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The Renku Sessions: Tan-Renga Week 10


Hello, everyone. We will be focusing on tan-renga for the remainder of the year. While I’m not certain how deeply rooted in its history this may be, I’m going to urge you to think of tan-renga in two ways. One way is to think of it as the shortest of all renga/renku forms. This would encourage variety in the linking styles and perhaps some great leaps. The other way is to think of it as collaborative waka/tanka, which might support closer linking, bordering upon narrative.

It appears that The Haiku Foundation’s website will be busy for the remainder of this month and, consequently, we can expect to be pushed off the home page a little earlier than usual. You can still reach this page at any time. At the bottom of the home page, there is a listing of “Featured Content.” Using the navigation arrows, you can locate the Renku Sessions (5 clicks to the left or 12 to the right) and, from there, bring up the most recent posting.


We received 75 capping verse offers for Peter Mauk’s opener (and many wonderful offers related to other finalists) from 20 poets.


Here is my short list:



barn cats live and
die without names

Richard Straw



tractor parts left
on a workbench

Richard Straw



the silo’s shadow
falls on the house

Richard Straw




inside the milking shed
the sweet scent of milk

Lorin Ford




on the way to mass
a lamb born too soon

Marion Clarke




the scent of hoof oil
from the stable

Carol Jones




her Ladyship sips her tea
in the flower garden

Lorin Ford




following in
my father’s footsteps

Michael Henry Lee




those election promises
of transparency

Keith Evetts




the buddha
waving hello

Curt Linderman




the morning newspaper
full of bad news

Nancy Brady




cold fingers
hold a bowl of tea

Jonathan Alderfer




the bituminous scent
of the afterlife

Jonalth Alderfer




lamb and lentil
stewing in the kitchen

Amoolya Kamalnath




Growing up, as I did, on or in the vicinity of family farms focused on dairy and small crops, I had a very particular vision of the scene depicted in Peter Mauk’s opening verse. Reading through the capping offers, I was reminded that many of us have lived lives in urban or in significantly different rural settings. I’ve tried to bear this in mind when making my list of finalists.



first frost
steam on the manure pile
rises in morning light

Peter Mauk

barn cats live and
die without names

Richard Straw

One of the things that I have tried to do in my haiku years is to see things without the distortions of naming them. Of course, we must name things in order to have any images at all in our poems, but the true subject is often something for which any naming is inadequate.





first frost
steam on the manure pile
rises in morning light

Peter Mauk

the silo’s shadow
falls on the house

Richard Straw

This gets points for its musicality. And it must be admitted that the field and barn work of a farm, represented in the silo, are of a piece with the housework of the family.





first frost
steam on the manure pile
rises in morning light

Peter Mauk

her Ladyship sips her tea
in the flower garden

Lorin Ford

Unlike the kind of family farm that I initially imagined, there is farming on a scale that allows for a social hierarchy among those working and living on an estate. The juxtaposition of these images – the earthy and genteel – highlights the fact that we are all part of the same world, even though we may pretend otherwise.





first frost
steam on the manure pile
rises in morning light

Peter Mauk

lamb and lentil
stewing in the kitchen

Amoolya Kamalnath

A very different array of scents but, again, making the point that there is this one great thing, with endlessly various aspects of presentation. Not so much the garden of Eden as the farm of Eden.





I know it is my job to select just one of the finalists. I find I can’t do it this time. All four will be included in the archives.





Please make up to five offers of opening verses. Since this verse, with the eventually selected cap, will probably be the final one for this session of tan-renga practice, perhaps we can focus on images that invoke the completion of another year, either literally or figuratively.

Enter your offers in the comments section, below, before midnight (Eastern US time) on Monday, December 12th. On Thursday, December 15th, I will select the capping verse and comment on the process.


Thank you, all, once again,




The Haiku Foundation reminds you that participation in our offerings assumes respectful and appropriate behavior from all parties. Please see our Code of Conduct policy:

