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The Renku Sessions: Timber Smoke – Week 12


Greetings and welcome to The Haiku Foundation’s current Renku Session entitled, ‘Timber Smoke’. I am Marshall Hryciuk of Toronto, Canada and I will be leading this session through a 36-link kasen renku.


So, for our second winter verse we have:

the mailman’s breath
faintly white   

Keith Evetts

Nice connection with the snowman, but this time the whiteness is uttered by the subject, presumably in motion; a reversal from being a motionless object of the dog’s barking as in the previous verse.  A dog whose own breath may be visible now as his barking is probably extended when he notices a mailman. Thus, this verse deepens the feeling of cold. Yes, the repetition of “man” in a link is an unusual inclusion, but i like the figurative “man” becoming an active flesh and blood human in the link.

Another reason this verse fits here is because, for the first time in our renku, it reaches out and references another piece of art or poem; specifically, a famous haiku by Basho, that in my version is:

darkening sea
a wild duck’s call
faintly white

—a reference that brings a hint of synesthesia into our renku as well.

Thank-you for this, Keith


What we need now is 3 lines, No Particular Season.

For instance, gift-giving scenes are fine but not with specific associations with winter (or summer) or New Year’s. Up til now, we’ve been having a great time out-of-doors, so i think for this verse i’ll be looking for something that occurs indoors.

Happy Linking




Timber Smoke (so far)


nothing dimmed yet
timber smoke scent
sifts into the house

Marshall Hryciuk


one by one
I pick plums off of the ground

Alfred Booth


a file of cars
overtaking a tractor
on the mountain road

Keith Evetts


drawn out deer notes
echo in the coolness

Betty Shropshire


even paler
than the clearing fog
day moon

Mary White


handprints  and crumbs
I would miss them

Pamela Garry


giving pollen
a lift
on the bicycle bells

Laurie Greer


the tiffany blue
of 3 eggs in a nest

Eavonka Ettinger


scattered spores
following a random trail
through landmines

John Hawkhead


attempted murder
by the morality police

Rob Barkan


next door’s dog
at our snowman

Carol Jones


the mailman’s breath
faintly white

Keith Evetts




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This Post Has 171 Comments

  1. the mailman’s breath
    faintly white
    ——-Keith Evetts

    power failure
    the tv almost as black
    as the crow outside

  2. buttered toast
    the nooks and crannies
    full of memories

    in a heated room
    father opens
    his arms

  3. the checkerboard tiles
    at the margins of the room
    lost in darkness

    Very interesting to see this renku develop!

  4. the mailman’s breath
    faintly white
    ——-Keith Evetts

    while we argue
    bats are finding their way home
    with clicks

    the bronze bell
    hanging by the front door
    green with ghosts

    on the couch
    one leg in the clouds
    the other in water

    her contralto in the kitchen
    and a ruby wink
    from the rising sun

  5. the mailman’s breath
    faintly white

    Keith Evetts
    doing his dad’s
    dramatic reading
    of “The Three Little Pigs”

  6. the mailman’s breath
    faintly white

    Keith Evetts
    the tarot reading
    brings hope
    for the future

  7. Congratulations, Keith, on that lovely verse!
    Thank you, Marshall, for the fine explanations!

    My offers:

    the taste of milk
    in that first sip
    after several months

    a fine stuffed toy
    without any details
    of the sender

    my daughter’s hug
    after the post-radiation

    ‘When things fall apart’
    turning off live news

    this phone call
    lasting an hour
    after hot soup

  8. the mailman’s breath
    faintly white

    Keith Evetts

    frozen pond . . .
    graceful gliding
    of the wind

    disappearing day . . .
    branched shadows

    another sky
    from my grandpa’s pipe
    rolling clouds

    cloud after cloud . . .
    my thoughts rearranged
    beyond the horizon

    Ivan Gaćina

  9. pow
    er outage, heart

    attending Mass
    daydreaming about
    Sister Juanita

    moo choir
    milking time
    at grandpa’s barn

    1. Dan,

      I like your pow verse. It really packs a wallop based on my readings of it. Well done.

