rump
wagging with joy
~Judt Shrode

an outdoor free library
always open
~Carmen Sterba

a pregnant doe shakes
rain off and moves on
Carmen Sterba

the twitch of the cat’s ear
as I practice
my Chinese
~Liz Ann Winkler


Registering your ideas for a title and any other last thoughts:

  • Use the ‘‘Leave a reply’ box down at the bottom of this thread to submit your offers.
  • Post your submissions before midnight Monday, 20 August, Eastern USA time.
  • There will be no new thread.  In closing the submissions window I’ll announce the selection of title and deliver the final finished renku to Dave Russo for inclusion in the archives.

Happy future renku writing, everyone!


This Post Has 43 Comments

  1. I’m a little late responding to everyone–school has started up again and I have had little time to sit and think about all your comments–but even though our wrapup thread has settled into the archives I’m hoping that all of you see my response.
    Many thanks to everyone who made suggestions for a title. All were truly interesting because they revealed your experience of both the poem and the collaborative experience that produced it, and that was gratifying for me.
    I am conservative enough that I will stick with the protocol of choosing a title from the hokku. As I began reading the comments I would have expected that the choice would be “A Row of Icicles”. Many thanks to Paul for a wonderful exegisis of the phrase. I do like the analogy of all of us to that row of icicles, dripping poetry.
    However, when I read Jackie’s and Polona’s suggestions for the third line, the eaves, I was immediately drawn to it. As I think of it, this symbolizes The Haiku Foundation as the roof that shelters this wonderful renku group. As you’re paused at the moment waiting for the next sabaki to step forward, I think it’s only appropriate to honor THF, the renku group’s host John Stevenson, and all of you who are regulars. The title will be Polona’s version:
    From the Eaves
    Many thanks for all the lovely comments here and those I’ve read over on Facebook. I’ll try to nip in now and then to see how you are doing.
    My best for a lovely, renku-filled autumn,

  2. I love how the whole renku turned out, and I appreciate the nod to a couple of my submitted verses. Always a pleasure to participate and to stretch one’s brain coming up with appropriate verse submissions. Congrats to all the poets involved. Looking forward to the next!

  3. Bouillabaisse means to boil and to simmer. When I googled the word, I found out that the traditional bouillabaisse is not just any fish soup. The fish is added to the broth one at a time and brought to the boil. After that it is left to simmer. When ready, the broth and fish are brought to the table separately but usually served together in large soup plates. This renku reminds me of cooking a bouillabaisse. There is a recipe (structure and flow) yet the outcome can vary, depending on the choice, quantity, and quality of fish as well as all the other ingredients. Sometimes it may taste a little better or different to other times but the whole should always be greater than the sum of its parts (like haiku). The title is not taken from the hokku but Bouillabaisse jumped to mind. As I only joined this renku towards the end, I hope you don’t mind my contribution. It’s fascinating.

  4. Thank you Mary, for your beautiful poem. My gratitude to Lind for appreciating my verse and archiving it along with other beautiful poems. I deeply appreciate her journey through a wonderful Renku Session. I congratulate all poets for their solemn participation to keep the lamp of poetry to spread the light of peace and friendship.

  5. Thank you all for contributing your poetry to the imachi. I have enjoyed reading and savouring all the verses. Such diversity, and so much beauty and ingenuity. Special thanks to Linda who was a wise sabaki who kept us focused on the journey and the collegiate nature of renku.

    1. I also meant to say congratulations to Mary for the autumn leaves, and as a title maybe ‘Cornucopia’.

  6. Congratulation Mary, for your beautiful poem. I feel humbled to see one of my verses selected in the splendid garland of Renku. I deeply appreciate the poetic session brilliantly led by Lind.

    With gratitude


  7. As springtime arrives with the warmth of sunshine to melt away icicles along the eaves, I’d like to offer these title suggestions:

    melt away

    along the eaves

    spring forward

  8. Yes Linda…another special renku journey. Each one you’ve led has been a challenge and a learning experience.
    I’ve so enjoyed the richness and creativity of all the contributions.
    Congratulations Mary. A perfect wrap party favor!

  9. Thank you Linda for your efforts in leading the imachi, and many thanks to all the poets who offered verses every week. I enjoyed reading everyone’s contributions, with the various approaches to linking, and I look forward to collaborating again soon.
    Regarding the title I would like to suggest something novel: “beestings”. When I type “imachi” into the google translate service, the phrase is automatically translated into English: milk. One of the definitions of milk is “To talk or write at length about (a particular point).” Beestings is defined as “The first milk secreted by a mammal, especially a cow, after parturition; colostrum.” I also like the double entendre of the words beestings vs. bee stings vs. beastings. In any case, the breast harbors our musical voice along with the seat of the affections and passions, the heart.

  10. Thank you, Linda! It has been great fun. I do appreciate your sabaki style…hope we have a chance to work with you again soon.
    And thanks, everyone, for the fascinating verses. It’s so interesting seeing what each of us comes up with. Hope to meet again soon in the next renku.

