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The Renku Sessions: Junicho – verse #5


I’m Sandra Simpson, and I will serve as your guide as we compose a 12-verse junicho (june-ee-cho, as in choke).

Thank you to Betty and Polona for querying the similarity between the hokku and daisan. If there is a fault here – and the ensuing discussion was illuminating for everyone – it belongs to me, not the author of the daisan. Lorin suggested the repetition of “off” (I was clearly having an off day when I chose the verse) could be solved by an edit to the daisan, which I have now done. I believe the edit may also remove a degree of the perceived closeness.

Thank you Sanjuktaa, for your patience and helpful attitude as the discussion has taken place.

Thank you too, to all the poets who contributed offerings for verse #4, there were some really strong contenders, among them:

on a map of the world
you are here

– I shiflett

in a library no one expects
you to be anything but quiet

– joel

behind the photographer
we crane our necks

– Peg Duthie

selfie after selfie
ad nauseum

– Barbara A Taylor

a star without name
leaves the Milky Way

– Vasile Moldovan

closing the atlas
he suspends his journey

– Gabriel Sawcki

Chosen for verse #4 is:

welcome to Gaza
from Banksy and friends

– Betty Shropshire

I have been reading Beyond the Haiku Moment by Dr Haruo Shirane, which reminded me that each two verses in a renku may be read as a pair, and I think verses 3 and 4 manage that.

There has also been mention that I am not as fulsome in my explanations of why a verse has been chosen as the estimable John Stevenson was in the kasen. Partly this is because I am not as erudite as John! But also because I want you to try pushing your minds into the corners of each poem and seeing what you can find.

However, with this verse I will explain some of what I see.

The link is a barrier (the window and the “security barrier” between Gaza and Israel), the planes (see the opening shots of the video) and a loose notion of art media – paper and walls. I have embedded a link to Banksy’s ironic travel video in Betty’s verse, thus making this (possibly) the world’s first multi-media renku!

English street artist Banksy is renowned for his subversive approach to Art (deliberate use of capital letter), preferring to create on street walls using spray paint and stencils. That his work now commands high prices by those who chisel it out (steal it?), is maybe another part of his joke. He had a street vendor in New York sell original works on canvas for $US60 – and filmed it. The stall was authenticated by Banksy a day later and the couple of people who had parted with their cash suddenly owned valuable works of art (1000 times more valuable).

We are in the ha phase of our poem, a set of verses where we can be subversive, so Banksy is a good metaphor for what we are doing – and it’s also the place where we can begin to use proper nouns and introduce “tougher” topics. Banksy’s commentaries on modern life and politics vary from piquant and pithy to sarcastic and stroppy.

The topicality of the verse also appealed – Banksy is in Palestine or has been there this week (as no one knows who he is, his movements are known only when he wants them known), creating wall art to comment on the plight of the “locked in” Palestinians.

If you haven’t already seen it, and you want to know more about Banksy’s work, try and find a copy of the DVD Exit Through the Gift Shop.

What comes next – verse #5 is:

  • A 3-line verse that is not cut
  • A spring verse, no flowers or blossom please as they belong in our next verse
  • A verse that links to verse 4 but shifts away from verse 3 – in tone, setting, construction, etc
  • A verse that has energy (we are in the ha or “party” phase of jo-ha-kyu) but remember that we are developing the momentum, we are not at the height of the party yet
  • A verse that opens outwards (is open-ended) leaving room for the writer who will follow.
How we play:

Please enter your candidate verses in the Comments section below. All verse positions in this junicho will be degachi, that is competitive, and the final poem will comprise stanzas written by 12 different poets.

Please submit only 3 candidate verses for each position. I will allow a week between each verse selection so you have plenty of time to consider your submissions before making them.

For information about junicho and renku, please refer to the Introduction post.

And, remember, have fun with your writing

An inspiring quote:

While writing, do take the time to reread the renga (renku) and ask yourself: What does this poem need? Lightness? Seriousness? World views? Intimate details? Another mood? Act in the same way you would to make a social evening balanced and interesting

– Jane Reichhold

Please note

I am away from home for the next posting, so shall do my best, but may be a day late – it all depends on the hotel’s wifi!

