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The Renku Sessions: New Calendar 34

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.

This week, we hear from Marietta McGregor:

“Thank you all for staying with the renku this far into our own ‘Year of Natural Wonders’, and thanks also to those who have joined along the way. As a new practitioner/player of renku, I’ve been constantly amazed at the invention and artistry of poets writing in a form which could be regarded as having a strict prescriptive framework. What I’ve come to understand is that the ‘link/shift’ form is limited only by imagination and nuance in language. Added to that is the complex progression of the renku that aims for variety without undue repetition, verse by verse, image by image to its end.

All of which has made my job in choosing this new link so much harder! Link 34 is designated as an ‘all spring’ or ‘early spring’ verse. This seemed to rule out some otherwise healthy candidates. I needed quickly to get up to speed with the 500 Essential Japanese Season Words, the link kindly offered by Betty Shropshire. As the authoritative source of seasonal references, one cannot really argue with the listings, even though one’s climate and culture may lie half a world away. Thus, we have butterflies, new lambs, a swing, kites, frogs, herb-gathering, balloons, rising carp and thin ice; all kigo of Spring.

Many links moved outdoors, which I thought was a good thing to do in early Spring as the weather warms. The previous verses in this section of the renku have been of more intimate interior things. I went back and forth between several lovely verses, and ultimately settled on Betty Shropshire’s optimistic offering:

how this kite gently pulls
us together

          1. –Betty Shropshire

To me, the verse links well with the sentiments or ‘scent’ of the previous link. It conjures up free-wheeling fun in wide open spaces with friends or family, while still giving a sense of a close-knit, familiar, but unrestrictive bond. I also like the first person plural pronoun ‘us’, a form we encounter for the first time in the renku, because it is intimate and inclusive. It could refer to the ‘us-ness’ of our collective lives within our families, our towns, our countries or our world. Or the ‘us’ could be extrapolated to mean all of us who’ve come together here in this poem, drawn close by this link as we head towards the last entries on the folded renku page.

Thank you for your verse, Betty, and thanks John and everyone for the opportunity to participate and choose this verse.”

Betty Shropshire will be offered the opportunity to select the next verse. Betty, 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 (August 30, 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 thirty-five is our final spring blossom verse, written in three lines. This verse is traditionally a cherry blossom image. That is so much the case that the word “blossom” is presumed to mean “cherry blossom” unless otherwise specified. While we should feel free to use any spring blossom for an international renku, I would prefer to see a cherry blossom verse here, since we had the wonderfully unique “Dutchman’s breeches” in the earlier blossom verse. A traditional blossom verse would balance nicely. Let us presume that “blossom” means “cherry blossom” (unless something too wonderful to pass up is offered).

Verse thirty-five must link to the thirty-fourth verse (and only the thirty-fourth 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

all the agar plates

    –Polona Oblak

lunar maria
resolving into
the rabbit

    –Lorin Ford

one last guess at
the weight of the Blue Hubbard

    –Peter Newton

the scarecrow’s
clean clothes

    –Sally Biggar

searching for candles
in the back of the drawer

    –Carol Jones

ribbon-tied letters
release the faint scent
of face powder

    –Marietta McGregor

how this kite gently pulls
us together

    –Betty Shropshire

This Post Has 88 Comments

  1. we become
    blood friends under
    the cherry blossoms

    we become
    blood sisters under
    the cherry tree

  2. I’m wondering if death is acceptable in a renku as things draw to a close. I assume any kind of tree blossom is acceptable as well as the cherry, or am I wrong? (please critique–I’m here to learn).
    after the funeral
    the crabapple still
    blossoms pink

    1. What a great question. There is a place for verses about death or dying in a renku but it is the ha (middle) rather than the jo (opening ) or kyu (fast finish). We will not be finishing our renku so much a reaching the point at which we part from it.

      The image of cherry blossoms contains a sense of great beauty in present moments of passing time. They are here for a very short time and we can miss them if we don’t set other concerns aside in order to be with them in their moment.

      1. Yes, other flowering trees or flowers typically emblematic of spring can be used, especially in international renku. It is good if they can function for their location somewhat in the way that cherry blossoms do in Japanese renku.

  3. Just want you all to know that I have heard from Betty and that she is safe, though she is not certain about property that she has in storage. She asked me to pass along her thanks to everyone.

    1. A terrible time. Thank goodness Betty is safe. Thank you for the information, John.

    2. Thanks for the information, John. Awful scenes on the TV, but its good to know Betty is safe, somewhere, amongst it all.

