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The Renku Sessions: Junicho – verse #6


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 for your patience this week – I have arrived safely at my destination but it took 24 hours of travel to get here and I am now in a completely different culture, not to mention time zone. Which is to say, I hope this posting makes sense.

Thank you to everyone who submitted candidate verses, I can see you’re all working hard. Do be sure to read the requirements for the next verse carefully, though, as this week I will not be in a position to prod anyone who goes awry. I got a wry smile from those poets who assume that March/ April/ Easter mean “spring”. It depends where you’re standing, as for me all those mean “autumn”! I didn’t discount them, but felt naming the month or festival did give them less weight for this sabaki, especially as we have such a nice, international vibe going on with the poem so far.

In this week’s crop I also noticed a few verses that, for me, didn’t link to the previous verse. There’s a lot to hold in your head while you write a verse, so mistakes are always excusable, but please do keep an eye on the linking … and shifting … and ha … and what type of verse it is … you see what I mean!

Verses I liked included:

please take
marked on a box
of kittens

– Bill D

without a kite
children play
amongst the rubble

– Jennifer

the view
into my neighbour’s yard
closing with every bud

– Liz Ann Winkler

after planting seeds
a barbeque in the
communal garden

– Barbara A Taylor

feeling the wind
through the palms
on a postcard

– Michael Henry Lee

for today’s special
we are offering locally-raised
freshly-roasted lamb

– Marilyn Potter

and all of those submitted by Polona Oblak!

Chosen for verse #5 is:

somewhere a missing key
among sprouts
of green grass

– Maureen Virchau

This is a sensational verse that links us to Palestine (key) while moving us into spring (green grass). I have edited Maureen’s version a little as it seemed a tad too sibilant with “grasses”. Distantly, the verse has echoes of “Arab spring”, another link to the previous verse.

If you don’t know the story, here’s a good explanation of how “key” is a link: “When the Palestinian refugees of 1948 and 1967 left their homes, they took their keys with them in the belief that their return was imminent. More than sixty years have passed, and their numbers have multiplied to around five million in Palestine, the Middle East, and beyond. The keys have been passed from generation to generation — a memory of lost homes and as lasting symbols of their desired ‘right of return’.” Continue reading about the giant Key of Return for the Berlin Biennale here.

What comes next – verse #6 is:
  • A 2-line verse that is not cut
  • A spring flower verse – in a junicho it can be any spring flower, not just cherry blossom. Because Maureen has used an “all spring” or “early spring” signifier (sprouting grasses), the flowers can be any that bloom in that season, we don’t have to worry about logical progression
  • A verse that links to verse 5 but shifts away from verse 4 – in tone, setting, construction, etc
  • A verse that has plenty of verve and/or daring we are at the height of the ha or “party” phase of jo-ha-kyu
  • 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. (There will be perhaps 8 days this round because of my travel.)

For information about junicho and renku, please refer to the Introduction post. And, remember, have fun with your writing

An inspiring quote:

You already know the only truly important thing about renku. It is poetry, not a game or a technical exercise. The rest is just detail.

– John Carley

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

somewhere a missing key
among sprouts
of green grass

– Maureen Virchau

This Post Has 48 Comments

  1. the gate flung open
    reveals a blaze of violets
    in the tree counting
    mulberry blossoms one by one
    scent of wild roses
    tempts me from my mission

  2. Konnichi wa Sandra-san,

    Obscure? Gosh, my family has been telling me that for thirty years!
    …birthwort historically has been used as an aid in childbirth, …and when I step out of an Onsen I generally feel reborn, like perhaps I left the old man back there in the bath. Sorry for the trouble…you are doing a terrific job.


    1. Thank you, Patrick. I had not considered the “bath” to be an onsen. And I now realise that the flowering time of birthwort is immaterial.


      My first visit to an onsen was a shocking affair – to me! Naked in the company of strangers, my goodness. If my Japanese-speaking friend hadn’t insisted it was an experience I shouldn’t miss, I would have remained in my room. Her first onsen, she told me, was perhaps even worse as she was taken to a mixed bath. At least I didn’t have to cope with that.


      All the best,

      1. … however … sorry, I realised after I had posted that reply that I needed to add something … and then the wifi went out for 24 hours.
        As this is a *spring flower verse*, on reflection I feel that the flowering time of birthwort *is* material and as the plant I identified in my link flowers in early summer, this verse is somewhat off-beam in this position.
        I am sorry Patrick, but if you’d like to rewrite it/submit some more I’m sure “something will stick”. (And I do like it.)

        All the best,

    1. Hi Patrick,

      Your verse seems a little obscure to me (but intriguing) so I wonder if you’d be kind enough to explain it a little?


      I Googled “birthwort” and came up with a member of the Aristolochia family, with this result being particularly interesting:

      However, how that ties in with “spring” (the article says it is an early summer flower) and an old man has me scratching my head. I’d genuinely like to know more, particularly as you have usefully situated your verse inside.
      Many thanks,

  3. crabapple flowers go best
    with an empty sky


    the fires came early
    and so did the rock roses


    suddenly surfacing
    in cherry blossoms

  4. plumeria smell spreading
    by the hoola dancers
    low wind kite flies
    above the poppy field
    the sudden smell
    of catmint
    Sandra, after reading your comment I realised that in my mind March and April are months so strong connected with the spring I didn’t even think it may be not so obvious for the others… sorry. I will remember not to use them as spring kigo anymore 🙂

    1. Hi Gabriel,

      Please don’t apply my general comment about the months as a diktat! Speaking for myself – and having lived in both the southern and northern hemispheres – I can cope. But for this junicho, I’d like to keep our poem as internationally applicable as possible. So while I fully appreciate “March” = “spring”; it can also = “autumn”. Better to use the season name, if you need to, than the name of the month.


      Of course, if you’re submitting to an American/English journal, there’s no problem as the editor is “speaking your language”.


      All the best,

      1. Hi Sandra,
        there are a lot of spring kigo words that can replace names of the months. I’ll remember about it especially while sending my works to the international journals.
        Thanks 🙂

  5. last year’s amaryllis
    up to its old tricks
    an in-law moves in
    and rips out the azaleas
    the neighbor’s dogwood
    goes where he pleases

  6. Hi, Sandra…I have a question. Something was mentioned about the use of color…is it that once any color has been used, no other color should be introduced?

  7. nice progression!
    welcome to Gaza
    from Banksy and friends

    – Betty Shropshire
    somewhere a missing key
    among sprouts
    of green grass

    – Maureen Virchau
    primroses sheltered
    by a hollow ribcage
    a shaman out looking
    for lungwort in bloom
    chemical analysis
    of sweet violet scent

  8. Thank you very much, Sandra. I’m thrilled that my verse has been included in the renku. It is an honor to follow Betty’s inspiring words. I look forward to everyone’s verses. 🙂

    1. Maureen…wonderful verse! The backstory is poignant and heartbreaking and reminds me of one of my most favorite movies
      ” Everything is Illuminated.”


      1. Thank you so much for your kind words, Betty. Very generous of you. And thank you for sharing your thoughts and for letting me know about that movie. Now I have another movie to watch! I very much enjoyed the one about Banksy. Take care, and thank you for all your wonderful contributions to the renku process along the way. 🙂

  9. somewhere a missing key
    among sprouts
    of green grass
    Maureen Virchau

    two gardners grow together
    the most beautiful flower

    rereading Flower of Virtue
    in the open air

    the beauty itself rises
    and fades just like a flower

    – Vasile Moldovan

    1. Hi Vasile,

      Two of these are too close to love verses to be used here, so please resubmit something, if you’d like. Our pair of love verses come next.


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