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The Renku Sessions: Tawny Jacket – Week 14



Well, here we are, with our bags packed and ready to depart after a happy time together.

I know that at least some of you would like to team up for renku sessions, in addition to these THF sessions. I look for ways to encourage more English-language renku activity and, in that regard, I am happy to provide a kind of clearing-house service. If you would like to connect with someone for renku and you don’t have their email, let me know (my email address is ithacan at earthlink dot net). If I have their email address, I will contact them and ask if I have permission to provide their address to you. Also, if I don’t have your email address and you would like me to have it for this purpose (so that I can alert you if someone is looking for you as a renku partner), please send a quick note about that to my address. In addition to on-line renku options, I urge you to jump at any live composition opportunities that may come your way.

Now, as to a title for our just finished renku, I have planned to use “Tawny Jacket” for the title of this renku but offered you the chance to suggest other titles because, as poets, I suspect you really enjoy the experience of selecting titles for a poem. I would say that suspicion has been borne out by the number of creative suggestions you have provided.

I’m going to leave “Tawny Jacket” in place for a series of reasons. First, and perhaps most importantly; I like it. Second, quite a lot of you said that you like it, too. Third, and a technical factor; I would have to recast elements of indexing for all of the previous postings on this web site if I changed the title. I am a combination of energetic and lazy. I’ve used my energetic self during the previous weeks of postings but now, with my bag packed, I’m indulging my lazy self.

The fourth reason relates to renku, in general. While I try to make titles for my own longer poems that function as skeleton keys, opening various aspects of the poem for readers, the function of a renku title is different. One of the traditional elements of the hokku (first verse) is that it reflects the time and location of the event in which the verses are to be written. This is less prominent in present day practice because the location is so often “cyberspace.” Renku titles are usually less a matter of tying the verses together into a unit than they are a further recognition of the time and place of creation; the site and occasion of the party. This is part of the reason that they usually come from the hokku. Another reason is that renku should always be engaged in forward movement and, the later in the piece that the title phrase appears, the further it disrupts this forward movement by taking us back to the title, which, after all, comes even before the first verse. Better, for renku purposes to get that done right away.

All the same, these considerations needn’t prevent us from enjoying the pleasures of title-making. And it seems that many of you had some fun with this and had some great ideas. Here they are; in a slightly modified order from that in which they were offered (along with the names of those who offered or seconded them). To me, they constitute a second version of our renku – a spontaneous coda!


“Autumn Leaves” Lorin Ford, Marion Clarke

“Whence the Season” Nicholas FICI

“Setting Out” Marion Clarke

“The Outfit” Laurie Greer

“Taste of Journey” Wendy C. Bialek

“A Bee in the Bonnet” Andrew Shimield, Polona Oblak

“A Kiss for Luck” Andrew Shimield

“Seraphim Song” Andrew Shimield, Agnes Eva Savich

“A Thousand Things” Mary Stevens, Agnes Eva Savich, Kristen Lindquist, Laurie Greer, Marion Clarke

“Fielding a Thousand Things” Nancy Liddle

“Her Tawny Jacket” Maureen Virchau

“Under a Cherry Tree” Maureen Virchau

“Starry Night Toad” M. R. Defibaugh

“After All This Time” Marion Clarke

“Almost There” Terri French

“Summer Day Moon” M. R. Defibaugh

“Rediscovery” M. R. Defibaugh

“Glass Armonica” Marietta McGregor, Laurie Greer

“Searching for Umani” Autumn Noelle Hall

“Um” Princess K

“In the Field” Marion Clarke

“Where the Deer Slept” Marion Clarke

“More in the Field” Autumn Noelle Hall, Laurie Greer, Polona Oblak

“All This” Laurie Greer

“This Time” Laurie Greer



NEXT TIME: I am pleased to announce that a new session will begin next week, a half-kasen (eighteen verses) under the leadership of Patricia J. Machmiller. I hope you will all keep playing!


Thank you, so much,


This Post Has 35 Comments

  1. “I am a combination of energetic and lazy.” Hahahahaha, John! 🙂
    Thanks for the explanation about the title and thanks again for being a most excellent sabaki on our renku ‘Tawny Jacket.’ I now look forward to participating on Patricia’s immensely.

  2. Hi John, happy for this email address to be shared with anyone who may wish to work with me on a Renku.

  3. I have enjoyed this renku very much and I’m really looking forward to the new one with Patricia. I’d love to join any other renkus as well. Pauline

  4. it’s been such a buzz although my little pretties made it never! (but what company!!) looking forward with gusto to the next group composition 😀

  5. I’m pleased to report that I have already begun to facilitate some connections for renku work to be undertaken in addition to these THF sessions. The more of this the better.

  6. And thank you Marion Clarke for your kind suggestion to bring my deer bed into the title!

  7. Thank you so much, John, and all the other contributors, for this renku journey! A fascinating experience.

  8. It was certainly fun exploring different options for a title. Thank you for your final commentary, John. Wishing everyone peace & happiness.