  10. the mailman’s breath
    faintly white
    –Keith Evetts

    why take the risk
    if Kamchatka
    isn’t the goal
    why take a risk
    if Kamchatka
    can’t be obtained
    working on
    the sky and cloud
    puzzle pieces

  11. the mailman’s breath
    faintly white

    Keith Evetts
    old photos
    coming unhinged
    in their album
    the shining borders
    of the oldest
    family snapshots

  12. stamp collection
    where countries
    live in peace

    (with friendly, encouraging support from Keith)

  13. whose

    the expiry date
    she can’t find
    on the can

    sharing updates
    the good news and bad
    what shall ye pick first

      1. thought you’d never ask! rob

        the good news
        you needn’t know
        anything Basho*

        (just look up
        kigo all winter
        w j higginson p. 264
        in world haiku

        *But it would be nice !

      1. regarding our verse #10

        attempted murder
        by the morality police

        Rob Barkan

        the head traumas sustained by the young beautiful girl at the hands
        of the morality police has caused her demise. i feel so saddened to know this.
        Hopefully she is in the tender hands of a more compassionate leadership.

        So it is no longer “attempted” murder….but murder!

  14. the mailman’s breath
    faintly white
    Keith Evetts

    a postcard from Gaza
    “enjoying the rave”
    October the sixth

    all the Kleenex gone
    by the end
    of Casablanca

    with gorgonzola dolce
    in dreams

    proceeds of crime
    safely laundered
    in the Marshall Islands

  15. freezing moon
    my gloves
    left at home

    soon to rain
    chocolate chip cookies
    swing into the oven

        1. thanks, keith…..if it’s good for…it’s good for me, too! i was looking for a way to make it tighter.

  16. the mailman’s breath
    faintly white
    — Keith Evetts
    a picture
    of ‘Mallards Rising’
    on the wall
    the steamer
    over the horizon

  17. Congrats Keith!

    the mailman’s breath
    faintly white   
    Keith Evetts
    Thanks Marshall, for pointing out the allusion to Basho – I wouldn’t have caught it as am not well-read on the classic haiku.
    I thought that I would bring forward a couple of points for discussion. From my perspective this verse is not necessarily indicative of winter, it could occur in anytime between mid-autumn to mid-spring, or anytime that the mailman is seen smoking a cigarette, and in the visual sense I am wondering if that would link back to the hokku?

    We also have a previous verse with comparable language, although it is several verses back:

    even paler
    than the clearing fog
    day moon

    Mary White

    with the phrases “faintly white”/”even paler”, and the “faintly white” breath being visually similar to fog and/or smoke.

    1. From my perspective, the “faintly white” breath is a breathed breath, not a cigarette exhale, and happens in the cold, especially when the breather is exercising as a delivery man or woman would be; perhaps in a hurry because her or his jacket isn’t on, all of which indicate awintry seasonality to me. The “snowman” in the previous verse sets this up.
      Yes, many of the verses have a similar kind of language compared to the sharp and predominantly visual language of what we usually see in published haiku. I prefer haiku that have some cadence and lyricality to them when compared with the usual, and leading a renku is a chance to show, and possibly display, the advantages of this preference for haiku writing.
      And yes, there is a lot of white here, but this was the first verse that made this ‘whiteness’ explicit in the word, “white”. One of the things i like about renku is the implicit being made explicit, and also, as i’m sure you’ve noticed, a verse that does a reverse or an inverse from those previous; “even paler” to me was a whiteness becoming dim andlingering, whereas the mailman’s breath would be a distinct white, that quickly evaporates and repeats.
      Thanks for your comments, princess k -Marshall

      1. These discussions are always interesting!

        If I may, I suggest/agree that the verse to which the mailman links has firmly set the season, and the new verse is consistent with it and buttresses it. I think the context steers the reader towards breath in the cold rather than cigarette smoke.

        We had fog in v5, a weather phenomenon (rising, or falling, thing), and now breath condensing: is that a weather phenomenon? Even so, according to modern learnéd guidance elsewhere (which of course I can’t put my finger on right now…), in like renku situations a decent five or six verses should pass before a general phenomenon such as precipitation may be hinted at again. Here we are safely in v12.

        Going back a long way:
        Renga shinshiki tsuika narabi ni Shinshiki kin’an tō, by Shōhaku, 1501
        The New Rules of Linked Verse

        “Section 12: Things That Must Be Separated by More Than One Verse

        … Mist and words in the Falling Things category; haze and the word ‘dim;’ smoke from pines bamboo grass or trees and words in the Rising Things category; words like ‘those who dwell in the clouds’…”
        translated by Carter, Steven D. “Rules, Rules, and More Rules: Shōhaku’s Renga Rulebook of 1501.” Harvard Journal of Asiatic Studies, vol. 43, no. 2, 1983, pp. 581–642.

