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The Renku Sessions: Invitation



The Renku Sessions continue on The Haiku Foundation. I am Patricia Machmiller and I am honored to be your guide for an eighteen-verse renku, in which we will compose one verse per week until completion. A few people have asked which format we’ll be using; it will be the demikasen as documented by John Carley.

To quote John Stevenson: “Renku is a kind of game for poets, through which a collaborative poem is created. Succeeding verses are written by different contributors. Throughout the entire work, each new verse connects in some way with the one preceding it but with no others. A renku is not narrative in nature. Rather, it has been likened to traveling down a winding river, in which we know where we have been and which way we must turn to follow the river, but not yet where or in which direction we will have to turn next.”

I regard a renku session as a party for writers. As at any party, we gather to enjoy each other’s company, to socialize, to share ideas and opinions, gossip a little, eat, imbibe, grouse even, but in the end we want to leave the party upbeat with the desire to return again. The renku develops like a party. The first verse is written in homage to the place where it is written. The second is written acknowledging the guests arrival. The first four to six verses all have a feeling of decorum: as at the beginning of any party the talk is light and hot-button issues are avoided. In keeping with the small talk, we avoid using proper nouns in these verses. When the party warms up (this might be as early as verse five; it will definitely be by verse seven—we’ll see what develops), the verses will become less restrained and all topics will be entertained. The energy of the poem, as often conversations do, will build and ebb and build and ebb and build again until about verse 16 or 17. Verse 18 will bring the poem to a close; whether it will be a blow-out verse or a quiet denouement will depend on what has come before.

If you are new to renku, I would like to welcome you and to ask you to remember that this is a party and the most important thing is to have fun and enjoy the company and the process. And whether you are new to renku-writing or experienced, I look forward to meeting you through your writing.

Please submit verses for the starting verse (hokku). Imagine that you are a guest arriving at a party located where you are, and you want to make a memorable verse about it. Here are the requirements:

  • a three-line poem of seventeen syllables or less
  • an image that suggests winter (for poets in the northern hemisphere) or summer (for poets in the southern hemisphere)
  • a two-part structure – two different images, separated by punctuation (a comma, dash, ellipsis, etc.) or by a line break that clearly indicates a break in the syntax.

Please enter your verses in the comments box, below. I will be reviewing these offers until midnight on Tuesday, February 25 (California time zone). On Thursday, February 27, there will be a new posting containing my selection for our opening verse, some discussion of other appreciated verses, and instructions for composing the second verse.

I look forward to seeing your offers! And thank you, John, for your help in making this whole thing work.


This Post Has 232 Comments

  1. Patricia,
    What a lovely welcome and introduction! It is so nice to meet you.
    Being late to the party (as usual), I’ve lumped my offerings in one message. I hope that is ok.
    winter night—
    burrowing toads
    deep in mud & lotus seed
    broken ice
    on the river –
    winter begins to stir

    winter light—
    so much flutter & chatter
    around the feeder
    swooping in
    swooping out –
    winter fog
    January thaw—
    an over-eager daffodil
    pushes its way up
    young cardinals swoop
    red on red on red
    morning light—
    the tinkle of icicles
    grows louder
    the wild wind’s
    last brief fling . . .
    snow drift
    snow day—
    a crackle of fire
    in our stories
    first in flight . . .
    snow balls
    go where they may

    1. January thaw—
      an over-eager daffodil
      pushes its way up
      -Mary Kendall
      I like the allusion the daffodil could represent in this verse to, budding poets.
      When we set out there’s that wonderful eagerness to bloom.
      And such a delight full display we have here, in these sessions.

      1. Carol, well said! I’ve been enjoying reading all the comments from one poet to another. Such great spirit and feeling of community. Thanks for your insight!

        1. Thankyou for you lovely reply Mary, it’s a delightful verse, and so close to our St David’s Day celebration, wish I’d thought of it 🙂

  2. *
    fire in the hearth
    watching the light
    tell ancient stories
    snow etched branches
    gesturing in the wind –
    fresh flowers on the table

  3. Thanks for your introduction, Patricia

    a bare branch
    scribbles the moon-
    white sheet

    first warmth-
    winter flies away
    from clothes hanging
    the winter wind
    is moving a cloud –
    plum blossoms

    1. Chris, this brought back childhood memories of tobogganing with my family. The anticipation, the breathlessness of excitement and the rush downhill–often broken by all of us tumbling out but ready to do it again. Well captured–I like this verse!

