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The Renku Sessions: Junicho, the ageku chosen


I’m Sandra Simpson, and I have served as your guide through the composition of this 12-verse junicho.

So here we are. The final verses submitted and one chosen (with luck I wasn’t blindfolded!). You have all done very well again – so just as we are finishing I think, by jove, you’re getting it. Do try and find a renku writing site on the ‘net, there are at least two, or keep writing with a couple of buddies. The best way to get better at this form of poetry is to keep your muscles trim. Thank you too, to the poets who have stayed the distance – your continued support has been appreciated.

Thanks to Samar Ghose who for this spot offered a one-line verse – there’s no reason why we couldn’t have such a verse, junicho is a bit more flexible than some of the other forms; Gabriel Sawicki posted a pungent scent verse (chestnuts); Carlos Colon was looking at renku as a martial art; and the metaphors for poets and our poetical journey were as varied as they were autumnal.

so many apples
still on the ground

– Liz Ann Winkler

morning sunshine on
pillars of the banyan tree

– Kala Ramesh

a moment’s pause
in the float of a leaf

– Phil Allen

thrush song
as leaves drift into dusk

– Judt Shrode

over the sprouting wheat
the first autumn rain

– Vasile Moldovan

Chosen for the ageku is:

one last circle dance
before the lights go out

– Barbara A Taylor

Here we have music, movement … and melancholy. Barbara is offering a farewell to our group endeavour as, like all good things, the junicho has come to an end and the ageku was our “last dance”. If you’re so inclined to read it this way, there also is a “nice circularity” in being brought back “full circle” to those feet cooling off in the river.

Now the ageku has been chosen I would like to hear what readers have to say – and please don’t think you have to be a chosen poet to participate in the process of comment and revision. All are welcome. You are also allowed to say what you like about the poem as well as where you think any weak points might be. Please be polite with any criticism, but on the other hand also be honest. I have chosen a title and that may also be commented upon.

Distant melody

cooling off –
our feet in the river
with the ducks

– Lorin Ford

the distant melody
of an ice-cream truck

– Maria Tomczak

paper planes
by the window
ready for his bag

– Sanjuktaa Asopa

welcome to Gaza
from Banksy and friends

– Betty Shropshire

somewhere a missing key
among sprouts
of green grass

– Maureen Virchau

and a pot of daffodils
at the end of the rainbow

– Marion Clarke

on re-entry
the cosmonaut inhales
the scent of her body

– Patrick Sweeney

his pride tied to the bedpost
with her thermal undies

– Karen Cesar

I hear the nuns
roaring over Seinfeld’s
show about nothing

– Marilyn Potter

clinking single malts
on the balcony

– Paul MacNeil

halfway across the world
a skein of clouds halfway
across the moon

– Michael Henry Lee

one last circle dance
before the lights go out

– Barbara A Taylor

This Post Has 20 Comments

  1. Thank you, Sandra, for your leadership. It’s been a fun experience with a very nice result, and a lot to take from these sessions.

  2. Sandra, thanks for that amazing experience. As a novice I learned a lot. It was pleasure to participate.
    “Distant melody” is perfect! None of my verse was choosen but I’m happy I was part of the team.
    Thanks to all participants.

  3. Sandra,

    An enjoyable renku. Thank you so much for leading it and thank you too to all the participants.

    _/\_ Karen

  4. Paul’s note about sharing this art form “worldwide” has prompted me to try and list the home countries of the poets whose work appears:
    Australia – Lorin Ford
    Poland – Maria Tomczak
    India – Sanjuktaa Asopa
    United States – Betty Shorpshire
    United States – Maureen Virchau
    Northern Ireland (UK) – Marion Clarke
    Japan – Patrick Sweeney
    United States – Karen Cesar
    Canada – Marilyn Potter
    United States – Paul MacNeil
    United States – Michael Henry Lee
    Australia – Barbara A Taylor
    And your sabaki is resident in New Zealand.
    If I have any of the above wrong (I have used Google here and there), please let me know and I’ll correct it.
    All the best,

    1. That’s an impressive list, Sandra! Thank you so much for leading this Junicho – I have learned a lot. It was my second time participating in a renku (the first was John Stevenson’s Pilgrims’ Progress, also here on THF) and I have thoroughly enjoyed it. The fact that you chose my rainbow verse was the icing on the cake!

      I love Barbara’s ‘one last circle dance’ – it is so fitting.

      Strangely enough, I’ve just been mentioning your Junicho to Michael Dylan Welsh over on NaHaiWriMo as we were talking about he merits of using prompts to write haiku and I’ve no doubt my practice over on that site is valuable when participating in a renku. 🙂

      Thank you.


  5. A wonderful circle ageku ending to our Junico!

    Thank you, Sandra, for your excellent teaching, and for leading us through each verse and on to the next. As a novice, I learned so much, and felt very honoured to have one of my verses chosen.

    And It was such fun to participate . . . each week looking forward to all the creative submissions, the valuable comments, . . . and the next challenge!

  6. g’day Sandra,

    The poem reads very well. I’m thrilled to be part of Distant Melody. Thank you for your succinct guidance and summary throughout. My thanks to all for your kind comments. It was a pleasure to be part of this renku. It’s been an interesting journey…

    Peace and Love

  7. Lovely linking, Barbara, and a great ageku to conclude the poem. Congratulations!
    Sandra, thank you for for being sabaki and giving such clear guidelines as to what would be expected for each new verse and also your thoughtful ‘wrap-ups’ after the selection of each verse. ‘Distant melody’ seems to me to be an excellent junicho renku and the junicho seems to me to be the ideal length for an online collaboration.

