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The Renku Sessions: Rasika Renku, Week 10

renkuchainWelcome to The Haiku Foundation’s Sixth Renku Session.

I (Kala Ramesh) have been your sabaki for this renku. Thanks to Jim Kacian and John Stevenson for giving me this opportunity. I’ve learned the art of renku from Norman Darlington, Moira Richards, John Carley and Eiko Yachimoto. I’ve been writing renku from 2006 and I’ve been a sabaki of many renku trips and was the guest renku editor at A Hundred Gourds 5:2.

Hi, everybody,

We’ve come to the end of this rasika trip and it’s a fond farewell from me.

During the last nine weeks, I’ve loved all your candidates and enjoyed myself thoroughly in your company.

The suggestions for the title were:

Brendon Kent:
Eight Champagne Glasses


Barbara A. Taylor:
Filling with twilight


Water on Pebbles


Carol Jones:
a touch of stardust


Carman Sterba:

catch the shine

filling with twilight


Giri Ramanathan:
Sound of silence


Lorin Ford:
The Shine
or just

I do like Lorin’s suggestion and will go with *Shine*



– Rasika Renku

tonight’s moon –
eight champagne glasses
catch the shine

a white silk hat left
on the hat stand

an ermine
dashes out from under
a granite boulder

that rhythmic swish
of water on pebbles

how it all began
with a barefoot kiss
behind the bandstand

our high school reunion
leads to marriage

the orange grove
filling with twilight
and blossom scent

asleep in the long grass
a lioness with her cubs


– Rasika Renku, an 8-verse renku created & led by Kala Ramesh

4th October to 7th December 2017 at *The Haiku Foundation*


Names of the renkujin in the order they appear:

Lorin Ford – hokku

Sanjuktaa Asopa – wakiku

Karen Cesar – daisan

Marion Clarke – 4th verse (love)

Brendon Kent – 5th verse (love)

Carmen Sterba – 6th verse

Paul MacNeil – 7th verse (spring blossom)

Andrew Shimield – ageku


Rasika Renku: a short note

Renku or renga (collaborative poetry) is a genre of Japanese short-form poetry. Two of the most famous masters of renga were the Buddhist priest Sogi (1421–1502) and Master Basho (1644–1694). Renga/renku was one of the most important literary arts in pre-modern Japan. When teaching renku to beginners in schools and colleges or during Haiku festivals in India, I felt the shortest form of renku, junicho, was a wee bit too long, for all we can spare for renku is around two hours. On the other hand, John Carley’s yotsumono (of just four verses) is surely not for beginners who need to learn the nuances when going on a renku trip.

Necessity is the mother of invention. I’d been thinking for some time about this problem when teaching renku to beginners, and in 2015 I hit upon a new form of renku! My version is based on the need to have a shorter version of renku without sacrificing the aesthetics of this 400-year-old art form, which has come to us from Master Basho’s time— the shofu style of renku, which is essentially anti-thematic. In Indian aesthetics, “rasa” means the emotional essence, and a “rasika” is one who enjoys the rasa. So I wish to call this short renku “rasika”.

Rasika has eight verses set as in traditional junicho style. The jo-ha-kyu are not clearly demarcated. The number of kaishi (writing sheets) is just one. I’m keeping this renku very flexible regarding the inclusion of the usual four seasons in renku, meaning spring, summer, autumn and winter. Since we do not have the space and the number of verses to include all the four seasons, we can pick and choose just two or three. It has the conventional moon and blossom verses and of course the love verses without which a renku seems incomplete.


For beginners or if short of time – we can have just two seasons and have either the moon or the blossom verse. Love verses, (though tough) are fun!

For poets who are on a renku trip for the first time, the most important thing is:
1. The ability to differentiate between the 1st verse (hokku with a cut) and all the others, which  are written      without a cut. In other words, each of the other verses, both long and short ones, consists of a single unbroken phrase or clause, or occasionally a complete sentence.  This convention can be broken in rare exceptions.

