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The Renku Sessions: Tan-Renga Week 12



Thank you, everyone, for focusing on the collaborative art of tan-renga as we close out the year.


We received 84 capping verses for Michelle V. Alkerton’s opening verse, from 24 poets. We also received many wonderful suggestions regarding other verses.



Here is my short list, from which I will select the final capping verse:


your final letter
still unburned

John Hawkhead


This was the first verse offered and, right away, it presented the option of moving the action to a different scene by conflating letters (of the alphabet) with postal letters. But the action is consistent in both settings. There is a question of forgiveness. The letters are being burned – but not all of them. And if you have played Scrabble, you know that one or more of the letters in “forgiven” were contributed by another player.




the time you take
to say ‘sorry’

Lekshmi Iyer


Another popular game!





another letter
to return to sender

Laurie Greer


Picking up on the idea that the Scrabble game can be used as a message service. The word “to” is doing double duty here. It can just be part of an implied “to be returned” or it can be that some letters are doomed or even intended, from the start, to be undeliverable: are written and addressed to “return to sender.”




world without end
amen amen

Daniel M MacDonald


Prayer, it has been said, is the way in which we write to God. Perhaps our whole lives are the way we play Scrabble.





left holding
the letter bag

Beni Kurage


Having offered our final word, the next moment is one of suspense.





the final score
left untallied

Sarah E. Metzler


This can be read in many ways. The one I prefer is the thought that the game has been suspended and given way to a moment of heart-to-heart communication.




with a candlestick
in the library

Michael Henry Lee


Perhaps the game is not what we think it is. In the game of “Clue” it’s all about the accusation.






the hidden question mark
left hanging

Tracy Davidson


This also focuses on the element of suspense. And it makes me think about the literal game of Scrabble and how different it would be if there were “punctuation” tiles.





f – o – r – e – i – g – n
plays on love

Peter Mauk


My first thought about Michelle’s opening verse was that another player could play on “forgiven” in various ways, suggesting either acceptance or rejection. Note that “foreign” could be played on either “forgiven” or “love.” I also thought it could be fun to suggest various ways in which another player might use a “blank” tile.





standing in the shadow
of the twelfth station

Carol Jones


This one sent me off to look up Stations of the Cross; rewarding me for the effort.





i smile at my grandmother…
her hands arranging the tiles

Diana Jeong


Here’s a unique twist to the scene. Perhaps the opening verse is spoken by the grandmother and the capping verse is from another player; perhaps one who knows some of her grandmother’s story but wonders what parts she doesn’t know.





he suggests
switching to cribbage

Nancy Brady


Another strategy is “changing the subject.”





using the I
to play quixotic

Nancy Brady


The capitalization is notional (in regard to the game of Scrabble, where all letters are capitalized) but perhaps it suggests all there is to say.





tidy up again
Santa Claus is coming

Nani Mariani


If we can only be forgiven often enough to stay off the “naughty list.”







As I have attempted to make clear, you’ve once again given me a difficult choice. Here is our completed tan-renga:





final play
using all my Scrabble tiles

Michelle V. Alkerton

i smile at my grandmother…
her hands arranging the tiles

Diana Jeong




The above has been added to the archive and this will conclude our latest round of tan-renga practice. Follow this link to the archives page, where you will find our most recent session at the bottom of the list:

I thank you all for your creative participation and wish you good things in the new year!







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 22 Comments

  1. Congratulations, Diana! A lovely verse!

    Thank you, John, for the tan-renga sessions! I am a newcomer and learnt much.

    Thank you to all the poets contributing here!

    Wishing everyone happy holidays!

  2. Congratulations DIana! A delightful capping verse! Thank-you for sharing the beautiful memory of your grandmother. Thank-you to all the poets…it’s been a delight to write and respond to beginning verses. Thank-you John for revealing new ways to look at tan-renga poetry. It’s been an invaluable experience.

    Merry Christmas everyone! Hope this will be a wonderful new year for all!

