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The Renku Sessions: Triparshva—Tweaks and Title


Welcome to the third Renku Session. I’m Linda Papanicolaou, and I’ve been leading this journey in collaborative poetry. Triparshva is a 22-verse form developed by Norman Darlington in 2005. It’s a good form for composing online because it moves more quickly than the 36-verse kasen, while also following the jo-ha-kyu (beginning-development-rapid closure) pattern of traditional renku. So whether you’re new to renku, or simply want to keep your skills honed, you’re encouraged to join us as we tie up a few loose ends and give our creation a title.

Selection of Verse 22 (ageku):

I thoroughly enjoyed everyone’s ideas for our last verse–a lovely chorus of possibilities.  The verse we’ll be using is Liz Ann’s kite. In a verse slot where one might expect the quieting down of closure, instead this verse gives us the exhilarating surprise of a gust of wind and lift off.  Our newly finished poem becomes a kite that we are releasing into the sky!  As has been our custom, here’s the verse with its maeku and uchikoshi:

the border collie
herds freshly shorn ewes
~Agnes Eva Savich

the fool
always finds a perfect one:
apple blossom
~Todd Treloar-Rhodes

on the count of three
we let the kite go
~Liz Ann Winkler

Now, you’ll notice that both maeku and uchikoshi begin with a definite article “the”.  When I placed Todd’s verse I did say that this bothered me but that I’d wait till we were finished to deal with it. Now is the time.  Our two final tasks will be Tweaks and Title—a final editing and giving our triparshva a title.

1.  Tweaks:

The renku needs few adjustments.   Here is what I propose. Please let me know in the comments thread what you think, and if there is anything else you see in retrospect that you think should be discussed. Authors of the respective verses, would you let me know if you’re okay with these changes?

  • Verse 13, Vasile’s lifeboat of refugees:  Currently the verse reads “after a while/the life boat for refugees/floating hardly”.  I’ve been thinking about this and feel that line 3 should be reversed to “hardly floating” (or, possibly,  “barely floating”):

after a while
the life boat for refugees
hardly floating

  • Verse 17, Beth’s “all the kids/cross off their days/with chunky crayons”: As has been noted, the verse creates a problem with the church bells and morning mass subsequently placed in slot 19. Verse 19 can’t realistically be changed but I think that swapping “mark off” or “cross off” deals with the problem. It retains the meaning and is still a word that a teacher would reasonably use with young children for this activity. While we’re at it, we also have  “all the kids” in this verse, and subsequently picked up “ewes” in verse 20. Technically it’s not kannonbiraki, but I’m still uncomfortable with a two-verse intermission  between them. Again, verse 20 can’t be changed, so I wonder if we could swap in “all the children” for “all the kids”. It does change the voice from kid to adult, but it still works within the context of the renku. Does this still work for you, Beth?

all the children
mark off their days
with chunky crayons

  • Verses 20 and 21, Agnes’ “the border collie/herds freshly shorn ewes”, and Todd’s “the fool/always finds a perfect one/apple blossom”: Both verses begin with “the”. With “a peal of bells” in verse 19, we can’t change either verse to an indefinite article. The best resort, I think, would be to pluralize “the fool”, which lets us omit the article entirely.  True, it does change Todd’s verse a little—softens it with a whiff of that old Frankie Lyman song, “Why do fools fall in love“, and that’s okay since this is the blossom verse in our kyu.  Is this alright with you, Todd?  The full sequence would read as follows:

a peal of bells
from across town
announces morning Mass

the border collie
herds freshly shorn ewes

always find a perfect one:
apple blossom

If you’d like to see how the full poem reads with these edits, I’ve done them in “The Renku so far” section at the bottom of this post.  What do you think?


2. Title: 

Traditionally, the title for a renku is chosen from the hokku.  True, some of the modern renku forms do have titles taken from verses deeper into the poem. The consequence is that the title tends to become the signal of a theme for the poem,  and that in turn affects how you read the poem.  Renku isn’t a themed form—on the contrary, it’s sometimes liked to setting out on a journey whose itinerary and destination you don’t know until you get there. Hence taking the title from the hokku, that first verse which anchors the poem in the time and place it was begun.  I like to think of it as a long banner, unfurling from a hokku that ties it to the flagpole.  So, once again, here is our hokku.  My own preference tends to be to go with line 1, especially when it is as lucid an image as ours:  “A Bowl of Cherries”.  What are your thoughts and ideas?

a bowl of cherries
sitting on each white plate
someone’s name


How to Submit:

Please post your thoughts on my proposed edits and title in the Comments section below.  The call for Tweaks and Title suggestions will remain open until Monday, November 23, 2015 at midnight (EDT). At that time I’ll collect everyone’s ideas, consider each, and on Thursday my final post will be a “Tomegaki” (what JEC has called “a sort of debrief written by the person responsible for leading this or that poem.”  If you have any lingering questions, thoughts or reflections on your experience participating in this triparshva, I’d love to here them.  Now would be the time to have yoru say.