  11. Thank you, Linda. It has been a delightful Renku Session. This must be the first Imachi for most of the poets. I appreciate how much time you spent on preparations and your friendly tone.

  12. Thanks Linda for all your time and trouble in guiding us through this renku.
    A row of icicles is probably the best option from the hokku for a title.
    For some reason it makes me think of frozen raindrops on a washing line that are really our verses strung out in a row.
    However, I would also like to suggest ‘plat du jour’ which, to me, seems to describe what we have served up. Each verse being its own plat du jour.
    I hope we can all renku together again soon.

  13. Thank you, Linda and all the participants for an interesting and educational journey. A pleasure to have been part of it, for however limited time. I wish my head was clear enough to follow the renku more closely throughout but life presented me other challenges that required my attention.

    1. As for the title, “(A) Row of Icicles” is good if predictable.
      My first thought, however, was “From the Eaves”

  14. Congratulations Mary and all the contributors, selected or not. Everyone who showed up made the party what is was and is. And thank you, Linda, I really learned a lot. The traditional title is fine with me in this Renku as it offers a very strong image of impermanence and beauty. Hoping to show up with you fine people at the next Renku.

  15. Lovely finish Mary

    Thank you so much Linda, I have thoroughly enjoyed your selections and comments and found them highly instructive. My gratitude also to everyone who shared in the journey, I learned much from people’s thoughts and wonderings along the way and found the range of verses and poetic sensibilities within them most satisfying.

    all the best


  16. Congratulations, Mary! I love those leaves.


    Many thanks to you, Linda, for guiding us through this most
    enjoyable journey. It’s been a pleasure to be part of it. Your
    advice and observations have been greatly informative. A joy to work/play with you again.


    I also think for title: a row of icicles

    or maybe: around the birdbath


    peace and love

  17. Congratulations Mary a wonderful Verse.
    Thank you Linda and everyone that paticipated

  18. I would have loved to follow this from the beginning. I will go back to week one and read all the entries and comments. There is much to learn and enjoy. Congratulations to all the chosen poets.

  19. Linda and fellow poets of our communal poem,
    I suggest “a row of icicles” or just “row of icicles.” I thought at the time the hokku was nominated and selected about the multiplicity of icicles. Allusion here to we the group. And pushing it further, the dripping as we imagine and write following verses. In addition to a season and poetic content, hokku can stand out for giving allusion to our own procedure, following form and tradition, of composition of individual stanzas yet in service to the group. Link and shift with variety in all things.
    Christopher Herold has likened renku to a mandala which can expand in any and all directions. Without narrative we have leaped nimbly from apple blossoms to a school shooter; from a beach eroding to bouillabaisse! We have been through human love, all four seasons, and delved into verses about moon and blossom.
    I note for the record that our ageku is also about multiple things … but not necessarily a throwback to the hokku we began with. The invocation of childish joy of jumping on the leaf piles is wonderful. I did it, many of us in locations where leaves are raked did it too. But as an adult I can still find that old joy in this ageku.
    I thank our Guide for her insight and expertise. Also for her poetic artistry.
    Our merry band of poets gave wonderful diversity to the poem: artistic and geographic. I thank Linda and all of you. It has been an enjoyable process of composition to follow. Ahhh, poetry.

  20. Congratulation Mary, well done.
    It has been an pleasure and a worthwhile experience to read all the entries each week, and to see this session unfold. It has been a rollercoaster ride such an exciting journey and one I have enjoyed.
    Many thanks Linda for the experience and guidance. Much has been learnt from your commentaries over the past weeks.
    I’ve read you are a traditionalist when it comes to the title, but I’d like to suggest-
    for the scent of it
    Wakiku – Lorin Ford
    I think all who participated where on the scent to find words for the next verse, myself included, and no doubt we are touched in some way by the verses making up this session, and the personal thoughts as the Imachi unfolds.

  21. Well done on the selection of your ageku, Mary – those leaves were certainly inviting!

    Congratulations to all participants: this has been another wonderful renku experience thanks to Linda.

    Thank you Linda for leading us and for your great comments and help. With regards to a title, is there a limit on suggestions?


    1. On second thoughts and after reading Paul’s comments, “a row of icicles” seems appropriate. I had a few ideas based on your comments back when you selected the hokku, Linda, but on rereading today I don’t think any of these would improve using the first line as a title. Perhaps I’m more of a traditionalist than I thought!

  22. Dear Linda, what an unexpected and wonderful surprise to find one of my verses selected to complete this beautiful Renku. I really loved reading your thoughts on this offering. Your commentary here and throughout these many weeks has taught us all so much, which is half the joy in participating. The poets’ commentary throughout has, as always, been wonderful to follow. My warmest thanks to you for the honor of being included. Congratulations to all the excellent poets who participated. 🕊

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