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The Renku Sessions: New Calendar 16

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.

Our selection this time is made by Lorin Ford. Here is her report:

“Thanks to everyone who offered verses. I’ve enjoyed reading them all and also enjoyed the challenge (it is a challenge!) of choosing just one from an interesting variety. I’ve selected Carmen Sterba’s verse:

the tension of the needle
piercing linen

              1. –Carmen Sterba

(I’ve edited out the definite article which originally occurred before “linen” because “the linen” can be collective: all of our bed-sheets, pillowcases, tablecloths, napkins etc. … even though they’re not always made of linen these days … are referred to as “the linen.” In this verse it’s clearly the fabric that’s intended.)

Carmen’s verse links and shifts from outdoors to (most likely) indoors, from a worm making a hole to someone making a different sort of hole, from Quantum Physics to Domestic Science, from the sub-atomic neutrino to the everyday forces demonstrated by Newton (and which are measured in ‘newtons’) and from the fabric of the universe to one of the world’s most ancient fabrics, linen.

As I imagine it, someone is sewing linen by hand, at home, though she/he could just as well be using a sewing machine. As sewers know, if we don’t set the tension appropriately on a sewing machine, we either get a mess of tangled, loopy thread that then has to be unpicked or a broken needle.

The forces in question are contact forces, named ‘applied force’ and ‘tension force,’ which we experience as push and pull. Before the needle pierces the linen it’s being pushed from both ends, being compressed, but once the tip pierces the linen something else happens: we apply tension by pulling the needle and thread through. At that stage both needle and thread elongate. That’s the science part. But as anyone who’s sewn a canvas bag or a sail by hand will tell you, what the person guiding the needle feels just before the needle tip pierces the cloth is ‘tension’ in the ordinary sense of the word. Will the needle break under the strain? It doesn’t (if we have the right gauge needle) and the pulling force,‘tension force’, holds sway.

I also very much appreciate that this verse inherently sets us up for blossoms, which push through their sheaths using ‘applied force.’

Thank you for this marvelous verse, Carmen.”


Carmen Sterba will be offered the opportunity to select the next verse. Carmen, 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 26) 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 seventeen will be our first blossom verse, in three lines. It will be the first in a series of three spring verses. The blossoms we expect here are traditionally cherry blossoms in Japanese renku. This is so much the case that the simple term “blossoms” is understood to mean cherry blossoms within Japanese renku, just as the unmodified use of the term “moon” is understood to refer to an autumn moon. International practice is not as specific. Since cherry trees don’t grow everywhere, we are free to use any flower that is meaningful to us in this verse.

Verse seventeen must link to the sixteenth verse (and only the sixteenth 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

a neutrino
passes through the chestnut
and the worm, too

    —Lorin Ford

the tension of the needle
piercing linen

    —Carmen Sterba

This Post Has 64 Comments

  1. watch how that glutton
    consumes those desserts
    adorned with pansies!
    ~ Betty

  2. white pine
    frames cherry blossoms
    as I peer up

    We are fortunate to have a local Japanese garden that symbolizes the Sister-City relationship with Shiojiri City, Nagano Prefecture, Japan. The cherry blossoms were at their peak a few days ago.

    1. Jeanne, Sister-Cities are a wonderful way for Americans, Japanese and people all over the world to connect. Kita-Kyushu is the Sister City of Tacoma. I often meet Japanese students from that city.

  3. thimbleflowers
    the hillsides
    from yard to yard
    bluebonnets naturalized
    more or less
    ~ Betty

  4. I really loved your verse, Carmen! Yay for it being chosen!


    side by side
    violets and dandelions
    decorate the ditch

  5. how soft
    the pale blue petals
    of our heirloom violet!
    ~with or without the exclamation mark

    1. Hi Mary! Just wanted to let you know that Carmen’s verse reminded me of Queen Anne’s lace which in turn reminded me of a haiku of yours in The Heron’s Nest.
      Queen Anne’s lace –
      a childhood spent
      in second-hand clothes
      I just love it! It resonates on so many levels.

      1. Maureen,
        I’m touched that you liked a poem of mine. It’s always a joy to have something in The Heron’s Nest, isn’t it? Thank you so much.
        Mary 🙂

        1. I thought of you when I wrote this, Marion. I can definitely imagine that they would cause just a wee bit of anxiety. Thanks for sharing. I’ve only seen photographs although I’ve been to Ireland. They look absolutely stunning. Thoughts of Irish linen immediately came to mind with Carmen’s verse. So cheers to you, one of Ireland’s wonderful poets!