  4. cold, cold, colder
    playing hide & go seek
    without a scarf
    in the freezing rain
    a cardinal rests
    on some general’s statue

      1. That maybe so, Dan, but within your verses, you have such vivid imagery and emotion.
        Have you ever tried your hand at prose poetry?

        1. dear carol, thanks for the kind words and suggestion, writing prose poetry would be an interesting new form to learn.

          1. I think you’d be good at it.

            If you ever decide to give it a go, this book could help you to get motivated-
            35 Tips for Writing Powerful Prose poems
            —Kaye Linden

            I bought this last year and find it an inspiring read.
            (other books are available)

  5. Thanks for the valuable introduction Patricia

    late winter sky –
    the first gems we are
    on the thorny branch

    warm towels
    and a tangerine punch …
    the first guest

    a dress
    of past elegance …
    swollen branches

  6. only huskies
    call frost
    a quilt
    thank you Lord
    for hot chocolate and
    insulated jockstraps

    1. your first one ….i like how it shows relativity.

      your second one…thank you dan, for showing me the ways hot chocolate can warm so many things.
      i never thought of pouring it down into the lining of a jockstrap.
      it’s a sure bet to get my husband’s horses moving in the morning.

        1. your’s “is” funny, dan….my humour is strangely sic and requires an acquired taste.

  7. Welcome Patricia!
    what chinook winds know
    the call of the loon
    loon loon
    the earmark
    of a short story
    a whiff of 1967
    12 bimoraic feet
    airing an old diary
    how it blows! the withering wind
    trifling the ringlets
    from a pipeful of um

  8. talk of snow
    a flurry of activity
    in the bread aisle


    ice on the pines
    a letter to santa
    never sent


    in and out of a dream

    1. Dan and I must’ve attended the same party. Sorry to bring down the mood. I’ll go back under my rock.

  9. *
    The wind blows softly
    As the snow trickles down.
    Winter begins now
    Please consider having a children’s haiku compotition.

    1. Hi The mystery child

      This is a renku session, maybe your request would be better posted in the, Haiku Dialogue, section.
      No doubt there is a budding young population of haiku poets, as you will find if you care to read the introduction, there.
      A competition relates to a gratuity of some sort, surely the taking part should be the main aim of the child’s experience.
      I do hope others will consider this request.

    2. mystery child, your poem below is beautiful, and could qualify as both hokku and haiku, imo, it would stand up well with any adult entry (we are all mystery children in this universe…and poetry is best coming from the innocent heart/ pure vision and soul of a child. some adults, may have forgotten that state of mind, living in the now..that you for your important example …i would publish this in a heartbeat! and be happy having it picked as our hokku for this renku:

      The wind blows softly
      As the snow trickles down.
      Winter begins now

        1. Something I’ve wondered. Is there an age minimum here and on the haiku dialogue? I’ve seen some editors note the child’s age when it is from a child.

          1. good question debbie.
            i don’t practice ageism or any form of discrimination. perhaps just parent’s permission or other person responsible for child… might be required.

  10. *
    leash lit and coats on. . .
    a dog and his human
    walk into winter
    so many shades of grey
    in the sky and sea. . .
    lights on the pier beckon
    Excited to be back in the game. Thank you to all who make this possible.

  11. Windmills whirling
    in the wind, frozen canals, underground,
    tulip bulbs are humming
    Lost male geese
    never land to ask
    for directions

    1. nice one, robert….like the ‘g’ repeat and “umbrellaless” word! the la-la-le sounds like what the gossip might sound like.

  12. Conch sunset
    The blower brings
    Extra blankets
    Cold sandy toes
    Out at the docks edge
    A conch blower
    Conch blower
    We gather to light
    This year’s hopes

  13. Welcome Patricia, and thank you for hosting the new session.
    at the front door
    she stomps the snow
    from her boots

      1. Thank you Wendy and Robert. It came to me on my work commute. Why I keep notebooks in the car, purse, etc etc or the words escape me. It would be fun to have everyone tell how/where/on what they write sometime!

