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The Renku Sessions: New Calendar 27

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.

Betty Shropshire provides our selection and comments this week:

“First off, I want to apologize to all if I have ever come across as overbearing or too blunt with respect to verse choices by other Sabakis on this renku or in previous renku. Let’s just say that I have spent the past few days eating a veritable banquet of crow in trying to choose the right verse!

In any case, out of the incredibly varied and lovely submissions, I have selected one that I hope everyone will agree fits nicely for this final love verse. And I can honestly say that I connected to it on a personal level as well. The final love verse is this one submitted by Marietta McGregor (with an edit by John to offset a problem with “scheduling” as being too close to the hokku):

date nights
for conversation

            1. –Marietta McGregor

We go from a passionate bohemian style relationship where, under the influence of alcohol, the ability to see clearly may leave one with a partner totally unsuited for the long term. However, in Marietta’s verse, we now have to move forward deliberately in order to sustain that relationship. A union that is now most likely swamped by the demands of family (whether it is caring for children or, at the other end of the spectrum, our aging parents, or even both) and possibly, by both having jobs/careers in order to financially keep up in this fast-paced world where we strive to have it all. So, in the end, I see a stressed relationship where maybe it won’t work out but at least they are trying.  As such, Marietta’s verse brings a sobering commentary on the need to still connect when the vicissitudes of life get in the way of passion.

The other reason that I chose Marietta’s verse is her use of “purely’ which contrasts so well with “absinthe.” For me, there is a subliminal message contained in each of those words…sin with abandon versus a sole (soul) purpose. Also, there is a brand of sugar here in America called ‘Pure Cane Sugar’ so I liked that subtle link as well.

Thank you, Marietta for this lovely verse! I hope you find that the edit remains true to your intent. And thank you, John, for gently pointing out the flaws in my thinking as well as finding a solution such that we may include a new contributor to this renku!”

And thank you, Betty!

Marietta McGregor will be offered the opportunity to select the next verse. Marietta, 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 (July 12, eastern US time) 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 twenty-eight will be non-seasonal, written in two lines. We are getting close to the end of the “ha” or middle section of our renku. The twenty-eighth through thirtieth verses will be our last chance to get a little wild and crazy at this party. Soon we will have to turn the music down and start cleaning up. BUT NOT YET.

Verse twenty-eight must link to the twenty-seventh verse (and only the twenty-seventh verse) but it also must clearly shift away from it in terms of scene, subject, and tone.

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

six pairs of boots
by the pilgrim shrine

    –Polona Oblak

in full flight
fledglings skim
through the archway

    –Barbara A. Taylor

my toddler puts her milk glass
on the kitchen counter

    –Paul MacNeil

on the store’s intercom
comes a cleanup request
for aisle thirteen

    –Michael Henry Lee

recalling where they were
on Jerusalem Day

    –Debbie Feller

falling north and south
of the peace wall

    —Marion Clarke

Tolstoy in Russian
by a roaring fire

    –Michael Henry Lee

could it be
that women prefer
a room with a view?

    —Karen Cesar

absinthe and “that look”
as they suck on sugar cubes

    –Betty Shropshire

date nights
for conversation

    –Marietta McGregor

This Post Has 85 Comments

  1. I am late to the party (as usual) & also too late for this verse (I think), but I will warm up with:

    all talk
    no action


  2. I wanted to compliment Marietta on her fine verse this week and to Betty for selecting it. I love the subtlety and depth.

    date nights
    for conversation

    –Marietta McGregor

  3. My last offering was a speechless wild deer. I guess when John suggested somthing wild for verse 28, he meant a different kind of wild. (^.^)

  4. date nights
    for conversation
    –Marietta McGregor

    the glitter
    of his gold tooth

    – Aparna Pathak

  5. Congrats to you, Marietta! Your verse has lingered with me. It highlights a particular kind of loneliness which is perfect for this position.
    Great job, Betty! Your appreciation of the role of sabaki is most endearing. I enjoyed your personal and thoughtful commentary.
    Many thanks to everyone for all the words of wisdom.

  6. I’ve printed the info, thanks for your help, Lorin.

    at a junction
    left or right?

  7. Hi all
    Sorry to interrupt the flow for one moment. I have read, with interest, the conversation below about the phases of the moon in relation to the poems presented, also, ha and jo, this means nothing to me, AT THE MOMENT. Being a ‘newbie’ could someone please advise a good piece of literature for me to gain a better understanding of presentation.