This Post Has 51 Comments

  1. Thanks for the tan-renga fun. I enjoyed everyone’s responses. Y’all sure know how to cap a pile of manure!

    all ponds the same
    this year
    goose arrives alone

    the moist green
    of grass
    warmed by buffalo’s breath

    last look at the dam
    through ice
    beaver dives for lodge

  2. My five offers:

    new year –
    on the threshold again
    ready to leave


    completion –
    all the resolutions
    we give up midway


    raised bar –
    Christmas star guides
    her comeback


    starlit night
    a fresh pile of snow
    on the same earth


    taxi ride –
    the whole journey packed
    in a bag

  3. white bark unraveling . . .
    the lies I told myself
    just last fall

    chimney sparks . . .
    our river of words
    curls into the moonlight

    Saturn and Jupiter
    under the Milky Way . . .
    foreign wars

    talking in tongues . . .
    winter radishes
    from the greenhouse

    under the eaves
    a chickadee
    hunts winter spiders

  4. Well done to all and thanks to John.

    A few offerings…

    New Years Day
    how heavy our heads
    and the recycling bin

    another Christmas
    I return Scrooge and his ghosts
    to the shelf

    cold realisation
    my life no longer warrants
    a diary

    mall entertainment
    a dog challenges
    a dancing Santa


  5. year’s last brush painting
    whitewashing the first
    fresh fallen snow

    yearly corn maze
    now a stubble field
    solved crossword

    corking the bottle
    latching the gate
    barren vineyard rests

  6. 1) All in kitchen
    collaborative venture
    for Christmas eve

    2) age shrinking
    on her gait
    and looks as well

    3) old calendar
    full of significant dates
    bygone events

    4) reaping farm
    numberless past
    how much good

    5) her birthday
    How many missing cakes
    hungry stomachs

  7. as sure a sign
    as snow or ice
    migrating flock

    last year’s leaves
    and this year’s mingle
    the inviting woods

    nearly all
    the leaves have fallen
    still birds hide

    year’s end
    another book to close
    and shelve

    another year
    the celebration also
    getting old

  8. ‘coffee snob’ I had no idea of this… but now I realise I was among two of them at the end of October 2019, they were visiting from Australia. They wouldn’t consider drinking a good instant, just a good brand of tea, unless we were out browsing the shops in the town or city and the coffee had to be made from dark roast beans. . . words fail me.

    Thank you, Lorin 🙂

    1. 🙂 Carol, perhaps all ‘coffee snobs’ are of Australian origin? They’re a bit like ‘wine snob’, and I imagine they think of themselves as connoisseurs. ‘Dark beans’? These people know the actual names and origins of the beans! And don’t mind letting everyone in the room know.

  9. roping the dead branch
    of an old beech–
    years’ end
    best of the year lists
    so many blanks
    in my calendar

  10. John, a lovely choice of capping verses. Congratulations to the four finalists…a peaceful holiday to all!

  11. It pours…
    throughout the night

    a mess of calendars
    through the mail

    Christmas holly
    the iron gate

    a birthday
    in winter…

    the humbleness
    of such
    a king

  12. My offerings:
    winter wind
    in mother’s room
    pile of pink thermals


    endless bucket list
    tucked in my pocket
    the Himalaya’s map


    just about to tell
    how i missed her
    half red leaf falls


    another Milky way
    in my binoculars
    Diwali night


    not yet Christmas
    and the baby named


    World Cup Soccer
    night sky drowned
    in screams


    Lakshmi Iyer

  13. Thanks John for considering one of my calling verses. And ignoring the two others that referenced a joke. I have to admit that the verse reminded me of a joke /story my husband tells. Congratulations to the four winners, five if including the verse to be capped.

    Now, for some verses:

    looking back
    and looking forward
    –a hogmanay toast

    gifts opened…
    the squeals of joy
    from the kids

    ribbons and bows…
    wrapping paper flying

    boxing day…
    all that remains
    are thank you notes

    1. Capping not calling. I hate typos, especially my own, but even more I hate when the auto-correct monkey thinks it knows better than me.

  14. borrowing
    an unemployed
    scarecrow’s boots
    holy water
    on the new outhouse
    my 2023
    social calendar
    is also blank
    and now crawling
    to the finish line

        1. The same to you, Dan. Best wishes in 2023!

          And to all the poets as well. May 2023 be a better year for everyone.

  15. .
    despite it being
    the first month of summer
    more wintry storms

    we tune in daily
    to Climate Driver updates –
    it’s not like Christmas

    ‘roos versus reindeer –
    even climate change pundits
    hedging their bets

    climate change –
    none of Santa’s helpers wear
    budgie smugglers

    1. ahem! Bad line break in last one (above) revised to:

      climate change –
      none of Santa’s helpers
      wear budgie smugglers

  16. lamb and lentil
    stewing in the kitchen

    Amoolya Kamalnath

    Christmas dinner
    pray together for
    world peace

  17. the streets are full
    cold quickens among the lights
    of Christmas coming

    heating low
    in the winter refuge
    a joker warms up

    the last light out
    all down the quiet valley
    a winter moon

    black trees
    line the long hill
    above a frozen lake

    yellow brown leaves
    on the porch, in the hallway,
    up in the bedroom

    frost holds
    cattle in the byre
    chew steam
    (David Cobb)

  18. presents wrapped and ready
    saving the last gift card
    for next year
    and if I can revise my first one:

    sewing circle
    four fat quarters
    for the new year’s quilt
    thank you!