  14. february chill
    daffodils bob up and down
    in the cold breeze
    winter gathering
    a mass of snowdrops
    round the bare tree

  15. glowing evites
    in the fresh snow
    traces of fallen snow
    in the glowing faces
    evite aglow
    a few snowflakes
    in the digital design

    1. a rooster rushing his crows! that is a fantastic image, dan !!!!!
      that made my day! thank you, thank you! love it!!!!!

        1. so nice to hear that dan….it should hold me threw the next eight months.
          and you writing inspires me…as well!

  16. “The Write People”
    in from the cold for
    a heated soiree

    The Write People ; a group of local writers, to which I belong meet monthly here in the nation’s oldest city +; Saint Augustine Florida

    1. cool group name and poem…michael!

      who thought of the title?
      reminds me:
      i used to head a group….i coined….
      “The Writer’s Block Co-oP” many moons ago.
      to encourage writers to write more.

      and when i sang and played folk music in a small group, from my high school days, i was asked right before we got on stage to perform….to come up with a name for our group so we could be formerly introduced…at the ny pavilion at the ny state fair….
      i said on the spot…we were….”The Folk Hues”…..our performance was delayed….as we were told to pick another name…..i changed it to “The Folkniks”! months later, to my surprise, i received in the snail mail of the sixties…a certificate of appreciation, for “The Folkniks” in calligraphy…and it was signed by the ny governor rockefeller.

      do you now, reside in fl.?

      1. I think the name was a collaborative effort that was made before I was invited to become a member. Of course you know what Groucho Marx said about clubs.
        Any way, another small group I did have a part in naming is The Coquina Haiku Circle. Coquina is a rock peculiar to the state of Florida ( which is peculiar in and of itself ) where I have been residing for the last 16 years. So California the previous 22 and KC MO the first 30
        HOW ABOUT THOSE CHIEEEEFFFS? Love the Folk Hues and the Folkniks great names. So do you still play and sing. Music makes the world go round

        1. i appreciate how active and involved you are in your community…and how you stand loyal to your sport team.
          currently, a class act singing lullabies “with” my shih tzu, kara …every night….it is quite effective in putting her sister, a chi, mesa and my husband to sleep.
          interesting rock of shells…the name is beautiful.
          here in az we have the red rock you probably know about.

  17. snow break—traveling
    loops of wisteria vine
    chattering sparrows

    *a scene i photographed out back my bay window

    1. This brought back a lovely memory for me of walking through a wisteria walk in a local park where I lived years ago. Dead of winter and a cold, wet day. The ‘loops of wisteria vine’ were hanging down in the distance; bare and dripping! And as I went along the sparrows, taking turns in little groupings, flitted ahead of me . ‘Traveling’ just as you wrote. I think that particular wisteria memory might have remained buried among others without this haiku. Thank you.

      1. wow, fern, thank you for sharing your memories about these loops of wisteria vine and how you also saw the sparrows who seem to love traveling on them….glad my poem could bring this back for you.
        i must admit to feeling privileged as this scene is directly outside the window where i am always washing dishes. sometimes, i look for things to wash just so i can be there….it makes me so happy.

  18. all hands on deck
    we scoop out
    the snowman’s body
    last one out
    snow balls
    pepper the house
    out of the snow
    the dog shakes off
    it’s halo
    fresh snow
    each car harbours
    its own galaxy
    Thank you Autumn for mentioning you had reread the criteria for the opening verse.
    scatter gun
    I too set off
    on the wrong path

    1. Hi, Robert!
      Nice to have company on “the road less travelled.” ; ) Hard not to get mired in the seriousness of the reality show we’re all living at the moment–even the word “party” has less-than-fun connotations these days!
      I like your scattergun verse a lot, as well as the image of snow balls peppering the house! Seems to me the “wrong path” yielded some very “right” poetry!
      some balls just to tiny
      for the dog to fetch

    1. Hello–I didn’t want to have too many rules for writing in the beginning, but perhaps I should have mentioned this: in the renku blossom verses and moon verses are very important and have designated places. I will tell you when to write about the moon or blossoms (I see some lovely verses about snowdrops). So, for now, try to write on other, generally upbeat subjects.