    1. Carol, I can’t throw any light on moon verses, apart from saying the obvious: the moon has to be mentioned and we have, so far, a ‘spring moon’ verse in the ‘jo’ section:

      sound of a flute
      slowly rising
      with a hazy moon

      –Dru Philippou

      and an ‘autumn moon’ earlier in this ‘ha’ section:

      each time I wake
      the moon lights
      something different

      —Gabrielle Higgins

      Jo , haand kyu are the three ‘movements’ or sections of a renku. We’re towards the end of the 2nd, the ‘ha’, now.

      Don’t worry about it, because John will outline what’s wanted up top, as he does for each verse slot. However, Paul’s advice for this current verse spot is to be aware that the next moon verse will need to somehow link to it:
      “My advice to us all is not to cramp the style for the moon with celestial reference… or light … or a characteristic shape, whatever.”- Paul

      And the moon verse will need to completely shift away from the last-but-one verse (uchikoshi) preceding it:
      date nights
      for conversation

      –Marietta McGregor

      Re: “a good piece of literature for me to gain a better understanding”, of on-line pieces on renku, I’d suggest these:

      – Lorin

  8. date nights
    for conversation

    –Marietta McGregor

    all the old favourites
    on the jukebox

    – Lorin

  9. date nights
    for conversation

    –Marietta McGregor

    he picks the booth
    next to the jukebox

    – Lorin

  10. Sorry to be late in replying. I’ve been distracted.
    Yes, the twenty-ninth verse will be an autumn moon verse.
    No, I don’t intend any further revision of Marietta’s verse. I’m happy with it, as is.
    All of this goes back to the hokku, which represents a certain kind of challenge. If one goes to extremes, the hokku could be used to justify the exclusion of anything that relates to the passage of time. Clearly this is counterproductive but the articulation of a lesser standard is difficult. Personally (and I don’t expect others to be like me), my standard for a verse in relation to the hokku is “does it actually make me think of the hokku?” In this instance, the idea of “scheduling” really did make me think back to a calendar, whereas the idea of “date night” didn’t. Of course, that is a purely subjective response and other responses are equally valid.
    I’m truly pleased with the way that this experiment with multiple selectors has been going. I recently recited what we have, so far, to Yu Chang, one of my regular renku partners. and it struck us both as lively and well done.
    I do notice that when we get into discussion and education mode the production of new verse offerings falls off considerably. I don’t want to dampen the discussion but I do want to encourage additional poetry. We have some good offers on the table but I’d like to have about twice as many!

    1. You KNOW our family’s two cats, Debbie! Neither are with us now – they lived to good ages. They would be stretched out together, seemingly relaxed and benign, one would attempt a little grooming of the other, then…yowl, spit, claws!

  11. date nights
    for conversation

    –Marietta McGregor

    another deal done
    with yet another sheikh

    – Lorin

  12. A thought. To avoid ‘night’, addressing Polona’s concern about the ensuing moon verse, and to avoid ‘date’, addressing comments by Polona and Lorin, could the verse be re-cast as:
    intimate trysts
    for conversation

    Or, maybe to avoid the problem, Betty could just revisit other poets’ verse offerings? No problems with that for me.

    1. There’s no question of replacing your verse, Marietta. Once chosen, by all I understand, it stays. Depending on sabaki though, verses can be revised a bit. John Carley (& Basho :-) ) not only did that, but encouraged such participation, and of course sabaki has the final say. . . in this case, John S., who’s doing the daring thing of allowing us all to have a go as ‘apprentice sabaki’.

      – Lorin

      1. I agree w/ Lorin. Once the stanza is “covered” by any or all next-verse entries, the jig is up. Folks write based on the literal verse. Any substantive change would be unfair. Teeny changes are up to the Sabaki, and can be proposed or made at the end. For ex…. the renku may have way too many first word “the”s. One can be changed to “a” “an” ?? No harm; no foul.
        I’ll try to be quiet now ……..

