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The Renku Sessions: New Calendar 17

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 Carmen Sterba. Carmen says:

Dutchman’s breeches
sprout along a cliff’s
ragged edge

    1. –Maureen Virchau

“This verse jumped out at me the moment I saw it. Dutchman’s Breeches is an amusing name for a flower. This small plant has white florets that appear to look like a row of upside down breeches. These wildflowers are native to the U.S. and Canada. The name most likely has a connection to the Dutch immigrants who settled in early American days. These flowers are known as the prettiest spring flowers and are also called Bleeding Heart and Little Boy’s Breeches.

Maureen has brought a welcome element of humor to our renku, plus a change in tone from the tension that was building up. The tiny flowers that “sprout along a cliff’s edge” could be embroidered on a sampler as well as painted in watercolors or sumie. Also, the “ragged edge” alludes to the edge of linen in my previous verse. Putting myself in this combination of images expands my imagination to crouch down to look at the tiny white plants and then look at the cliff’s deep fall that may reveal a prairie or a vast body of water. We all need a relaxing view after the ravages of winter storms and snow. As the late John Carley cautioned in Renku Reckoner, “the best renku faces forward and opens outwards.”

Thank you, Carmen and thank you, Maureen.

Maureen Virchau will be offered the opportunity to select the next verse. Maureen, 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 (May 3) 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 eighteen  will be another spring verse, in two lines, this time.

Verse eighteen must link to the seventeenth verse (and only the seventeenth 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

Dutchman’s breeches
sprout along a cliff’s
ragged edge

    —Maureen Virchau

This Post Has 123 Comments

  1. initiation
    into the maiden’s mysteries

    I know I can’t use the goddess’s name, so I hope this will do.

    1. What a fun verse, Marion! Made me laugh. This is a bit long to be considered for a short verse in the renku, but thanks so much for offering another verse.

      1. Hahaha, when you mentioned religion, Maureen, I was trying to think back to a spring image from my schooldays at a convent school and imagined one of the young novice nuns swearing 🙂

        1. Thanks to your enthusiastic response, I think I’ll make a three-liner from this one, Maureen!
          airborne umbrella
          a novice swears loudly
          from the convent steps


        2. That’s hilarious! Thanks for sharing. And love your three-liner. So glad you’re having fun with it all.

  2. Hi Betty! John pointed out to me that “after the avalanche” echoes the phrasing of Michael Henry’s “after the picnic” verse. This is something to be avoided as it weakens the strength of the verse and the renku as a whole. Wondering if you could offer something which doesn’t repeat that sentence structure. Thanks so much.

    1. Okayyy…guess I’m scratching my head because much of the renku has verse structures leading off with or including (noun + of…) phrasing. But yeah, will see if I can rectify that…

      1. I understand what you mean. Maybe then I would say that the problem lies in the repetition of the word “after” and the repetition of it beginning a line.

  3. Hi Polona! John didn’t have an issue with the repetition of clothing/footwear, but he was very concerned with a verse which contained “mountain” following one in which “cliff” is highlighted. He offered me this edit as it replaces “mountain” with “pilgrim” and also reduces the syllable count for a shorter verse. Please let me know if this edit is okay with you. Thanks so much.
    six muddy boots
    by the pilgrim shrine

    1. do you need to explicitly state “muddy”, Maureen? i’d prefer to keep “six pairs of boots” as L1. otherwise i’m fine with the edit.

      1. I don’t think so, Polona. I’ll check with John as he offered the edit. Thanks for your permission to change the second line. Will get back to you.