  3. Congratulations , Diana.

    Thanks, John for guiding us all through all these weeks of tan-renga (a new experience for me, and enjoyable)

    Happy holidays to all who’ve been involved in these tan-renga sessions, wherever you may be.

  4. Thank you John for focusing on tan-renga and for providing insightful selections and commentary every week! I thoroughly enjoyed practicing this form with you as our leader. Thank you also to all poets who participated. I enjoyed reading your work and learning from your offers. It was fun to try to cap your opening verses! I hope to see tan-renga reappear among the pages of The Haiku Foundation!

  5. Thank you John for choosing my capping verse! Michelle V. Alkerton‘s opening verse…

    final play
    using all my Scrabble tiles

    reminded me fondly of my grandmother… how she would make us smile with the way she did things when we were with her, how she would tell my brother and I stories about our family so we could remember (arranging the tiles). I miss her, especially during the holidays and the new years times. I miss her smile, her laughter, how she laughed with her whole heart, how she loved cinnamon rolls and pinwheels….

    I offered other capping verse but this one that came to me was truly a gift. Thank you Michelle, John, and everyone for this opportunity to remember my grandmother. .

    I have enjoyed reading and learning from this group and I am honored to be in the company of great people and poets. Your artistry inspires me and fills my heart with joy. May you all have a blessed new year and cherish the memories of this past year!

    Notable mentions from me…

    world without end
    amen amen
    Daniel M MacDonald

    Gloria Patri… we sing this in church. I loved this capping verse.

    your final letter
    still unburned
    John Hawkhead

    This one took my breath away. It was beautifully written. So bittersweet and poignant.

    Thank you 🙏 ❤️🌸

    1. Congrats, Diana, for the wonderful capping verse. Your grandmother sounds like a wonderful person, and you were blessed to know her and have such fond memories.

    2. Congrats to you, Diana and thanks for the compliment. It’s been fun dropping in for the last 3-4 weeks. I am impressed with everyone’s ability and, of course, the valuable guidance from John Stevenson!

  6. Interesting, educational as ever – and fun! Thank you, John, and all in this delightful group.

    Best wishes for 2023.

  7. It’s been a happy experience the past few months reading and writing tan-renga with you. Thanks to all for your voices and especially to John for leading our choir!

    Be sure, if you can, to watch “The Bishop’s Wife” this holiday season to enjoy another choir singing harmoniously together.

  8. The idea of my linking poem is that the last remaining tiles might have been “f-o-r-e-i-g-n” and the player places all seven on a word already on the board. Hence, “foreign plays on love” results in the word “forgiven.” It is about how “forgiven” comes about for this player, not the story of what might happen next. The game ends with ‘forgiven’, after all, just like in real life 🙂

    I offer this (admittedly obscure) explanation with smiles and humor: I enjoyed the collaborations throughout this series very much. Thank you, everyone, for the renga fun and the chance to take part. What’s next?

  9. Congratulations, Diana, well done.

    Thank you, John, for leading us through this tan-renga. It has been an enjoyable journey.
    Hope this will happen again, at some time in the near future.
    Thanks also for commenting on one of mine, good to know it was a rewarding search.
    Peace and goodwill over the festive season and into the New year.
    Have a good one everybody.

  10. Thanks John for leading us through these many weeks of tan-renga. I feel like I understand the form better now. It’s been fun writing both verses and capping verses, too. Reading others and your rationale for selection is informative.

    To all the poets, wishing you a happiest of holidays, a happy Hogmanay, and a peaceful new year filled with haiku-filled moments.

  11. Thank you all for the party especially John for all his time and effort
    Happy Merry HO HO HO to you all.

  12. Thanks for capping off weeks of fun with a Grandmother memory :). I really enjoy your explanations that help me view things in new ways.

    I hope everyone enjoys the season however you may celebrate.

    I’m looking forward to a new year of learning, writing and making the most of my moments.

    Stay inspired!

  13. Thank you John! This was a constantly rewarding, inspiring, surprising run! As always, I learned a lot and had a great time. Thanks also for noticing my offerings so often. And thanks to all who contributed over the last few months–it’s been great!
    Happy holidays to one and all–

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