    2. of course the verse should stay! this is for fun and for learning, not to win a contest or undergo a forensic investigation… :)

  13. date nights
    for conversation
    –Marietta McGregor
    I like Marietta’s verse because it is realistic and it has a good shift from the former verse.
    Concerning the use of the word ‘dates,’ I would make a small tweak:
    nights out
    for conversation

  14. What a wonderful Verse, Marietta! :). And thank you Betty for doing such a good job choosing ! :)

  15. I’m not sure why some people are having trouble posting directly to this site but, in any case, here is an offer from Seánan Forbes:

    here, where the road ends,
    it all begins
    Seánan Forbes

  16. John, am i correct in assuming the verse following the one we’re currently working on will be the final moon position?

    if so, the use of “nights” in what will become its leap-over verse can be awkward as the moon and most of its effects are naturally associated with the night. of course the moon can (and does) appear in daylight but in that case it is never full.

    1. Polona, I do not know John’s template, but traditionally as you surmise, #29 is the moon’s place. My advice to us all is not to cramp the style for the moon with celestial reference… or light … or a characteristic shape, whatever. We can all be good to each other. The last sequence ahead of Spring will have a “blossom” in #35. That poet should have a clear shot at it.

    2. In the ha section we could have a non-traditional moon verse, Polona. We already have a traditional one in the jo section. I wouldn’t be worried about a day moon verse.

      And I’ve seen an almost full moon in the daytime … wonderful! Moon in the east and sun in the west…at the same time. Probably it was gibbous . . . but big. :-)

      – Lorin

      1. well, yes, i wouldn’t mind a crescent or gibbous moon in this position should the sabaki allow it. i’m aware that #29 in a kasen is traditionally an autumn moon but do not know this schema, so we may yet be in for a surprise.

        actually, we had a spring moon in the jo and one autumn moon in the ha, both fairly traditional.

        sure, the moon a few days before (which would be your case) or after it is full appears in the sky at the same time as the sun and can be spectacularly beautiful :)

        1. I have been taught that varying the moons (three in a kasen, traditionally) is a good thing. I believe the Japanese do not use the complete New Moon because that is blackness = no moon. The moon can be varied by shape (phase, the old Japanese masters used the day # of the moon), by its light, where it is relative to the horizon, how it is seen– through trees, in reflection, etc. Variety in all things is one tenet of renku.

          1. What I imagined was a new light on the humungous, Chinese-owned tower of ‘apartments’ going up to the west of me shone through my shutters & woke me up at 5:30am. Now it’s 6:10. A very bright moon is shining through my window right now. (It looks like a full moon) It’s winter here.

            – Lorin

  17. congratulations, Marietta, for the verse, and Betty for the selection and commentary.

    like Lorin, i thought “date” may link back to the hokku. this is not meant as a critique, just a reminder how complex relations between renku verses can be. my view is that homonyms are links by association even when the intended meaning differs from the one that links.

    there is another poossibly unfortunate use of a word which i’ll address in a separate post

    1. Hi Polona,
      … but ‘date’ isn’t a homonym (unless we were talking about the sort of date we eat, that grows on date palms, which we’re not.) ‘Dates’ as in ‘date nights’ are (primarily) appointments/ agreements to meet which are made for a certain time and calendar date.

      I see nothing wrong with questions about a renku in progress, even if they may imply a possible critique, because we’re all learning and wanting to learn, here. (Well, I know I am, anyway) And it can get confusing.

      – Lorin

      1. My thinking is that ‘homonym’ applies to any human ‘dates’. Usages like ‘blind date’, ‘speed date’ and ‘date rape’ don’t really link to calendars. But I take Polona’s point that any homonym should be ruled out. I bow to those with more experience.

        1. True enough, Marietta, in the instances you give (‘blind date’, ‘my date’ etc.) though i don’t think they’re true homonyms but vernacular usages derived from &/or related to calendar date. Whether or not they’re homonyms is small point, though. The real point, as Polona tentatively mentions it and I in a straightforward way, is whether or not the territory of the hokku is breached

          – Lorin

          1. Thanks for all the informative discussion and critique. Obviously, I need considerably more experience in the subtleties of renku. Not somewhere to dip one’s toes in lightly, I guess, even though it’s a sort of happy game. If my verse needs to go in the interests of maintaining the integrity of the whole poem so be it, I don’t mind at all. ?

      2. With John’s suggested edit to remove scheduling, I saw date in the context of being one’s chosen companion for the evening.