  9. Thanks for all you do John these renku sessions are truly a gas
    Congratulations to all the participants

  10. Thanks you John for leading us so expertly in this renku, which I found a thoroughly enjoyable experience.
    I look forward to the next renku under Patricia’s guidance, too.

  11. Just a quick question.
    When we place a Hokku or other verses within a session are they then considered a published piece of work, irrespective if they are chosen for the Hokku or not.
    Could the two line verse be added to produce a haiku and then presented as a new piece of work to be sent out?

    1. An interesting question, Carol. I’d say hokku verse offers on these threads are published and they’re archived as well. This would only apply to hokku offers on the thread, though. The other verses, both 3 l8ine and 2-line, do not have a cut so are unlikely to be published as haiku. I recommend that people rework ( their own) verse offers, whether 2 or 3 line, into haiku
      Yes, to your second query, and also changes made to a 3-line renku verse, which, while not being haiku itself might form the basis of or inspiration for a haiku.

      1. Thank you, Lorin, it just seems a shame that a verse if not used in some way, goes to waste.
        I would have like to have sent my ‘Beechwood’ verse away for consideration ( hokku entry) never mind. I have a few 2 liners I’m happy with and will amend them.
        Always best to ask
        Thanks again.

        1. Carol, don’t despair. Some editors still consider even published work.
          As I see it, adding a line to a two line verse or changing a line in one already published constitutes a new poem. It may be by adding a slight change the dynamic of the poem is enough to say it is different.

          1. Thanks Robert, this is something I will be considering.
            I’m all for the ‘make-do-and-mend ethos.
            I’ll be looking through the last session to find my entries and work on a few,
            hopefully I see them with fresh eyes.
            I’ve only submitted a few of my haiku, once, a while back, but I feel a bit more confident to ‘goforit’ 🙂
            Thanks for your encouraging words, Robert, appreciated.

    2. The answer to this question is likely to differ based upon the publication to which you place it. Each will have its own standards about what constitutes prior publication.

      1. I was thinking of posting to Presence, frogpond and failed haiku, all seem quite strict with previously published work on an open forum or blog.
        Some don’t seem too keen if they are workshopped on a closed forum, but they are few and far between, thank goodness.
        Thanks John.

        1. “tinywords” is one good and long-standing online journal that will accept some previously published work and acknowledge the previous publication as well.

          They probably wouldn’t consider work appearing on these renku threads as published, either.
          “In general, we give preference to work that has not been previously published in any literary journal, though we’ll occasionally republish poems that have appeared elsewhere. Appearance on Twitter, personal blogs or online poetry discussion forums is no impediment to acceptance.”
          Each publication will have it’s guidelines and it’s best to read them before submitting your work. If still not sure, contact the editor for clarification. Most will be friendly and helpful.

          1. I’ve been looking in at ‘tintwords’ on and off, for a while. I was signed in at one time, but that was a while back. I’ll certainly give this a try.
            There was a post in the forum that they are open for submissions, your post is a reminder to go back and have a look at this.
            Thanks for your help, Lorin

        2. Carol et al,
          by all means, feel free to give tinywords a try as previous appearance is not an impediment. just add a note below the poem.
          submissions are first reviewed blind with help from assistant editors before Kathe and Peter make the final selections.
          the submission window is open until 29 february

          1. Many thanks, Polona
            The weeks are flying by, so better get my head out of my books and some words written down.

  12. Thank you Joh, Tawny Jacket has been a great experience. Pleased the title stayed as for me it had become the vehicle to which we all climbed aboard.
    Welcome Patricia! I look forward to our time together. John has drawn a great crowd, I hope they all stay around for the next journey.

  13. This was a wonderful experience–and I’m eagerly looking forward to the next renku! Welcome, Patricia, and thank you, John.

  14. welcome….patricia…..i look forward to the next renku experience and to seeing how another sabaki approaches this literary form….glad it will have more verses… more opportunity to poet’s inclusion. and lasting a little longer.

    patricia….will this be a hankasen or a demikasen???????

    1. Could be, Imachi. Have a search in the archives, makes for a good read. Get our thoughts flowing 🙂

  15. My preference for, Tawney Jacket, is for the colour it suggests, tawny yellowing, almost a camouflage before the riotous colours to come, this vibrant variation could be seen as the lively exchange and change of each verse along the journey of renku.

  16. john, at al. “tawny jacket” is totally fine by me,( i have always loved it) and is delicious as always….now i don’t have to change my notes either.
    john you have my permission to give my email to anyone seeking renku group/partners….or anything related to renku.

    just for the record….and my thank you’s go to…andrew shimield first, and then terri french, for listing “almost there” for an alternative title.
    have a great rest….john…you have done an incredible intro to fun renku….will you be participating on any level with the next one, run by patricia?

    1. My participation will be purely administrative. Rather than have every new session leader learn the process for posting on THF, I will post Patricia’s weekly text (as I have for some of the previous leaders). That means that I will be following the next session, but as a silent partner.

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