  19. winter storm
    still feeling the effects
    of festivities

    time to shake up
    this party

    full circle
    life’s carousel
    resets itself

    sleigh bells
    disturbing the peace
    of his mourning

    midnight countdown
    checking out who to kiss
    when the ball drops

  20. Bows to all.

    new year’s eve —
    the sound of a car crash
    after the party

    doom scrolling
    rebels hurl tomato soup
    at a few old masters

    the clock runs down
    to the last
    can of sardines

    I’m like New Year
    and still watching

  21. radioactive swirls
    of cream cheese
    and nutmeg
    sniff the empty streets
    of Christmas Day
    reliable as a rooster in the morning
    in the airy conservatory
    overlooking the garden
    magnolia tree
    ancient vineyards
    abandoned by the rain
    a rainbow pinwheel

  22. An enjoyable set; engaging comment — felicitations all. Now for the year’s end…

    they come
    to take away the body
    grandfather clock

    New Year
    all the fuss
    among the sparrows

    passing year
    a rustle
    in the chimney

    the table
    winter moon

    our humbugs

  23. decorating…
    his own wreath
    on the entrance door

    December post
    an exclamation mark ends
    her Christmas card message

    year end
    the chestnut seller’s
    blackened fingers

    playing grinch
    for another Christmas
    winter stars

    winter stars
    party goers sing
    Auld Lang Syne

  24. Thank you, John, for selecting my capping verse to be one among the final four! I was much surprised and delighted to see my verse and name there. This is a first for me! It has been a great journey the past few weeks, learning about renku and tan-renga. Thank you for all your guidance including the comments on each verse and instructions on how to cap!

    Congratulations to Richard Straw and Lorin Ford! I’m happy to be in your august company.

  25. ” All four will be included in the archives.” – John

    What a nice surprise, thank you John and congrats to Richard (2 ! ) and Amoolya. Delighted to be in your company this time.
    re :
    her Ladyship sips her tea
    in the flower garden

    “Unlike the kind of family farm that I initially imagined, there is farming on a scale that allows for a social hierarchy among those working and living on an estate. – John ”

    True. Yet it could also be just someone others refer to as “her Ladyship”, because she’s known for “putting on the side”. 🙂 This sort traditionally holds her cup of tea with the small finger (the ‘pinky’) sticking out. She’s an archetype of comedy, but she exists in real life (or used to when I was younger).


      1. 🙂 Thanks for the confirmation, Carol. I suspected they might be still out there, but did wonder if they’d been replaced by the ‘coffee snob’, the bane of local baristas.

  26. How I long to live on a farm so I can let my cats roam freely outside. I love the imagery from the capping verses… an awakening for me on how the world lives outside of my own. Thank you!

  27. Congratulations to the fab four on the selection list, well done.
    Thank you John for pausing on one of mine.

  28. catch a falling star
    burn your hands
    to pieces

    skid row Christmas
    every junkies waiting for
    the man with the bag

    in front of
    god and everyone…
    God and everyone

    on a stack of bibles
    upside down and backwards

    The Grinch
    on broadway
    lost in the green man

    Christmas morning
    the cat and i
    exchanging glances

  29. Thanks, John Stevenson, for your selections and comments this week and congratulations to all the poets. The opening verses you selected last week, John, especially Peter Mauk’s, made the capping experience both enjoyable and enlightening.

    Capping another’s verse, at least for me, is less stressful than writing an opening verse, just as most other types of conversations are easier to carry on once someone breaks the ice with an interesting and shared topic.

    I hope to contribute to the next tan-renga (the last of this current session) once I can focus on a way to sum up another year in a sensory, seasonal, and open-ended way.

  30. waking from a dream
    of snow falling over loam
    the white cat curls

    low lying sun
    the heart she drew in frost
    melting away

    winter air
    entering the fog
    of weather talk

    night train home
    beyond the window
    who I have become

    erratic boulders
    signs of the ice age
    we flow into

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