        1. “I saw date in the context of being one’s chosen companion for the evening.” – Betty

          … as in “my date for the night”, Betty, or “the nights I spend with my date” ? (goodness, would anyone actually say that last example)

          – Lorin

          1. :-) Betty,

            “We have really everything in common with America nowadays except, of course, language.” – Oscar Wilde, (1887)

            – Lorin

    2. This is all a sketchy area, for me. The exact word, same spelling as in a true homonym, afoul obviously be avoided in a renku, regardless of context as a different word. Shinku Fukuda, the late Japanese Master (and our John wrote with him extensively) wrote that to say the word is enough to preclude it regardless of context … to include more indefinite meanings. My example: to say wolf laurel (a flowering plant) is to say “wolf.” So no 4-footed hairy mammals can come later — even though a plant was described.

      I love to use those relationships as a technique for linking. To imply a second meaning is one of the many subtle ways to link to the last verse. It is a turn. But more directly, verse to verse, is not a good idea. Subtlety is to be prized.

      Just off-the-top fiction……… “She agreed to go out with me.” Next verse set in an oasis ……….. “picking the sweet fruit from the palm.”

      Both indistinct, and the link is subtle. In TANGENT stanzas. But even if subtle, not using the actual word… you cannot unring the bell — in the core of the renku. The universe of possibilities — expansion is to be explored, creatively.

      When you have inspiration for a candidate verse… read it up against every previous verse— literally. It is tedious, I know. I often get locked into a good idea– and it is hard to give it up. Blind alley — start over.


      1. Great to read your post, Paul.
        But going by your ‘wolf laurel’ example … does that mean ‘pants’ in your currently offered verse (which I like) is out? Or, since ‘Dutchman’s breeches’ isn’t the hokku, so not verboten territory, is there ‘sufficient separation’ between the ‘Dutchman’s breeches’ verse & your ‘pants’?

        – Lorin

        1. Just so, Lorin. I posted THAT variation (of the car) for humor. Being strict, as the Japanese masters are, our “breeches” precludes clothing. Yet Debbie has neckline, directly implying women’s clothing. Not a bad thing, as a lot of stanzas were in between. Such non-direct repetition can be tolerated. my “pants” to breeches is way too close. Neckline to the flower — for me, not so much.

      2. Hi Paul…ironically, my main concern initially was that I tend to see too many associations and told John I was worried about that OCD quality of mine. Sigh. We had verses passed over (birds due to fledlings) but not with toddler where a verse was later chosen with an adult human…what women want. We had Jerusalem Day…seems that would be a calendar date, right? I dunno, my brain is fried by how to weigh the strength of an association. And I didn’t confer with John until it was basically too late to choosr another…he did warn me to be prepared for questions.

  18. Congrats, Marietta!
    And I especially like “purely” and your rationale for that word, Betty.

  19. Just the one, obvious reflection: I would’ve thought that ‘date’ , which refers to the calendar, would’ve been out if the idea is to avoid return to the hokku’s sacrosanct territory?

    – Lorin

    1. I’m interested to hear discussion on this, too. I guess I see ‘date’ here as a homonym (is that the right word?). Calendars, romantic rendezvous, or Middle Eastern fruits. To me, while some may have evolved into their current meaning (sorry for the almost pun!) from a shared origin, they are all now very different things. ?

      1. I. Love. Homonyms. Slapping myself for not catching that sweet link!

      2. Sorry, Marietta, I don’t buy it. :-) In context, the dates we eat (that grow on date palms) is ruled out. Dates (as in ‘date nights’) are meeting times agreed upon in advance (scheduled, as you had it originally, and ‘scheduled’ , in my view was redundant) on a particular date, time and place. In this case, ‘date’ is not a homonym.

        – Lorin

    2. Hi Lorin, the choice was mine and so I’ll fall on my sword for any flawed thinking. ?

      1. Hi Betty,
        Put that sword away! :-)
        The aim is not to lay any blame, but to question and hopefully have something clarified for the future.
        Please don’t take it personally. It’s not easy to be the sabaki, I know. So many things to take into consideration! And John has a lot on his mind and on his plate at present, too.

        – Lorin

  20. What a pleasant shock to wake up to find my verse chosen. Thank you for your kind words and insightful reading, Betty! And thank you for your ‘ra-ra’, Michael Henry and Paul.

    I’ve written to ask John if he minds if I don’t choose the next verse. I’m a rank amateur (only my second renku), among poets of much greater standing and experience. Maybe one day…

  21. bravo Marietta
    John i hope your wife continues to improve
    each retires to
    their own afterglow

  22. or .. more humorously for a “following love” verse:

    as the new day dawns
    I try to find my pants

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