          1. Thanks, Keith and thanks too, princess k for responding to both of us. Funny to me that you think somebody else’s category of a kigo matters to me when i’m leading a renku, but there you go.
            Cheers -Marshall

          2. Just for clarification….
            Are you talking about a certain amount of syllables in a verse such as referenced here:
            “3-liners will usually be similar to a haiku in style and spirit (but without a caesura or major break) while the 2-liner should be haiku-like in its style (economy, moment…) and impact. The 3-liners should have 6/7 stresses (which should make out approximately 14 to 16 syllables) and use concrete imagery, while the 2-liners should have about 5 stresses (which should make out approximately 11 to 13 syllables).”
            Or, are you as you allude to, a complete rogue?
            So my question is, do we write to satisfy the Renku leader and or the “rules” or do we write in our own style? You do seem to choose verses that are very lean. I also understand that nature is not needed in renku, but traditional haiku are supposed to reference it.
            Thank you, I am a beginner at this. My understanding is that the leaner the verse the better and allusion is king.

  18. garlic

    making it a priority
    to meet
    the maillady

    is predictable
    when she delivers

    this stamp collection
    in a thin book
    country’s live in peace

    1. this stamp collection
      in a thin book
      country’s live in peace

      good one! the real world–whole ‘nother story.

    1. Brahms in the background
      mixed with morning coffee
      from inside the womb

      steam sprayed from an iron
      while the flight of the bumblebees
      plays in the womb

      ni gnimmiws

  19. the mailman’s breath
    faintly white
    ———Keith Evetts

    a cloud of cream
    and two spoonfuls of sugar
    is how she likes it

    receiving the news
    I take my morning meal
    with a glass of stale wine

    sea smoke . . .
    the world beyond our world

    morning coffee
    the river outside
    even browner

    1. sea smoke . . .
      the world beyond our world

      good one–I have experienced this myself waking up with “dream clouds” that quickly disappeared.

  20. the mailman’s breath
    faintly white

    Keith Evetts
    pausing for a drink
    between licking envelopes
    for the thank you notes
    choosing from
    the rainbow
    of sealing wax

  21. the mailman’s breath
    faintly white

    Keith Evetts
    retaping the box of books
    to the wrong address

  22. baking biscuits
    to restock
    my secret barrel

    a final demand
    on my doormat
    from his divorce lawyer

    the box
    full of delights
    for the bedroom

  23. teeth whitening strips
    lasting nearly
    a lifetime

    a spot
    of herbal tea
    to warm the soul

    an aquarium from
    the inside out

        1. Dear Wendy,
          Both the content, inner meaning and the whiff – all in a very interesting” smell”

          with regards
          Radhamani sarma

  24. This renku is addictive… I love the explanations.

    lo and behold
    another china duck
    for the mantelpiece

    birthday girl
    with diamonds
    in her eyes

    the cardboard box
    for a rainy day

    the chances
    of meeting her mother
    in the Upside Down

      1. oh
        so much
        is different

        filled out
        of address

        everybody finds out
        about the move

  25. a large box
    from a strange address
    sitting outside the house

    taking a half hour
    we settle
    in front of the tv

    Abe Lincoln
    reading by
    candle light

    putting a marker
    in her book
    she turns off the light

    struggling with every sound
    his tutor knowing
    he will read

  26. the mailman’s breath
    faintly white
    Keith Evetts
    searching my e-wallet
    for the e-ticket
    to enter the Sphere

        1. Yes, a very worthy cause:) I am happy you wrote this haiku, Carolyn. My mother was able to extend her life 25 more years, because of a perfect match!