    1. or maybe:

      a layer of pollen
      coats the bay window

      (thinking my previous is too close to the bicycle/ side of the road verse above…)

      1. Thanks for offering more verses, Theresa! Great rhythms. Will set aside for consideration.

        1. P.S. Good point about the possible link to that previous verse, Theresa.

    1. Thank you for all your wonderful candidate verses, Lorin! Will set them aside for consideration. Thanks so much.

  4. Dutchman’s breeches
    sprout along a cliff’s
    ragged edge

    —Maureen Virchau

    pinwheels spinning
    and cut to the wind farm

    – Lorin

    1. For what it’s worth, Michael, I like both of your ‘box kite’ verses. They’re the only thing that stopped me posting this:

      our Coca-Cola kite
      still climbing

      (}not an offer for the verse position. Just letting you know.)

      – Lorin

    2. Thank you, Michael Henry, for offering another box kite verse. Very nice! I’ll set it aside for consideration. Thank you so much.

  5. Hi again, Betty. Haven’t talked to John yet, but wanted to let you know that your words have deeply resonated with me. Your verse will be among those under consideration. Thank you so much, and hope you have a happy day!

  6. Hi again, Polona. I was wondering if you would be okay with my edit:
    six pairs of footprints
    outside the mountain shrine
    Just thinking that I would rather not explicitly repeat the clothing/footwear factor with “hiking boots” following “breeches” here. I also like that “footprints” would such muddy conditions. If you are okay with that edit, I can set your verse aside for further consideration. Please let me know. Thanks!

    1. Typo- Meant to say that I also like that “footprints” would suggest muddy conditions.

    2. i don’t mind an edit, Maureen, if you feel uncomfortable with a close link.
      as for typos, ah, well….

      1. Thanks so much, Polona. I was concerned about the repetition as Mary’s link suggests clothing as well. I’ll run it by John. See what he thinks. Will keep you posted. And yes, typos are the bane of my existence!

  7. Hi Sally! Thank you for your candidate verses. I’m posting a separate comment here so you don’t miss it. I think your second verse works well in that it clearly indicates the season of spring and brings a new subject matter into the renku, but I think “police line” links too closely to the “tension” in Carmen’s verse. I hope you can offer more verses!

    1. Hi Maureen,
      I so appreciate the advice you are offering to everyone; I am learning so much! When you mentioned earlier that we should avoid tension, I knew my reference to ‘police line’ was too harsh. So here is another offering:

      with every step
      the pilgrim prostrates

    2. Hi again, Sally! You are very welcome. Glad to help out where I can. Of course, there is always lots and lots more for me to learn. Thanks for your new offering. I like the idea of a pilgrim. It links nicely to the flower. I am not sure about the word “prostrates” though. Could you offer more verses highlighting a pilgrim? Maybe with more common words? I’m looking for something positive and calming at this point, although I am open to other energies. Anything but tension. Thanks so much. Feel free to offer lots of verses.

      1. Hi Maureen,

        I’ve considered your request that I edit my pilgrim verse, but I am going to leave it as is. I understand why you might view the word prostrate negatively but in this context it is a demonstration of worship and respect, especially in Tibetan Buddhism, where it is often done before teachers, around shrines, and even as a long-distance pilgrimage of hundreds of miles.

        To someone observing it the repeated prostrations of a pilgrim may appear a tension-filled struggle, but the pilgrim’s internal experience becomes one of deep devotion. Also, during a long-distance pilgrimage they wear a thick apron and pads to protect themselves during their prostrations, which become over time worn, torn and ‘ragged’ unlike the prisine white blossoms of the Dutchman’s Breeches.

        The verse also alludes, though not directly, to the Razor’s Edge, a concept in Hinduism and Buddhism of the spiritual path being very narrow, very hard to stay on, and easy to fall off of, like the edge of a cliff.

        Yes, there is physical tension in the prostration practice but there is also opportunity for spiritual growth and expansion–like a flower blooming–the link you alluded to in your comment.

        Hope you understand why I want to leave this one as is.


        1. Thank you very much for your thoughtful and thorough reply, Sally. I sincerely appreciate your perspective, and I will set this verse aside for further consideration.