  19. A couple more ideas:
    shots of bourbon
    a few trees also downed
    in the ice storm
    an ice storm
    trees downed
    with bourbon
    a dinner blessing:
    the sound of snow
    melting into gutters

  20. Verse 1:

    shimmering heat–
    once-drowsy cows
    push through the dairy door

    Verse 2:

    clouds of mosquitos–
    on the verandah
    we prepare the feast

    Verse 3:

    evening downpour–
    we fill our champagne glasses
    with clean water

    1. pauline….these are terrific! please don’t stop at three!

      i thought i could be the only one that uses wine glasses for water/ an other beverages….we don’t do the “a” stuff here.

      1. Thank you, Wendy, for your kind words! I will try to write more.

        After the drought and bushfires here in Cobargo, and many other parts of Australia, water is more precious than wine. After the fires we had wonderful rain but our water supply dam is heavily polluted with ash and debris so clean water is being trucked in to our area at a cost of AUD30,000 per day.

        1. i knew it was bad news even after the fires….but…(and thank you for sharing this with me)….i didn’t know that it compromised your drinking water, too! had a feeling that glass of water was more special in your poem. now i know why! Thanks again for sharing pauline….please write more…i value hearing from you and all the others from down under…who are affected and impacted by any of the environmental, physical/ and mental disasters that are causing chaos there as well as through-out this world.

    1. warm winter
      among friends
      no ice to break
      — Laurie Greer
      This is great, the pivot of the second line gives your meaning that extra emotion of being with friends.

      1. Thanks, Carol!
        It is great to be back at this, and I love seeing your various drafts and reconsiderations–this is all about process, and every haiku has dozens of ways it could go. Wonderful collegiality!

          1. Thankyou, Laurie.
            I totally agree with your use of ‘collegiality’
            It is good to be back at this, for me, it takes me away from the stress of work, and places me in a good place as it makes think of other things, yes, a good place indeed 🙂

    1. 🙂 🙂
      Please knock
      if our igloo’s
      — Dan Campbell

      words fail me, Dan, you just got to smile at this one.

  21. Dear Patricia,
    Thank you so much for donating your time and energy to leading all of us in another renku session! As a Northern Hemisphere mountain-dweller, the opportunity to join in the creative fun and stretch my haiku muscles helps immensely in getting through these dark, snow-packed winter days…This is me raising my mug of hot cocoa to you!
    Here are my first-ever attempts at a Hokku verse:
    a trickling whisper
    under the ice
    freezing fog
    crystalizing the cold truth. . .
    (Mini-Mental State Exam, a diagnostic tool commonly used for assessing Alzheimer’s)
    a lost mitten beckons
    this way . . .
    scraping by
    the snowplow pushes
    her worries aside
    siren call
    colored lights reflecting
    black ice
    So looking forward to playing along and watching another renku unfold!

    1. Just re-read the criteria and realized that MMSE would probably be construed as a proper noun, not to mention too heavy a topic for the opening verse. I’d originally written just:
      freezing fog
      the cold truth
      I probably took the “place where it is written” less literally than it was intended–we find ourselves at a place where cold truths (such as more frequent occurrences of diseases associated with aging–a winter topic) are part of our daily lives. Nonetheless, this does not reflect my literal “place.”
      The remaining attempts (while still perhaps too serious) are a better capture of my actual mountain surrounds.
      Can you tell I don’t throw many parties…? 😀 Impassible roads don’t help…

      1. oh autumn,

        regardless of what is/or isn’t appropriate for hokku…i just want to say how much i love your writing and mostly this one:
        scraping by
        the snowplow pushes
        her worries aside

        i also want to say….that when we were house hunting our agent told us it didn’t snow in Colorado (and he lived by the pike’s the springs) he showed us properties up many mountains while were in the warm months…..we could have been neighbors….but i worried about how travel might be problematic and if we needed to get to hospital quickly, etc. so i stopped looking at more mountain property…though i did so fall in love with the view and feeling i had being surrounded by that nature.
        so i really understand how isolating that must be for you and your family. write your heart out, dear….it is perfect beauty to me.

          1. Thanks so much Wendy! I got a big kick out of Pike’s Peek, btw. That realtor was full of…optimism? It most definitely snows here—by the bucketload! This winter has been unusual, in that we’ve not had the sunshine that generally melts off the accumulation within a day or so. Even when the sun has made some headway, a new snowfall has taken the place of the old almost immediately. So the joke about wearing shorts in Colorado in February has not held true this year. Just this morning, our phones blared a:
            Snow squall warning
            How’s that for poetic? Loved it so much, I’m borrowing:
            snow squall
            the beignet
            Lessez les bond temps roulez!