    I’ve enjoyed following the progress of ‘Distant melody’, reading all of the verses offered and looking forward to see the selected verse & mentions each week. I feel privileged to have been present for the making of this poem and of course, honored and delighted to have ‘feet & ducks’ chosen as hokku.
    Well done, Sandra and everyone who participated! 🙂

    – Lorin

  8. Thank you, Sandra, and to all the poets who contributed. Special thanks and congratulations to the ones whose verses were chosen. In those cases, Sandra’s interpretations taught me so much.
    My comments would pretty much echo those of Liz Ann Winkler, except that I often realized the problem moments AFTER sending.
    As a first-timer with no thought of being chosen, I nevertheless looked forward with great anticipation to the next challenge; I’ll surely miss that.
    I love the poem and the title. Congratulations, Barbara, on the ageku. The circle image worked wonderfully in all respects. It certainly does bring back memories, which adds even more to the summary aspect.


  9. Love the ageku (my choice, too) and the title.
    Thank you for the opportunity to participate in this collaborative poem. I was not familiar with the art and have learned so much. Not just from Sandra, who has been a wonderful teacher, but also from the comments and references of others. I found the challenge to be very stimulating – noting a greater freedom in some aspects (relative to haiku) along with the many restrictions which I love. So often I had crafted something and found the “problem” moments before clicking the post button. I started out puzzled by the choices but less so as it developed and in the end, think they were all excellent. Even though none of my offerings were chosen I still feel a sense of “ownership through engagement”. I am grateful that a few of my offerings got some consideration; they offer me encouragement to join in again.
    Thank you Sandra and all who participated. I look forward to sharing this art form with you again.
    Liz Ann

  10. Congrats, Barbara! I very much agree with Sandra’s commentary. Your verse also marvelously echoes the spheres in the previous one.
    Thank you very much for all your time and consideration, Sandra. You are such a thoughtful, generous and personable sabaki, and I have learned a lot through your commentary. I am very impressed with your skills as an editor and especially so with your delicate handling of Michael Henry Lee’s beautiful verse in replacing “geese” with “clouds” so that it could be included in the renku. I enjoy your addition of “and” to Marion’s delightful verse, and your inventive embedding of a link within Betty’s inspiring verse is just wonderful.
    I appreciate the title as it encompasses both Maria’s lovely verse and the ageku. It also calls to mind all the memories we tap into with both the writing and reading of renku.
    The variety of life contained with these twelve verses is remarkable. I am fascinated with all the links and shifts throughout.
    Wishing everyone peace & happiness,

  11. Dear Sandra and all,

    Wonderful ageku in keeping with the “kyu” aspect of concluding our shared event. Subtly done Barbara. I like the link to the shape and the round-and-round [of clouds around the world].

    Very nicely chosen Dear Leader. I very much enjoyed following every verse, and do like the title.

    Renku is fun and should be to all of the “players.” I think a whole renku is a poem. Art, capital A.
    It is such a nonWestern-Literature form. Communal creation. We had accepted poets and submitters from all over the world, so I cannot be sure someone didn’t have communal Art in their own culture. But, most English-language poets didn’t develop their poetry that way. Even haiku poets.

    Renku is joint celebration of language, image, and the rules. An ancient tradition that is to be celebrated. It is fun every time to share that past. From translation, one can read the actual words of old Master Basho and his groups. Basho died in 1694 four-plus centuries ago — for context, Shakespeare died in 1616. And renga existed long before Basho’s contributions. We nowadays have updated our topics and adapted to our cultures in this century. We have used truck, cosmonaut, and Seinfeld. Didn’t exist in the 17th Century. Yet, there were actors in plays, puppet shows, travelers, nuns. The toast would have been sake, and ducks and feet in the river are timeless. The same parallel exists to our ageku. Verse #2 could have been the tinkling sounds of a vendor’s cart, knife sharpener, spice grinder, etc. #3 — certainly poets wrote about toys and kites in ancient Japan. Next — might have been a verse about sprouting grass or rice. There were studio artists back then and itinerate teachers and other kinds of performers. Basho studied with an artist, and Buson was both a painter and haikuist. Our love verse? . . . well . . . According to the Tale of Genji, 11th C. novel full of 5 line poems [waka], there was a lot of sex at the Court. Tying to bedposts? maybe. Moon, flowers, and rainbows are timeless.

    Ours is still the renku that was then referred to as renga, Classic Renga. The term “renku” is what is used in Japan today … and it is a pleasure to share in this worldwide Art.

    Thanks to all. – Paul

  12. I think it’s a lovely poem and the verses are chosen with great care.
    Congratulations, Sandra.

  13. I don’t know too much about renku to offer any criticism. But this junicho reads awesome and the verse selections, especially the last two, have been fantastic! Congrats to all the poets and thanks so much to you, Sandra! This has been a great experience!

  14. I love this junicho and I’m honored that my verse is a part of it.
    The links between verses are great.
    My favourite part is ageku. Congratulations Barbara!
    Thank you for that experience.
    I hope for more 🙂

  15. I thoroughly enjoyed every aspect, Have so much more to learn.
    Thanks Sandra! For what it’s worth I think the poem is great,
    however that’s from an aesthetic rather than any formal knowledge
    of structure.

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