  8. Hi Betty! Thanks for your candidate verses. Thought I would comment in a separate posting so you can’t miss it. Been thinking about your “prayers” verse. I like that you are bringing another subject into the renku. I am just concerned about the connection to the “tension” in Carmen’s verse with highlighting the victims of an avalanche. Could you write something else which contains prayers but without the tragic factor? I hope you are able to offer more verses!

    1. Maureen, Polona’s shrine verse was where I was headed next with prayers so don’t think I’ll incorporate another at this point. I was hoping the empathy of prayers for victims would be the primary relevance in my offering…avalanche sets the locale and season.
      And at any locale where a tragedy has occured, one sees shrines in place…here in Texas, especially where road accidents occur, folks do this.
      You have a tough one with with all these constrictions! Best regards, Betty

    2. Thanks so much for your thoughtful reply, Betty. I sincerely appreciate your perspective, and I will run it by John later. What do you think about this revision? If you are okay with it, I can set it aside for further consideration.
      a silent prayer
      after the avalanche
      For me, this edit highlights the act of prayer without explicitly stating that it is for the victims. For me, it deflates the tension. What do you think?
      P.S. Sorry my reply is here rather than where it should be. My computer is acting up.

      1. meh…🤔 for me, it was the act of reading the prayer…engaged in the ceremony, if you will, that shifts our focus to move on from certain death.

        And for me, tension isn’t necessarily bad/tragic…it provides homeostasis in many cases so I’ll keep my version.

        But thanks for trying to make my verse work…you’re doing great!


        1. Thank you for your thoughtful and honest reply, Betty. Thanks for your kind words. You’re very welcome. I’ll keep you posted. I’d like to discuss it with John.

  9. the flower’s name is a riot, and a refreshing link!
    six pairs of hiking boots
    outside a mountin shrine

    1. So glad you got a kick out of it, Polona! Thanks so much. And thank you for your candidate verse.

      1. my pleasure, Maureen 🙂
        although i’m old-fashioned in that i think the blossom position in a traditional-style renku (which kasen certainly is) should be about a blossoming tree rather than any old flower i enjoyed this verse with its humour and clever linking 🙂

    1. Hi Marilyn! Thanks so much for your candidate verses. They really are a delight. I wish I could set this verse aside for consideration, but “patch” takes me back to Carmen’s verse in terms of sewing, and “shortcut” links to Lorin’s verse with its “passing through” a chestnut. I really enjoy it, and I hope you can set it aside for another time. It reminds me of childhood walks to wild blackberry patches. I hope you are able to offer more verses!

    1. Hi again, Theresa! Thanks for another candidate verse. I really enjoy the positivity and calmness of this verse. A “bride and groom” scenario cannot be used though because it’s not a “love” verse. If you are okay with my edit, I can set it aside for further consideration:
      children share an umbrella
      at the bus stop

      1. Thanks, Maureen, for your valuable feedback. I understand about the edit to eliminate the possibility of a love verse (not at that point yet!). So I’m fine with the edit/ revision you’ve suggested and would be thrilled if it is included among those under consideration.


        1. Thanks, Lorin, for your thoughts. I was thinking that “umbrella” might indicate rain –> spring. But it’s not a terribly strong indicator.


  10. Hi everyone! Thanks for all your candidate verses. Just thinking about the next verse. As “tension” can be understood to be a physical or emotional strain, I think it would be best to stay clear of negative subjects for this next verse. I would also like to say that if you find it too constraining to use only “all spring” or “mid-spring” season words, please feel free to offer an “early spring” verse here. I was assuming that my blossom verse was an “early spring” verse, but maybe we can think of it as an “all spring” verse since it is not in any official season list.

  11. if I may a rewrite to my previous verse:
    our box kite takes
    a perilous turn

    1. Hi Michael Henry! Thank you for your candidate verses. I wanted to let you know that I think the word “perilous” is too close of a link to the “tension” in Carmen’s verse. Maybe try it out with some other adjectives. Hope you will be able to offer more verses!