Our poem so far:

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

This Post Has 71 Comments

  1. paper planes
    by the window
    ready for his bag

    – Sanjuktaa Asopa
    welcome to Gaza
    from Banksy and friends

    – Betty Shropshire
    greening again
    the tree whose roots
    cracked the pavement
    scent of earth
    just after the snow
    has melted
    the rumble
    of an avalanche
    echoes through the valley

  2. a gift
    just from afar
    this spring wind

    after the sower
    a flock of crows
    picking seeds

    the windo to come in
    the spring sun

    Vasile Moldovan

  3. Sandra,
    I do need help. We are to read the last verse and that is the verse we use to bounce off? Right? We’re not to use any words or images from the previous verse, try take it in a different direction – with subtlety? Is that about right?
    I’m trying!!!

    1. Hi Pat, Sandra is away at the moment and so may not have an opportunity to reply. However, I thought I’d reply to say that I think you have got the gist of the requirements according to her instructions.

      A spring verse is sought (but without mentioning blossoms) over three lines. This should be uncut and link to the last verse but shift away from the previous one. No repetition is allowed of nouns, adjectives, images, etc as it is such a short renku. Oh, and you can submit up to three times.

      I hope this is of some help and please excuse me if I’ve broken any of these rules in my own submissions! 🙂


      1. This challenge is most enjoyable. I’m having fun. However, a few questions: I notice some submissions are many more than three lines. Is that allowed? Are these poems still called haiku?
        When she commented about my haiku not being acceptable because of a rule mistake – what happens then? I notice the haiku is left in place. Some of the rules are puzzling.

        1. Hi Pat,
          I tidy up the comments board when I can, but it’s not one of my “essential” duties. Leaving my comment in re “errors” may be helpful to someone else. If I have noted that a poem is in error then that poet is welcome to submit a substitute to make up the 3. If a poet recognises an error in their own work and points it out, then another posting is welcome.
          I don’t understand what you mean by some submissions being “many more than 3 lines”. Is it that someone has not used stars/lines to mark breaks. For some reason the Comments section is not recognising double par marks.
          Karen’s posting below contains an allusion which she wants me to understand and so has included the source work. I would prefer that people provide links for such things but maybe that wasn’t possible. The Dickinson poem is not pat of the submission.
          Does that help?
          Kind regards,

    2. Pat, Marion has stated it well. Link to the immediate higher verse, #4 in this case and no other. But, not to resemble what is termed the “leap-over verse.” That is #3 in this instance. And do especially avoid the things used in the opening haiku — the hokku.. Overall — do not repeat ANY topic in the whole poem, and best not to re-use any key word previously used. This does not apply to little words such as articles. But for example, if higher up in a renku is mention of helicopter hovering, then no flying machines, nothing that hovers (hummingbird), etc. Probably best in such a short renku to mention any machine modes of transportation. All this may seem restrictive yet . . . One renku Master, Christopher Herold, refers to a whole Mandala of possible topics/subjects spreading in all direction. Link, shift, and go in different directions. Within the confines of what the Sabaki asks for — in this #5 a spring verse, not the “blossom” verse which she says is next. I also expect a love topic ( adult human love) would be out of bounds as it no doubt will also be forthcoming. By this point in a renku, I find it helpful to hold up a candidate verse to the poem so far, and check each word, and subject for repetition and suitability for where our Sabaki leads. And I’ve made mistakes so far, too!

    3. Thanks to Marion and Paul – you have some good answers to your questions. I would also suggest that you, and anyone else new to this, read the link to the Introduction to Junicho that is posted under “How we Play” in the preamble above.

      But do keep asking – this is a teaching exercise as much as anything. No stupid questions in this classroom!

  4. welcome to Gaza
    from Bansky and friends
    – Betty Shropshire


    lingers on
    a solitary field

    ” on a solitary field,” is an allusion to the following poem:


    A Light Exists In Spring
    By Emily Dickinson

    A Light exists in Spring
    Not present on the Year
    At any other period —
    When March is scarcely here

    A Color stands abroad
    On Solitary Fields
    That Science cannot overtake
    But Human Nature feels.