    1. love this! betty.
      i never had fugu this way! is it steamed, raw, pickled?

      when i was little my brother and his wife took me fishing on there boat, in long island, ny and we caught blowfish and that became dinner when we got home.
      they breaded it and fried it….it tasted like chicken tenders though more delicate in flavour and more moist in texture. i loved it!


      1. Hi Wendy! Cool that you’ve eaten a blowfish! The dish I mentioned is ‘sashimi’ style…thinly sliced raw pieces cut with very thin knives such that they appear translucent when arranged on a platter. And no, I’ve never tried this winter delicacy. 🐡

        1. betty…my bro was in japan as a soldier, perhaps he learned the art of cleaning them there…but at the time….i was not aware how unique this experience was…(or risky) as a whole, my family has always delighted in new cultural experiences, learning new foods, techniques of preps and experimental recipes was the norm.
          yes i know sashimi style….as in sushi dishes
          having fugu raw….i wonder if it would increase the chance of getting toxins… raw, then placing it on a lazy susan…a kind of russian roulette wheel?????

          1. I leave it up to you to wonder. That’s all part of the fun…others may imagine something totally different. 🙂

  22. Sunlit
    Day, icicles


    nest, sprinkled
    with snowflakes


    love my
    mother in law
    ‘s fireplace

  23. welcome, Patricia!
    looking forward to this party.

    cold sun
    mallard pairs gather
    at the edge of ice

  24. Thankyou Patricia. I look forward to our journey.

    Herewith, my offers:

    backyard barbie*
    mosquitoes will not
    deter our fun

    * Australian barbeque BBQ


    after this long drought
    a welcome downpour
    for the green frog


    at the entrance
    a green frog croaks
    on the welcome mat


    waterless for months
    yet now the garden blooms
    with myriad colours

  25. almost spring
    my to do list
    longer than hers
    not yet spring
    will honey taste the same?
    wilting daffodils
    knee deep in water
    a few private words
    with the lord
    my Aussie friends fight
    the dragons breath

    1. knee deep in water
      a few private words
      with the lord
      — Robert Kingston
      🙂 🙂 :O
      I’ve had a few choice words to say myself, its a wonder I haven’t be struck down by lightening.

      1. Fortunate to live on a hill. Feeling the pain of those wide and far. I hope you are coping okay, not sure where you are, but Pontypridd sounds bad.

        1. Not far from Ponty, Robert, it was awful to see this place flooded, but the people are back there going about their business, which is the way of things.
          Pony-y-pridd, means, ‘beautiful bridge’ I was hoping the flood would wash away the carbuncle they have built the other side of it, definitely not in keeping with the valley environment.
          Being on a hill has its advantages, but we too are prone to flooding, we know what’s coming so our drainage is more than cleared, and the water runs into our own fields, which are now saturated.
          I too feel for the people who have flooded homes, I maybe wet and wind-blown, but at the end of the day, I have a dry home to come back to.

  26. harsh winter . . .
    the prostitute becomes
    a Buddha

    winter journey . . .
    each fallen leaf returns
    to itself

    winter path . . .
    I walk through the shapeless
    sound of my breath

    along this path
    you become my eyes . . .
    winter horse

    winter dragon . . .
    your talons clutch
    bygone dreams

    winter beach . . .
    my feet touched
    by ocean song

  27. ready for slalom,
    the young skiers waiting
    for the signal


    skiers so lovely-
    only the snowman seems
    a little tired

  28. southern hemisphere attempt as follows:

    February heat –
    rivulets down the skin
    of the lotus eaters
    garden candelabra
    on the kitchen bench
    February drizzle
    dancers doing
    the wallflower –
    melting moon

    1. mid winter blues
      we let them drift
      with the snowflakes
      — Wendy C. Bialek
      Delicate words, has the felling of ‘letting go’ as always it is up to the reader to decide, could be
      in this instance our thoughts that take us as the ‘snowflakes’ suggest to many and varied places a we compose our verses, and diverts us away for life’s toil.
      So gentle, a lovely read.