  27. Thank you Marshal and Keith and everyone here!

    the mailman’s breath
    faintly white
    —Keith Evetts

    the safety gate
    restraining gravity’s pull
    on his mind

  28. Congrats on yet another fine verse Keith!

    the mailman’s breath
    faintly white

    Keith Evetts
    playing the banjo
    I bought
    for my wife

  29. Bravo, Keith. A beautiful couplet

    the mailman’s breath
    faintly white
    — Keith Evetts

    the Seine River
    opening ceremonies
    with the world on boats
    the hearth cools
    after weeks with Jacques Brel
    and all his songs

    1. hi Alfred. Love the bringing in of something not natural or physical, but the first line has all te trappings of creating a narrative with the hokku. And Jacques Brel is great and so passionate and foreign to this kind of subtle art. And proper names comong in too. Why not mention an individual song’s refrain; so the link would go;
      Jacques Brel singing
      “in the port of Amsterdam”
      on the radio
      Hope you can accept this -Marshall

  30. I adore this choice and the explanation. I had no clue about the reference so that was a treat. Thank you, Marshall and Keith!

    the mailman’s breath
    faintly white

    Keith Evetts

    mom’s birthday
    opening each card
    so slowly

  31. they said
    i should just ignore
    the errant letter

    the scent
    of curry
    left in the microwave

    sweeping sage
    to make the apartment

    1. and some shortened versions:

      the scent
      of curry
      in the oven

      sweeping sage
      to make the studio

  32. Wonderful, Keith, and thanks Marshall, for making this so much fun!

    feet propped up
    relaxing on
    the well used sofa

  33. Keith thank you for your winning poem, you really delivered!
    Marshall you are an expert Sabaki with your freewheeling style!

  34. the mailman’s breath
    faintly white

    Keith Evetts
    swanning about
    in newly delivered
    the letter bringing her
    to the point
    of a swoon

  35. keith… did it again! this one is a keeper. congrats!
    marshall….perfect fit, in every way!

    the mailman’s breath
    faintly white

    Keith Evetts

    i eke out
    an ensō
    on the milky whey

    i tear a Basho leaf
    on the last sheet
    of rice paper

  36. Congratulations to Keith for another link, and bows to Marshall for making the selection!


    father’s wink
    a taste of the icing
    as guests arrive

    anniversary dinner
    Greek waiters arrive
    bearing gifts

    100th birthday
    the old shades wait
    round a bed

    1. 100th birthday
      the old shades wait
      round a bed

      very spiritual, I like the story this tells (those are not window shades)

  37. 13
    next door’s dog
    barks at our snowman
    the mailman’s breath
    faintly white
    they all say no
    when I offer them a drink
    – workaholics

    soup to warm up
    a letter from Angelic
    an evening at home

    nobody comes
    I think they all must be
    out the back

  38. faux suede curtains
    the gentle brewing
    of gossips
    warm wishes
    from a postcard
    on the fridge

  39. the mailman’s breath
    faintly white

    Keith Evetts
    penning the note
    of condolence
    on Crane paper
    the writing
    just shy
    of calligraphy

  40. Thank you, Marshall. And you read my thoughts.

    letting go
    the bowl
    her mother gave us

  41. Just a quick question, Marshall.
    Does the next verse have to include gift-giving
    can it just be about something indoors?

    1. No, Carol, this verse doesn’t have to be about or include gift-giving; that was just an example. Cheers -Marshall

  42. Nice verse, Keith, congratulations!

    origami cranes
    atop a cake celebrating
    their years together

  43. Nice selection–and congratulations again, Keith! I was partial to the mailman after the dog, myself. BTW, if we use “mail carrier” we could eliminate the two “man,” should anyone have a problem with that.
    Otherwise, it’s fun to see what happens with a little rule-breaking.

    the mailman’s breath
    faintly white

    Keith Evetts
    going closer
    to the window
    to read the poems
    taking the book
    closer to the window
    to read

    1. Laurie: I think the artificial snowman can link to the living mailman (postman in the UK). It’s a different word, and not all linkages have to be nioi-zuke. ( I try to pay attention to sound and rhythm, and think that ‘mail carrier’ or even ‘delivery boy’ would unbalance it; ‘jogger’ might work as a two-syllable substitute; but I like mailman as he would be visiting ‘next door’ as well as our house; if our sabaki is happy, then I’m happy!

      1. I’m happy too! It was just a thought. Your verses are always well done, for linkage and sound. No quibbles on my end.

      2. So, thanks, Keith; i thought the scansion of your verse was most fine just as it was. You probably know, i’m one of those for whom the diction and cadence of a haiku or a renku verse matter as much as the experience or event their words refer to -MH

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