    It waits upon the Lawn,
    It shows the furthest Tree
    Upon the furthest Slope you know
    It almost speaks to you.
    Then as Horizons step
    Or Noons report away
    Without the Formula of sound
    It passes and we stay —

    A quality of loss
    Affecting our Content
    As Trade had suddenly encroached
    Upon a Sacrament

  5. Such beautiful verses I feel unqualified to be writing with all of you. Betty, your verse is touching and inspiring! Here are my three humble attempts:
    the old lady is
    out gathering herbs to
    dress new wounds
    hand to the plow not
    looking back we leave
    this dark valley
    hazy moon through
    the dust of our
    hope and despair

  6. in her inappropriately
    delicate bites
    the praying mantis is picky


  7. Verse 5:

    her new yellow boots
    adorned with red and blue frogs
    stuck in the mud

    1. fearing the “boots” are too close to “feet” I have changed my verse #5 to:

      blue and red frogs
      on her yellow slicker
      splattered with slush

    1. Peg, Just jumping in, unbidden . . .

      I had never thought of this kigo. It must be special to Japan. I just googled “horseradish,” not quite Japanese wasabi, and it is often harvested in autumn, but the leaf cuttings are planted in spring, to root and grow. Of course fresh root can be kept for months and prepared horseradish is available in all seasons.

      For me, to say horseradish, bring it to attention is to indicate the heat of it a a condiment or additive to foods. That is, derived from an adult root… it depends upon context to spring by planting season. First association is “hot.”

      I’d suggest you say “wasabi” in the verse. But, in English usage the kigo is hard to establish . . .
      Since renku’s inner verses can be fiction, that you ate actual Japanese wasabi is not necessary. A trick of the form is write of something AS IF factual .. but, for example, I have never been to Paris, never eaten in a sidewalk cafe there, not seen Notre Dame… but they are subjects for renku.

      Or refer to Passover, an obvious kigo . . .

      – Paul

      1. Hi Paul and Peg,


        I visited a wasabi farm in Japan in the spring – the green tops were being harvested by hand and we bought some to take to the hotel, where staff kindly agreed to cook them for us. A lovely mild and delicate flavour, not at all what we were expecting, given the heat of the root. Wasabi flowers can also be cooked – tempura style or tossed in a wok – and are delicious too. I remember them as pale yellow, but they may have been white! However, we are not yet at the flower verse so feel free to ‘pocket’ the idea for then, if you like.


        1. Sandra, those details are intriguing indeed. It sounds like touring the farm and tasting its produce was a marvelous experience — thank you for sharing a glimpse of it.

      2. Paul, my verse is about Pesach — that is, Passover, where one traditionally eats horseradish to bring tears to the eyes.

        It might be fun to write about wasabi on a seder plate, but that scenario is, I think, better handled by a different poem than the one I am attempting to contribute to here.

  8. I’ll try again with mind open this time, I hope.
    I cannot make the accent on the E in cafe, it should have one.

    Paris cafes
    sprouting sidewalk tables
    with a Notre Dame view

    snow piles between
    street and my sidewalk
    melt into the gutter

    a black-robed priest
    intones the Invocation
    to the Easter service

  9. Good job so far! I really like those verses.
    My offerings:
    March sun
    adds a new tint
    to the Van Gogh’s Night
    I follow
    the chalk rainbow
    in All Fool’s Day

  10. welcome to Gaza
    from Banksy and friends

    – Betty Shropshire

    to prevent pests
    a wire dome covers
    the seedlings

  11. please take
    marked on a box
    of kittens


    first lawn ornaments
    found leaning together
    at the church bazaar


    other Aprils
    gather silently
    at his back

  12. welcome to Gaza
    from Banksy and friends

    – Betty Shropshire


    without guile
    the farmer tills
    his field

    1. Wow, wish I could revise this heavy thing! Way too hasty in posting! Just saying.

  13. Paris cafes sprouting
    sidewalk tables

    last piles of snow between
    street and sidewalk

    intoning the Invocation
    to the Easter service

  14. Thank you all for the wonderful reception to my offering…Sandra, especially to you for bringing it to life by embedding the link and sharing your thoughts. Alan…how awesome to have that connection to Banksy!
    Again, I am honored and thrilled.
    Best regards to all…

    1. Hi Pat,

      I’m afraid this verse also needs to be rewritten as we’ve had “window” in a previous verse.

      Renku is quite strict about repeating topics – in the longer forms it is possible to use, say, 2 colours if the verses are well separated. But a junicho has only 12 verses and so separation is not possible.