Useful links and resources:


The Renku so far:

Side 1: jo

a bowl of cherries
sitting on each white plate
someone’s name
~Lynne Rees /su

under a canvas tent
the snap of a breeze
~Barbara Kaufmann /su

passersby stop
to applaud a subway
saxophone player
~Karen Cesar / ns

sweet reminiscences
of our bygone days
~Barbara A. Taylor / ns

yet again
the moon lights the loggerhead
as she digs
~Paul MacNeil / sp mn

with the twittering
morning mist clears away
~Maria Tomczak

Side 2: Ha

from the mountain top
Puyallup natives trace
their lands below
~Carmen Sterba / ns

who left the doors open
to Valhalla?
~Polona Oblak/ ns

rusty roofing iron
as a letterbox
~Sandra Simpson / ns

#smitten #diamond #yes
~Christopher Patchel / wi lv

at the Marquise
a clandestine romp
in neon flicker
~Judt Shrode / ns lv

his better half chambers
another round just because
~Betty Shropshire / ns lv

after a while
the life boat for refugees
hardly floating
~Vasile Moldovan / ns

the first pawlonia leaf
to touch the soil
~Maureen Virchau / au

how the setting moon
fills the garden
with darkness!
~Gabriel Sawicki / au mn

I stagger through cricket songs
impaired by Gandalf Grog
~Patrick Sweeney / au

Side 3: Kyu

all the children
mark off their days
with chunky crayons
~Beth McFarland / ns

jackets warming
by the wood burning stove
~Joel / wi

a peal of bells
from across town
announces early Mass
~Marion Clarke / ns

the border collie
herds freshly shorn ewes
~Agnes Eva Savich / sp

always find a perfect one:
apple blossom
~Todd Treloar-Rhodes / sp bl

on the count of three
we let the kite go
~Liz Ann Winkler / sp

This Post Has 21 Comments

  1. Winding down here as our renku moves into the archives. My tomegaki did not appear as promised on Thursday because of scheduling. Jim is going to release it tomorrow morning with the announcement of the annual fund drive and a new renku.

    One last time, it’s been a pleasure working with all of you. To everyone who replied that you’ve learned something, let me just say that I’ve learned at least as much from all of you. Not to mention that we’ve birthed a beautiful poem.



  2. Hi Linda – I look forward to your Tomegaki. So many new words to learn! I wanted to point out my last name is misspelled in the renku body. There is no “c” in Winkler. So much appreciate your teaching and discernment. Thank you again. Liz Ann

  3. Congratulations, Liz Ann! What a fantastic ageku. I imagine it to be a yellow kite. Maybe yellow like a daffodil? 🙂
    Linda, I am happy with your thoughts for the title and tweaks. I also appreciate Liz Ann’s suggestion for a title. I enjoy Todd’s idea, and I think it would make for a most interesting haiga project.
    Thank you for all your hard work as sabaki. You have been extremely thoughtful, generous, patient, personable, and creative. I sincerely appreciate all your teachings. Thank you for providing so many links. I have and continue to learn a lot.
    And many thanks to all the contributing poets along the way. Looking forward to your future renku verses.

  4. So delighted to have my offering selected for the ageku! It has been a wonderful learning experience participating in my first Triparshva. Like others, I have really appreciated Linda’s guidance and selections. What a challenging task! Thank you, Linda. Your gifts do deserve a round of cheers.
    As for the tweaks, I wondered about “hardly afloat” or “barely afloat” in verse 13. I do like all the other tweaks.
    The title “A Bowl of Cherries” reminds me of a haiku collection called “With Cherries on Top”. For this reason, I lean toward “The Snap of a Breeze” from verse 2. As I’m not familiar with these matters, I really should stay quiet, but I think this title from Barbara’ Ks verse has a lot of resonance. As Paul points out 4 verses have the sense of sound and even Judt’s wonderful “neon flicker” is snappy! I’m happy with your wisdom on this Linda. Thanks again to you – and to the others I’ve shared this poetic journey with, all your comments and offerings inspired. I really don’t want to let the kite go!

  5. Hats off and three cheers for Linda! This is an unique and educational opportunity to learn an ancient art form. You’re a valued guide with your lessons in discipline. Liz’s verse seals the renku up nicely.
    You may make any change to my verse as you wish.
    Re: Title. There’s a danger in titles — they can bias the mood or image in the reader’s mind. So instead of word(s), I’d like to propose that an illustration be used, perhaps calligraphy or an ink-brush or whatever.
    Another proposal — is it possible to build a renku without any prepositions?