  29. growing pains
    the moan of new ice
    on the river
    blizzard warning
    crowds storm
    the baking aisle

  30. dawn arrives
    in paler colors . . .
    first snow
    bright rays bend
    through a dozen prisms —
    Full Snow Moon
    black lines
    trace the bottoms of branches —
    first snow
    winter white —
    the morrior’s pristine
    no-fly zone
    in the midst
    of a cloud-ringed halo . . .
    Full Cold Moon

      1. If I was to pick one, it would be this one.
        Enjoyed the imagery in all Elaine. Nice work.

  31. ice-coated trees
    they bring out
    the best crystal

    hostess gift
    wrapped in tissue paper
    a dusting of snow
    talk of snow
    a brief flurry
    of excitement

    1. I’d be more than happy at a part such as this.
      I can just see everyone’s eyes looking towards the shift of the coals, very atmospheric 🙂

    1. in marion’s
      wintry night . . .
      drawn to the tavern
      with winking candles

      i see many taverns along the road
      but the one with the winking candles
      draws her in.

      1. is there a silent “the” between “with” and “winking” on L3 ?

        and has marion picked the “w” sound to resonate?

    2. I like this version. With, winking and wintry. And there is something a little flirtatious in winking!

  32. -5 in Belfast
    moving slow
    the gulls ain’t flying
    cooking rice
    windows fogged
    privacy from the cold world
    slack tide
    stillness binds slush
    thickens around the harbor

  33. fresh snow
    fox tracks lead
    up the mountain


    below zero
    offshore islands
    veiled by sea smoke

    putting out peanuts
    for the blue jays

    Looking forward to this, Patricia! Thank you.

  34. mulled wine
    the stir
    of winter shadows
    mulled cider
    warm mugs
    around the fire
    house lights low
    we stay up late
    telling winter’s tales

    1. Lorin, it doesn’t take much thought to appreciate the sincerity of the words you have posted within both your verses.
      Take care x

    1. 🙂 Micheal,.. this is exactly what I see on the ABC news channel program, “Planet America”. 🙂

  35. Good Morning Patricia! Let’s get this party started
    in the cloak room
    our dog has a hay day
    sniffing goulashes

  36. soft snow
    queues lengthen
    at the soup kitchen
    icy road
    a wave from a fellow
    food bank user
    man made logs
    a new law
    to protect the world

  37. How exciting this new journey is, especially with a new sabaki!

    There are a lot more northern than southern hemisphere poets, however, so there will be a lot more snowy scenes than otherwise, I imagine. I will be working on some hot summer haiku though today in my part of Australia it is cloudy and cool.


    1. correction:

      blinding sleet
      daikon in my fugu broth
      a snowwoman’s nose

      *daikon: long white radish looks like a carrot

  38. Hi Patricia, thank you for the introduction and invitation.

    Wearing my
    scarecrow’s hat –
    silly snowman

  39. It’s going to be another fun ride. Already a few familiar faces and hopefully some new ones throughout these eighteen weeks. Thanks for hosting, Patricia! Here are a few of my early week thoughts. Food and snow come to mind. I wouldn’t eat it, but It’s wise to be extra kind to the person preparing your fugu lol
    carrying a bag
    of groceries
    the first snowflakes
    in the window
    a candle
    snow falling
    bowing graciously
    she makes the best
    pufferfish stew

        1. I see the play on blowfish there with blowing snow? Very smart! lol…I think that something like this could also imply that sneakily (a collaboration to start all the collaboration? I like it!):
          snow blowing
          the fugu soup
          makes us stronger
          and an unrelated hokku coming to my mind today:
          a deep snow
          the goldendoodle
          eager to greet us

  40. hi… patricia m.
    love your invitation to the party:

    crock of soup
    our frozen shadows
    on the doorsteps

  41. Patricia–a warm welcome! Enjoyed your intro very much and am ready to leap right in:
    crackle of pine logs
    fireplace flames leap
    to greet the guests

  42. Hi Patricia
    Thank you for a great introduction.
    river boat trip
    an unknown guest dribbles
    through the window

  43. Hello, and welcome, Patricia.
    Lovely introduction, I particularly like the way you have likened the renku session to ‘travelling down a winding river’
    morning snow
    the village hall
    full of merriment

  44. Thank you for such a wonderful introduction, Patricia! I look forward to participating immensely.

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