          1. Well, I have a fear of heights and flying, Maureen. Although I was very young when I visited these cliffs with my parents and siblings I can still remember screaming at my father to move back from the edge! 😮

            Yes, I also thought of linen and remembered my mother telling me about the smell of the flax drying in the sun close to where she lived. Apparently it was quite a distinctive odour!

    1. ha, enjoyed this (the article and the verse – though there may be a hole too many)

  6. wild daffodils
    sprout along a cliff’s
    ragged edge
    Dutchman’s breeches
    sprout along a cliff’s
    ragged edge
    ~ a delightful name for a wildflower

  7. Congrats to you, Carmen! A fascinating link & shift, and a perfect prelude to the blossom verse. Thank you for sharing your experience as a young mother and for giving us a behind-the-scenes look into the creation of your verse. I’m sorry that you no longer have the strength in your right hand for embroidery.
    Another amazing job as sabaki, Lorin! Love your detailed commentary. You’re a very talented writer. And thanks for your advice along the way. I admire your enthusiasm and knowledge. I sincerely hope you will lead a renku at THF in the future.

    1. Kala Ramesh will lead our next renku but I second the hope that Lorin will consider leading a renku here after that!

      1. Thanks for your kind words, Maureen. John did ask me, a while ago, but I didn’t feel up to it for several reasons, including being not in wonderful shape healthwise and having an old computer that breaks down. And I’m not nearly as experienced as many, including you.

        Thanks, John, (again) I’ll think about it. Maybe sometime in the future.

        – Lorin

        1. You’re welcome, Lorin. I’m very sorry to hear about your health issues. And I’m sorry about your computer problems. I certainly understand your reasons, and thank you for sharing. Wishing you good health & peace.

          1. I’d like to add my wishes for much improved health, Lorin. We all look forward to your skilled offerings and comments in this renku. Cheers!


  8. I like the fact that we are gathered from many countries with many time zones. As I write this, it’s still the morning of April 20th on the West coast of America, yet for most of you, it is already afternoon, night or even the 21st. Thank you for your comments, Mary and Sally.

    I am honored to have my verse chosen by Lorin. It was a challenge to link to her neutrino verse. Lorin even provided some themes to choose, so after reading the themes, I chose Art, the art of embroidery. However, I knew that the tension in my verse could apply to a sewing machine as well. In the 70s as a young mother living in Japan, I was somewhat homesick for my country, and embroidered a traditional sampler when my baby was napping. Last year, I considered taking up embroidery again, but immediately realized that I know longer have enough strength in my right hand. Nevertheless, I can write a verse about the tension of pulling an embroidery needle.

    1. Hi Carmen, interesting to know the back story and that you had embroidery as an ‘Art’ topic in mind. It’s an excellent verse. We can’t know by reading what kind of sewing it might be, of course 🙂 but we have the needle and cloth and implied thread. In my interpretation, there’s nothing here that would rule out a later ‘Art’ topic, though ‘Tools’ should probably be avoided for a while: a sewing needle is one of humankind’s earliest tools!

      …and yes, we’re from many time zones. Where I am (East Coast, Australia), it’s 1:49 pm on the 21st now.

      – Lorin

      1. ps… Carmen, I empathise with your losing strength in your hands. You may not be able to do embroidery with comfort, but what about tapestry?

        – Lorin

  9. a neutrino
    passes through the chestnut
    and the worm, too

    —Lorin Ford
    the tension of the needle
    piercing linen

    —Carmen Sterba

    sudden rain
    releasing a flurry
    of blossoms
    – Karen Cesar

  10. Carmen, congratulations on your beautiful lines. I absolutely LOVE this verse!
    Lorin, your description and reasoning is so enlightening . Thank you for sharing your wonderful editing skills and knowledge. I feel as if I learn so much from each week’s comments.

    1. I agree with everything Mary says…Carmen, your verse is wonderful. And Lorin, your explanation of why you chose Carmen’s verse is so helpful to me as I try to learn the nuances of creating renku verses. Thank you for taking the time to expand on the reasons for your choice.

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