  1. The link and shift/leap.
  2. No backlash.

Important to note: The link and shift is strong, and the shifts can be wide, since it is not a 36-verse structure of Kasen, which can afford to have small shifts. So shall we say, to coin a new phrase, we’ll be following – link and leap!

As often practiced:
Long verses will be of 3 lines [about 14 sound structures or syllables] Short verses will be of 2 lines [about 11 sound structures or syllables]


A flexible Rasika schema which can be used by anyone who wants to try this trip:

  1. long – hokku | a season-based ku with a cut*
    2. short – wakiku | no season*
    3. long – daisan | a season which is not in the hokku or no season
    4. short – no season
    5. long – summer or any other season not yet used or no season | love
    6. short – no season | love (the position of love verses can be shifted)
    7. long – spring blossom | or autumn moon* (can be shifted up or down)
    8. ageku – no season *

The asterisks show the important verses in this renku.
Just see to it when planning your schema that a season verse is bracketed by non-seasonal verse/s.

Moon & blossom can be in any season and position of love can be shifted as the sabaki wants.

Now we come to the comments that are gathered during a renku trip:

“In contemporary formal Japanese renku circles it is customary, on the completion of a poem, for the sabaki to post a tomegaki. This word has the same root as that for ‘clasp’ and is a kind of debrief that draws some important strands of the compositional discourse together. The participants will also post a kanso. This word means something like ‘appreciation’, though it is not absolutely de rigeur to be unfailingly flattering” – John Carley


Here are a few excerpts from the participants’ kanso:

I have thoroughly enjoyed being involved in this rasika renku and would not hesitate to join another! Thank you all for the warmth and friendship on this journey…around the ‘virtual’ table with its comments et al. I will also try my hand at sabaki when I have gained a little more knowledge of renga (enough to preserve tradition and do it justice!)

Renkujin – Brendon Kent


Kala, congratulations on a most successful ‘first Rasika’ on THF.
The shorter the renku, the harder it is in many ways, I believe, and the Rasika is the shortest.

I do think the Rasika is a practical alternative for ‘live’ renku, when time is necessarily short. I would try it with a ‘live’ group when the opportunity arises.

Renkujin – Lorin Ford


A Rasika could be done at a picnic, in a van, a small meeting or online with two to eight or more.

Renkujin – Carol Jones


this was a fun exercise and i think the rasika gives a good taste of what a renku can be and would be great for sittings where the time is limited. i would gladly participate in another composition.

may be all wrong but my impression is it might be possible to make the structure more flexible by limiting the seasons to two or max three and rather give a major season (spring and/or autumn) two verses, and using no more than two of the three major components (moon, flower, love) in one schema, depending on the season of the composition.

Renkujin: Polona Oblak


Although I am new to the form and was trying to understand it through your comments and Lorin’s, it was so delightful to read so many beautiful verses week after week.

Renkujin – Aparna Pathak.


How deceptively simple the rasika renku seems!
There are so many rules to remember and I got confused with the link and shift!
But your direction and mentoring has helped me understand the true import of a rasika renku. The brevity aside, it was easier for me to see the connection between each verse and understand the logic for choosing one verse over the other. It is showing and not telling taken to an extreme! But that’s what gives it scope for our imaginations to run wild!

Renkujin – Giri Ramanathan


I agree with those who have observed that renku is quite hard to do over so few verses.

Renkujin: Marietta McGregor.




My thanks to John Stevenson for all the help, to Lorin Ford and Karen Cesar for bailing me out of a difficult situation and for all their comments! Thanks to all of you who participated and engaged in lively interaction – which is what renku trips are all about! My Himalayan-sized gratitude and thanks to Jenny Angyal for editing and proofreading my notes each week without fail.

I learned a lot on this trip. Before this, I had tried it out with my undergrads and in other *live* groups which were new to renku, so anything I said went. But here I was suddenly thrown into an arena with experienced renku writers and felt like the proverbial red rag in front of the bull!