      I have put the poem so far as the last item in my post in the hope that it will be easy to refer back to as people compose or enter their candidate verses. Anything that has been mentioned in the poem so far may not be used again in a verse. Each verse must link to the one directly before it and shift from the one before that.
      There is a link in my post above to an Introduction which may be helpful to you. But please don’t hesitate to ask if you don’t understand something, there are people posting here who are experienced in renku and will be only too happy to help.


  15. Hi Sandra,

    I am thinking of beginning a verse with “our bloody hands”. For me, it simply means we have blood on our hands. But given the way it can be interpreted in British English, would it be entirely inappropriate? I would hate to squander a candidate verse in that way. Thanks for any advice you may have on this!


    1. I wouldn’t worry about it Judt – the next line should make it clear that it’s not a swear word, and the preceding verse will help consolidate that too.


    1. Hi Pat,

      This is a nice verse. Unfortunately, we can’t repeat a “river” image as we have it in our hokku.

      Can you rework it?


  16. Sorry, if there’s any confusion – I will edit the intro at the top to make it clearer.
    This is not a flower verse … so please keep your flowers and blossoms for the next verse we compose.
    However, this is a spring verse so please do write on those topics. I see we have some no-season verses posted already.


  17. The poem is looking great…I love the building momentum from passive dangling feet to counterculture activist! (As a provincial American, I hadn’t known about Banksy and had to look up “stroppy”). 🙂


    drone of a mower
    drowns out
    the children’s voices

  18. I love Bansky and saw Exit Through the Gift Shop as soon as it came out. I’m curious who ‘and friends’ refers to since I assumed he works alone.

    1. Answering my own question, the 2-minute Gaza video was probably produced by Bansky (he briefly appears in it, shot from behind), whereas I was thinking it was done independently of him.

    2. Dear Christopher,
      Graffiti artists have to have at least one lookout for police, and perhaps a driver as well.

      I don’t know Banksy, but I do know Ghostboy and he often had a performance poet colleague of our’s help him with a ladder, as well as driving and police look out:

      Re a film production, he’d need at least one camera operator, perhaps a security liaison officer too. 🙂

      warm regards,


    3. Still, adding ‘and friends’ to a celebrity’s name would typically be reserved for other celebrities, not roadies, or even band members. The album Eric Clapton & Friends, for instance, is a lineup of musicians just as famous as he is.

      Love the barrier link though.

  19. Bravo All!!
    feeling the wind
    through the palms
    on a postcard
    a child
    confuses one gorilla
    for another
    one thousand wrongs
    one right

  20. Congratulations, Betty! What a fascinating verse. 🙂
    Great pick, Sandra. Embedding the link is such a wonderful idea. Thanks for letting us know about the movie. I started watching it, and it’s fascinating. Hope you enjoy your time away from home.
    Thanks so much for sharing your experiences, Alan.

  21. Great that a Bristol (U.K.) bad boy made it to the wrench! 🙂

    Banksy was a local hero for us living in Bristol in the early years as the city council were anti-Bristolians, and often we felt the police were against us too. We eagerly awaited his next artwork so we could feel someone was ‘with’ the ordinary Bristolian. It was a pretty dark time for us.

    Then Banksy exploded onto the international scene and the artwork that Betty reveals was not just incredible but should have brought people to their senses.

    Banksy is incredibly generous, as he paid for one of our local museums to hold an exhibition of his work so it doesn’t cost them anything. He was also allowed to “wreck” the other artwork. The queues got bigger and bigger every week, and the local economy benefited enormously in difficult times.

    It was the same museum and art gallery that Paul Conneally and myself held a week long series of haiku events, where even skateboarders wanted to visit, and were welcomed by everyone (they weren’t popular with most people and the council).

    Grrrrrrrrreat verse and great selection by Sandra. 🙂

    warm regards,

    Alan (Bristol-bred) Summers

  22. I love Banksy’s work – a great choice, Sandra! 🙂

    by the grave
    the women come and go
    but talk of someone else

    with a nod to T S Eliot’s poem ‘The Lovesong of J Alfred Prufrock’

  23. Wow! 🙂 Great choice Sandra (& what a good idea the link is) and great verse Betty. That Banksy is a bit of a hero, has the spirit. 😉

    – Lorin

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