  4. I am hoping to hear from Betty soon, as I’m sure we all are. The news from Texas has been harrowing.

  5. one pink petal
    from one blossom
    rests on a raindrop
    You may have missed our earlier discussion about numbering. It’s a renku convention that, once a number has been used in a verse, any subsequent number cannot be a lower one. This is related to the idea that any “movement” in a renku is forward, rather than backward. We have used the number thirteen most recently. So “one” is a problem. Of course, this is easily solved by using articles rather than numbers. For instance:
    a pink petal
    comes to rest
    on a raindrop

    1. Oops – too heavy handed when adding those sprinkles!

      the boy wizard
      adds a sprinkle
      of blossoms

    1. I think I got two verses mixed up here – I meant a “whirlwind” 😄
      a whirlwind
      picking up

  6. Betty, it’s late afternoon Sunday, and the news from Texas has brought you to mind several times today. I do hope you and yours are safe and able to deal with what Harvey is up to. I know all of us in this renku offer you (and all Texans) wishes for continued safety in this storm.

    ~ Mary

  7. Hoping, Betty, you experienced the “oooh, everything’s so vivid now” moment after your surgery. Sending good thoughts during the Harvey ordeal for your safety and that of your friends, family, everyone.
    how this kite gently pulls
    us together
    I can ‘feel’ this verse. Congratulations!

    1. perhaps, Betty, you can now appreciate “Color” the way red to but had forgotten? Good luck in your recovery.

  8. I’m returning to an earlier offering. I think ‘swan’ in place of ‘black swan’ scans better, so here are two variants:

    at river’s edge
    the wake of a swan
    in fallen petals
    at river’s edge
    the wake of a swan
    in drifting petals

  9. Thank you, John and Everyone! Am doing great post op but seriously stressed over the hurricane as we’re in a high flood zone area…everyone, I so appreciate your kind thoughts. Take care and keep your loved ones close…Betty

  10. So much to like and be inspired by! Betty’s verse is just so good! Wow Betty ! We are thinking of you and praying for your recovery and safety. You kind of got a double whammy going on! And Marietta, you did such a great job of not only choosing the verse, but encouraging us along the way and then the commentary really got to me. I don’t know much about renku, , but the fun of joining together to create this has been a wonderful time and experience. Don’t want it to end! Congratulations !

    1. Thank you, Debbie. It has been lovely fun meeting and writing with everybody, and so very instructive for me! All the best, Marietta

  11. P.S. I was on a beach in Ogunquit, Maine on the day that your verse was featured and I recited it to my friends as we witnessed the flights of some very fancy kites!

  12. Just a note to say that I saw your note, Betty, that I will be glad to make the next selection, and that I join everyone in wishing you good health and safety from Harvey.

  13. What a lovely and effective verse, Betty! I only hear good things about cataract surgery, but hurricanes are something else. Take care.
    how this kite gently pulls
    us together
    unerupted miles
    of cherry blossoms
    along the river

  14. Betty, I want to wish you a quick and complete recovery with your eyes. Please know we are all praying for safety in this hurricane.

  15. Congratulations, Betty! Happy for you. Your verse is lovely. A great link and shift. Thoughts and prayers are with you as you recover from your surgery. May you and your family be protected from this hurricane.
    A truly wonderful commentary, Marietta. I admire your writing style. I’m glad you decided to select a verse. And it looks like you had fun! Thanks so much for all your time and effort.

  16. Congratulations Marietta and Betty both really great verses. Betty all the best through Harvey,
    in spite
    of it all the blossoms

  17. Thank you, Marrietta!! Very pleased and honored given the other verses that were offered! 😊
    I am bowing out of judging the next verse for several reasons… had cataract surgery yesterday and now, the potential impact of hurricane Harvey is worrying.
    Best regards to all…Betty

    1. Cheers, Betty! All the best for a quick and complete recovery from your surgery.
      – Marietta

    2. Congratulations, Betty. . . nice linking . . . and all the best for an unhassled recovery from your eye surgery. Obviously you mustn’t do anything to strain your eyes after such delicate work on the eyes…so vulnerable!

      A good choice, Marietta.

      – Lorin

          1. “As the authoritative source of seasonal references, one cannot really argue with the listings, . . . ” – Marietta

            That’s international renku, and fair enough to have an agreed upon general reference for what happens when, where in an online version with many participants.

            There’s one listing there that I can (& have) argued about. 🙂 An obvious misunderstanding or bad translation:

            colt, pony (wakagoma, late spring). ”

            One doesn’t need to know Japanese to figure out that the kigo ‘wakagoma’ would be intended to refer to young‘ horses, so no ponies. . . a pony is a small horse, of any age. Colt of filly…maybe. But I think it’d be foals, whether colts or fillies, that are intended.

            – Lorin

  18. Betty, congratulations on an excellent verseI — I always enjoy your offerings.
    Marietta, your commentary was excellent and enlightening. I’m going to miss this renku group!
    how this kite gently pulls
    us together
    –Betty Shropshire
    at river’s edge
    the wake of a black swan
    in fallen petals

  19. Congratulations Betty, a lovely breezy verse, very nice. and an equally lovely presentation of the verse, Marietta.
    Well done both.

      1. Been watching the storm on the news, here, Betty. Take care, but most of all take care of those eyes.

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