I’m happy to note that rasika works, and the most heartening aspect is that all the participants enjoyed the trip. My thanks to The Haiku Foundation for giving me this opportunity.

Sabaki – Kala Ramesh
Pune, India


A few final notes from John Stevenson:

  • Our next session will be a twelve verse renku, under the leadership of Lorin Ford. Look for her initial post on January 11, 2018.
  • The complete text of the renku we are just completing will be added to THF archives.
  • Please consider writing a 20-verse Nijyuin or 36-verse Kasen for the Haiku Society of America’s Einbond Renku Competition, the submission deadline for which is February 28, 2018. I know that some of you are uninterested in writing for a contest. The primary focus of this THF feature has always been the joy of renku collaboration and I do believe that this is the essence of renku. But the Einbond contest is a good way to make more people aware of renku. And the more different people and different approaches reflected in the Einbond results, the better they can serve the promotion of renku in English. For those who might consider participating in this way, I urge you to ask some of the people you have come to know through these sessions if they would join with you in writing something for the Einbond. Here are the Einbond details, from the H.S.A. web site.

Thank you,


This Post Has 18 Comments

  1. Thanks again for leading this Rasika renku, Kala. Like Marion, I find I learn more each time I participate.

    Thanks, too, to all of you who’re looking forward to the next renku. John’s idea of asking us all select the next verse, after a verse of ours had been selected, in the last renku (‘New Calendar’), was a brilliant idea which allowed us to dip our toes in. I hope more of us will be encouraged by that to give the ‘sabaki’ role a go in our turn. . . even with knees shaking at the prospect, like mine are. 🙂 I also take courage from my experience of John Carley’s gentle and witty guidance.



  2. Having met you at HNA Santa Fe this year, Kala, I found that you are a very enthusiastic and warm person, so I enjoyed having you as a sabaki even more!

    p.s. On this page, the statement below was mine:

    “A Rasika could be done at a picnic, in a van, a small meeting or online with two to eight or more.”

  3. Congratulations Kala on a renku well lead and well executed!
    I tagged along just for fun and it opened my eyes to the complexity of being a haiku poet. Simplicity, beauty, originality, eschewing cliches.
    Love the orange blossom ku and the lioness sleeping in the long grass ku.
    Happy New year to all!

    1. Thanks a ton for your comments and for being with us throughout the trip, Giri.
      Happy you enjoyed it

  4. Dear Kala, thank you for leading this wonderful Rasika renku. It was a great experience just to join in each week and to read all the comments. I’m looking forward to Lorin Ford leading the next renku in January 2018. Wishing you all the best for the new year and much joy.


  5. My respect Kala, great fun!

    Thrilling to see the end result with all the trimmings! Excellent!
    Lorin’s title is perfect…

    I also can’t wait for Lorin’s junicho in 2018, I’ll be here!

    That Einbond contest looks interesting…I’ll join in if anyone wishs to start something…

    Thanks all and have a wonderful rest of the year!


  6. This turned out so beautiful! Great title too! Looking forward to Lorin’s leadership in January!

  7. Thank you, Kala, for leading this wonderful Rasika – I learn a lot from participating in every renku on THS and, although it’s always slightly sad when one ends, I can now look forward to Lorin’s junicho in the New Year. That Einbond contest also looks interesting, John.

    Best wishes to all for the festive season and let’s hope 2018 is happy, healthy and productive. 🙂


  8. Thank you Kala, I really enjoyed the challenge of this shorter form, looking forward to Lorin’s junicho.
    Happy Safe and Blessed Holidays to all !!!!!!!

  9. Lovely to see you lead a junicho, Lorin

    Happy Christmas
    & a healthy and creative 2018 to all!

  10. Congratulations, Lorin. A fitting end to a delightful Rasika. I look forward to the next session in 2018.
    Thank you, Kala.
    Hope everyone has a very peaceful festive period, and a poetic new year.

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