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The Renku Sessions: Tan-Renga Week 8


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.


We had 92 capping offers for Jonathan Alderfer’s opening verse, from 27 poets, along with a great sampling of capping offers for runners-up.


Here is my “short list”:



walking together
the long way home

Richard Straw




along the golden path
a mingling of shadows

John Hawkhead




two gold bands worn
to the width of one

Laurie Greer




to think we almost
didn’t meet

madeleine kavanagh




soon we’ll be viewing
the first stars

Lorin Ford




footsteps in moss
fading behind us

John Hawkhead




the shhh
of leaves

Sarah Metzler




on the garden bench
a cat licks its paws

Carol Jones




opening my eyes to silence
the blue sky blurs

Sushama Kapur




a wood thrush song
now two

Peter Mauk





Jonathan Alderfer’s opening verse might suggest a variety of emotional states. Do we assume that the speaker is addressing someone who is physically present or someone only present in imagination or memory? What season do we imagine? What age do we imagine for the speaker? For the person addressed? Do we imagine this taking place out of doors or at a window? The way we answer these and other questions will inform how we go about offering a capping verse.


Here is my list of “finalists,” presented with Jonathan Alderfer’s opening verse and some comments:





a touch of your hand…
afternoon sunlight lingers
in the treetops

Jonathan Alderfer


walking together
the long way home

Richard Straw

This capping verse preserves most of the questions posed by the opening. It can be taken literally or figuratively. Can be imagined in most seasons other, perhaps, than winter. Can apply to people of various ages, etc.





a touch of your hand…
afternoon sunlight lingers
in the treetops

Jonathan Alderfer

two gold bands worn
to the width of one

Laurie Greer

This perhaps suggests the physical presence of two people (though not with certainty). Our attention is drawn back from the fingertips of treetops to actual hands. The fact that the wearer’s rings are so worn suggests a long relationship and this, in turn, projects autumn into the trees. The quality of the rings – two that are like one – may be taken as a comment upon the relationship.






a touch of your hand…
afternoon sunlight lingers
in the treetops

Jonathan Alderfer

footsteps in moss
fading behind us

John Hawkhead

Again, this suggests two people are present without making it a certainty. What it also suggests, to me at least, is the lightness of being. We could not walk more quietly than on a bed of moss. Our footsteps leave but a brief indication of our presence. This reflects upon the touch of a hand, also light and achingly ephemeral – meaning nothing, meaning everything.






a touch of your hand…
afternoon sunlight lingers
in the treetops

Jonathan Alderfer

the shhh
of leaves

Sarah Metzler

By now you may be aware of how much I enjoy a minimal verse when it manages to achieve deep resonance. I relate “shhh” to the touch of a hand – whether literal or imagined. And with that, the entire scene seems unified and articulate.





Here is the tan-renga that we will be adding to the archive this time:



a touch of your hand…
afternoon sunlight lingers
in the treetops

Jonathan Alderfer

footsteps in moss
fading behind us

John Hawkhead





Please make up to five offers for a new opening verse.

Enter your offers in the comments section, below, before midnight (Eastern US time) on Monday, November 28th. On Thursday, December 1st, I will select a new opening 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 35 Comments

  1. Congratulations John H! And thanks John S, for leading us on!

    Non-working sections
    of Christmas lights
    stuffed into bushes.

  2. 1 coffee flavour
    for your tasteless tongue
    enticing still

    2) vacating old house
    grandfather’s photo
    a pendulum

    3) her stroke of brush
    still hard imitation
    fritter of leaf

    4) his head
    On the stone
    light relief now

    5) lullaby
    for the unborn too

  3. first frost
    steam on the manure pile
    rises in morning light

    beyond the rocks
    raven’s call

  4. the leaves turn
    a golden rose…
    when did this happen?

    a long drought…
    the beauty
    of fall revealed.

    dandelion stars
    whisk by
    on a mission

    the weather turns …
    rummaging for
    my coat

    the older we are
    the more magical

  5. movie house gone dark…
    a smell of popcorn
    in the shadows
    give-away Tupperware–
    the leftover stains
    of a lifetime

    1. maybe better without the “a”–

      movie house gone dark…
      smell of popcorn
      in the shadows

  6. morning frost
    a dab of witch-hazel
    on shaven cheeks

    digital clock
    what else
    has changed

    leaves shudder
    at the first gust
    autumn wind

    grey morning
    except for the poppies
    in our lapels

    evening news
    blood-red streaks
    across the sky

  7. Congratulations John H on a lovely capping verse!
    Thank you John S for guiding us!

    My five offers:

    in the new home
    an empty nest


    life size art
    i pack and unpack
    my house


    mountain climb
    the morning larks
    sing mother’s name


    storytime –
    tempering the dish
    in the same sequence


    late autumn
    a Chinar leaf flames
    into the earth

  8. south wind, yellow dawn . . .
    the forest’s fragrance
    enters my mouth

    life is complicated. . .
    roadside asters
    covered with dust

  9. counted cross stitch…
    her life list
    black hole
    no light escapes
    the hoarder’s window

  10. Congratulations to Jonathan Alderfer
    and John Hawkshead on their fine tan-renga. And thanks to John Stevenson for including one of my capping verses for comment. The writing forums provided through The Haiku Foundation are inspirational.

    For the next round, here are five more as the year winds down.


    late autumn
    the conversation wanes
    among the birds
    autumn sun
    on a south-facing porch
    the year-round birds
    autumn wind
    oak leaves transformed
    into trespassers
    the world’s weight
    so light the flight
    of a leaf
    autumn evening
    an old man at home
    burdened by words

    1. I apologize for the typo (i.e., an unneeded paragraph return in my first sentence). I neglected to proofread thoroughly.

  11. Congratulations John H for a wonderful and evocative capping verse…it flows beautifully with Jonathan’s opening verse. Congratulations to the finalists and short list poets. Thank-you John for considering my poem and for your invaluable insights.

  12. night trawler . . .
    I hear my dog breathing
    in the dark

    goodwill donation
    we share a tapestry
    of scars

    winter flies
    in my heart
    a desert

  13. Congratulations, John H–the moss is perfect for that lingering touch.
    And thanks, John S., for the illuminating comments and for selecting one of mine as a finalist.

    family Thanksgiving
    so much left

  14. John S., thank you for your thoughtful commentary and for focusing on tan-renga! Jonathan A., I enjoyed thinking about your opening verse and attempting to cap it. John H., when I read your capping verse, I thought…that’s a winner!

  15. lost
    in the landscape
    I find myself

    taking form
    on a potter’s wheel

    still sweep
    this Normandy beach

    school reunion
    past scars
    I thought were fading

    snow melt
    we discover
    where he fell

  16. Here are a few for consideration, John.


    edge of winter…
    the warm glow
    of your Tiffany lamp

    clear skies
    the first breath
    of winter

    stepping out . . .
    I go back indoors
    for a hat

    crisp leaves
    this desire to run
    and jump

    forest walk
    the distant sound
    of a river

  17. Congratulations, John H. With your verse, I can almost feel that moss as I walk barefoot over it. (a memory from childhood) . Lovely!

  18. Thanks John S., always enlightening to read your comments and a tip of the “cap” to John H.!

  19. The wrong milk!
    Our yard cat turns away
    flicking his tail.

    The streets are full.
    Cold quickens among the lights
    of Christmas coming.

    Snow falling.
    The temperature stil falling
    but nothing settled.

    heating low
    in the winter refuge
    a joker warms up

  20. Congratulations, John H, a lovely delicate image.

    Thank you, John S, for pausing on one of mine.

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