  12. the tension of the needle
    piercing linen

    —Carmen Sterba

    Dutchman’s breeches
    sprout along a cliff’s
    ragged edge

    —Maureen Virchau

    🙂 I love the humour of ‘Dutchman’s Breeches’ linked to ‘linen’!

    – Lorin

    1. So glad you get a chuckle out of it, Lorin! I was definitely going for the amusement factor here. Thanks so much!

      1. Hi Mary! Mother’s Day is a good link given one of the other names for this flower. The issue lies in the fact that this holiday can’t be used as a spring indicator as it is not celebrated in the same season throughout the world. For example, it’s celebrated in autumn in Australia. Hope you will be able to offer more verses!

    1. Hi Mary. This is a lovely image, but I do think it’s too close to Shrikaanth’s verse. Just wanted to let you know so you can offer more verses.

  13. Thank you to everyone for bringing some unexplored subject matter into the renku!

    1. Hi Theresa! Thank you for your candidate verse. Just wanted to let you know that we can’t use Easter as a spring indicator as it is not celebrated in the same season around the world. For example, it is celebrated in autumn in Australia. I hope you can offer more verses!

      1. Thank you, Maureen. After I posted, that very thing occurred to me — that in the southern hemisphere, Easter occurs in autumn. Also, I think the fact that the “Easter Egg Roll” takes place at the White House disqualifies this one because it can link back to the Jimmy and Rosalynn Carter verse.

        Thanks for your helpful feedback! I’ll keep trying…


        1. You’re very welcome, Theresa. Oh yes, the White House factor. Good point. Feel free to offer lots of verses. Have fun!

  14. Hi everyone! Just offering some more info. This second spring verse should be a “mid-spring” verse or an “all spring” verse to allow for a forward movement in the renku. Animals shouldn’t be highlighted this time around as “dragonfly” and “worm” are so close by. Proper names should also be avoided as this current verse puts the spotlight on the name of a particular flower, and Judt’s verse contains the proper names of a famous couple. I think that covers it for now. Have fun!

  15. Thanks for everyone’s offerings. Just a reminder to make sure this verse clearly indicates spring and cannot be understood to take place within any other season. Mythology, religion, current events, historical events, occupations, and nostalgia are among the many subjects yet to be explored. Have fun with it. It’s the “ha” section after all. I look forward to your verses!

  16. Maureen, this is a delightful verse that opens the renku in many directions. The name of this flower is new to me. The common names of flowers are often so perfect. Great use of “ragged edge” as well. Bravo! Carmen’s commentary is also excellent. 😊

    1. Thank you for your kind words, Mary! So glad you were introduced to this amusing flower. Yes, Carmen’s commentary is excellent. Very inspiring.

    1. Love how the new meets the old here, Marion! I hope you can use this idea for a future haiku. It’s charming. Unfortunately, “new” is already included in the hokku, and ‘old” is contained in Mary’s “old quarry” verse. Hope you can offer more verses with this in mind!

      1. I absolutely adore this image, Marion, and I sincerely wish this verse could be set aside for consideration. But I think we should avoid highlighting any animals this time around. Once again, I hope you can use this in a haiku. It’s captivating. I hope you will be able to offer more verses.

          1. How wonderful! And our cats were dozing in the sun as I read your verse. Thanks for sharing.

  17. Now I can say congratulations to you, Maureen! I was anxious to tell you but decided that a surprise in the morning light is superior to a surprise at night.

    1. Thanks so much, Carmen! You are certainly right about that. Wishing you a happy day.

  18. Thank you very much, Carmen. What a wonderful surprise! I’m so glad you found the same amusement in this little flower’s name.
    Thank you for such an interesting and thorough commentary. Your words have deepened my experience of this verse, your previous verse, and the renku as a whole. I really enjoy your writing style.
    John, I would love to choose the next verse. I look forward to everyone’s offerings!

      1. They sure are, Marion! So glad you agree. I’m fascinated with the names of flowers.

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