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The Renku Sessions: New Calendar 14

renkuchainWelcome to The Haiku Foundation’s Fifth Renku Session: New Calendar. I am John Stevenson, leading my second Kasen (36 verse) renku on this site. We will be trying something a little different this time. Instead of making all of the selections myself, new verses will be selected by the poet who wrote the preceding verse. This will be on a voluntary basis and I remain ready to preform this task for anyone who prefers to pass up the opportunity.

I didn’t hear from Gabrielle Higgins during the past week, so I have gone ahead and made another selection. I would just like to thank those who submitted their work after our link was pushed off the top of the page by The Haiku Foundation’s very busy set of postings. We can expect the site to remain busy throughout this National Poetry Month.

While there were many tempting offers this time, I narrowed my focus to two verses. One is by Sally Biggar:

in the remaining heat / the whir of a dragonfly’s wings

And the other is by Marion Clarke:

the old scarecrow performs / an unexpected jig

The former offers a subtle and distinct sound image, something we haven’t focused directly upon since verse five (though several subsequent verses strongly suggest sounds as secondary images). On the downside, it attempts to establish the season twice, through waning heat and a dragonfly, which is itself an autumn kigo. And it is presented with a grammatical break – a prepositional phrase preceding its object; “where” preceding “what.” This is such a pervasive strategy for English-language haiku writing that it is instinctive for most of us. But it’s easily fixed.

The second option is clearly an autumn scene and offers us a dance image, albeit a somewhat macabre one. It suggests to me either a windy night or a person who is dressed as a scarecrow, perhaps intending to frighten trick-or-treaters. I would delete the word “old,” which appears in verse eleven.

While either verse would do nicely for our second in this set of three autumn verses, I am going to go with a slightly modified version of the first. Here is what you should link to this time:

the whir of dragonfly wings
in the remaining heat

              –Sally Biggar

Thank you Sally!


Sally Biggar will be offered the opportunity to select the next verse. Sally, please contact me, either in a reply below or by e-mail ( to let me know whether you accept this offer. If you do, I will ask you to choose the next verse in accordance with the requirements listed below and to write a paragraph or two about your selection and send it to me on Wednesday morning (April 12) so that I can incorporate it in the next posting, which appears on the following day. If you would rather not make the selection, I will do so, but I would prefer to know that I’ll be doing that as early as possible

Verse fifteen will be the third in this series of autumn verses, in three lines this time. It should probably be a “late autumn” image.

Verse fifteen must link to the fourteenth verse (and only the fourteenth verse) but it also must clearly shift away from it in terms of scene, subject, and tone. Throughout our renku, we will also be looking for shifts of time of day, urban and rural settings, human activities and non-human images, first, second, and third person phrasing, and as many other sorts of variety as we can manage. A renku is like a miniature sample book of the universe.

You will have until Tuesday night to make your offers. The Haiku Foundation site has been busy lately and the link to our renku session has not always been obvious on the home page. There is a permanent “Renku Sessions” button a little further down the home page and you can always reach the current session via this route. We will continue to check for new verse offers through each Tuesday.

With best wishes to all,



New Calendar to Date

new calendar
a year of
“Natural Wonders”

    –John Stevenson

a clownfish offers
the first greeting

    –Peter Newton

taking a fistful
of freshly tilled earth
to my cheek

    –Shrikaanth Krishnamurthy

café aromas
on the warm breeze

    –Maureen Virchau

sound of a flute
slowly rising
with a hazy moon

    –Dru Philippou

flickering light of a bike
from the side road

    –Marina Bellini

under the bed-sheet
tales of bold highwaymen
and horse-drawn coaches

    —Lorin Ford

has the lord executed
his droit du seigneur

    —Polona Oblak

Jimmy Carter
and Rosalynn
on the kiss cam

    —Judt Shrode

after the picnic
some spirited croquet

    —Michael Henry Lee

the old quarry
so deep and cold
and daring

    —Mary Kendall

her scars stay hidden
though the neckline plunges

    –Debbie Feller

each time I wake
the moon lights
something different

    —Gabrielle Higgins

the whir of dragonfly wings
in the remaining heat

    —Sally Biggar


This Post Has 54 Comments

  1. the whir of dragonfly wings
    in the remaining heat (—Sally Biggar)
    a flurry
    of leaves blowing
    this way and that
    the last drift
    of leaves blowing
    this way and that

  2. Thank you, dear Sally, for your wonderful verse! It gave us a great visual image!
    And thank you , John, for answering Lori’s question so well! Helped me learn more too.
    raking what we can
    as the hard maple
    holds onto its leaves

  3. lilting voices join
    in joyous celebration
    of the vendemmia


    voices lifting
    in joyous celebration
    of the grape harvest

  4. the whir of dragonfly wings
    in the remaining heat

    – Sally Biggar
    a last
    magic mushroom
    rolls down the rabbit hole
    – Karen Cesar

        1. 🙂 I couldn’t resist. It amuses me every time I see it. . . . you must be in the USA, where they spell ‘mums’ (informal for mothers) ‘moms’.
          It’s another example of ye olde “divided by a single language”

          – Lorin

  5. Hi John,

    Can you explain more about why this isn’t a good thing?

    “And it is presented with a grammatical break – a prepositional phrase preceding its object; “where” preceding “what.” This is such a pervasive strategy for English-language haiku writing that it is instinctive for most of us. But it’s easily fixed.”


    1. Sure, Lori.

      Almost all of us learn about haiku before we start learning about renku. Haiku evolved from the opening verse of a renku – the hokku. One of the requirements for writing a hokku is that it contain a “cutting word” and contain two parts. This helps it to be the one renku verse that is most likely to potentially stand alone as a complete poem. And the potential to do that eventually contributed to it being written alone and not as the opening of a renku. Hokku became haiku. None of the other verses in a renku contain this feature of a “cutting word” and none of the other verses is expected to have so much potential to stand alone. After the opening verse, the hokku, the remaining verses make poetry by playing off of each other. But since we almost all started by writing haiku and since haiku generally have this characteristic of multiple images, achieved through a “cut” or a grammatical break, we have to be careful that we are not writing something resembling a hokku throughout the rest of the renku.

      1. Hi John,

        Thank you so much for your reply. Not only did you answer my question, but your explanation opened up for me what a renku is and what I should be aiming for. I liked Sally’s original verse better and didn’t understand why you changed it, but now I do. I’ll have to try my hand at writing a renku verse again.

        Thanks once again.

  6. A very nice verse, Sally…it will make for some fine linking. 🙂
    the whir of dragonfly wings
    in the remaining heat (—Sally Biggar)
    a few red leaves left
    as she gracefully whisks
    the thick green tea

    1. Michael Henry,

      This can’t be a moon verse. We just had one (verse 13).


  7. Well done to Sally on your lovely verse and I think John’s sensitive editing has made it even better. My old dancing scarecrow is not so disappointed to have been pipped at the post by the dragonfly as it’s much prettier! 🙂

    1. Thank you, Marion, for your gracious words. I just discovered this site 3 weeks ago, and I am enjoying the tsunami of fun!

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