    1. Yes, titles can bias the reader’s mind because we tend to look to them as indicators of what the poem is “about”.. In modern form renku where the title has been chosen from a verse farther down, I find that I tend to read the poem looking for the verse rather than just staying in the moment of each link.

      Renku with images is an interesting possibility. I’ve been involved with projects like that a few times, though never a renku form longer than 12 verses.

      As for writing a renku without any prepositions, I think you’ve sensed a weakness we do have in this renku–it is rather loaded with them. I’ve gone through it to see how many could be removed with a bit of rephrasing (without affecting the sense of the verse) and found only one. So I let it be.
      This could be something for everyone to work on in future THF renku. I don’t know about a stricture of none at all, though–it could tip you into “theme”.

      1. Some other title possibilities:
        another round
        just because
        another round just because
        ; )

  6. I really like the result. It was a pleasure to participate in this renku and read all those lovely offerings. So inspiring! Thank you for guiding us, Linda. I’ve learned a lot.

  7. Thank you Linda for all your hard work and guidance. I’ve leaned a lot. Your final tweaks and the title are awesome. It’s a beautiful renku and so much fun to read. Thanks to everyone for your comments and contributions – they really help a beginner like me. 🙂

  8. g’day Linda,

    I love the title, and the ageku is perfect.
    Thank you so very much for you expert guidance throughout.
    It’s been a real pleasure to watch, learn and participate
    in this journey. Working with you is always enlightening
    and I look forward to further collaboration.
    Thank you to everyone for the trip.

    Peace and Love

  9. It has been great fun participating in this process…so much to learn! Thanks for all the work you put into it, Linda. I think it is beautiful. The gestalt that happens is amazing. I really like the title, and as soon as I saw Liz’s kite verse, I was sure it had to be the one. Job well done!

  10. What a great result, Linda – you must be pleased with this. It is my first Triparshva and I have thoroughly enjoyed the experience. I love the title which, of course, brings to mind the saying, ‘Life’s a bowl of cherries.’ I also see the kite in the ageku as red, mirroring those shiny fruits!

    Paul makes a good point about renku being read aloud and it would be lovely if this could be turned into an ‘audio Triparshva’! THF haiku moderator John McManus edits and produces the excellent audio journal Frozen Butterfly, so he would know how feasible it would be.

    For me, the kite taking off at the end suggests the participants are releasing this renku, much like parents sending their offspring out into the world. Who knows when we might meet up again? 🙂

    Thank you, Linda, for your careful guidance throughout “A bowl of cherries”.


  11. Linda, I like all of the proposed tweaks. Good to do as long as substance is not changed, and it is not here.

    This is an interesting, diverse, well-guided renku. Pleasurable to read. It is only the second Triparshva in which I’ve participated — so I am far from experienced in this medium-length form. When writing live, in person, Groups I know do read it aloud, each poet doing her/his verse as conclusion. Cannot do this on line, but gentle readers do speak it to yourself. The variety and tones of English words adds a great deal to the experience.
    I feel Triparshva does get to many traditional areas available in renku, but its length, vis-a-vis kasen, does constrict possibilities for expansion.
    Traditionally, renku are structured to contain about equal parts of “seasoned” stanzas and non-season. Our Sabaki has achieved a rough split. I find 12 verses with season (close calls for some— and all comments are only my opinion).
    One thing I prize, just my opinion, not a criticism, is having some verses of pure nature. Perhaps beautiful in their way… at least absent humans. Bowl of Cherries has 4 obvious such: 5,6,14,15. Two more are close to either camp: 2, 20. Yet, this leaves 18 stanzas about people in some way, directly on by context.
    We did achieve a lot of variety…….. Variety is King, or at least a major goal of the mandala-like expansion this form uniquely allows. Linda has directed: religion, alcohol, firearm, transportation, music, number, remembrance. The renku has 4 animals, all different (well 5 as one stanza had two different beasties) reptile, bird, insect, mammal/mammal; and 4 different plants. For weather there is mist, but no sun, rain, ice, snow, etc. One cannot get everything, topic-wise- into a form this size. As mentioned, there is music, but no painting, sculpture, drama, and maybe are oblique references to written Art… “Galdalf” and “Valhalla?”
    Christopher’s #10 gives great contrast and originality!
    The senses are not as well represented. There are 4 with sound (3,6,16,19) but none with taste or smell. A kasen would certainly have these other senses. Plainly sight is in most stanzas, but the sense of touch is not obvious. One verse mentions warm temperature — another sense.
    No key words are repeated — a big plus!
    Variety in parts of speech to begin lines and grammar within are things to consider for variety. There are 5 proper nouns within.
    Bowl of Cherries has no interjection, or exclamation. There is one interrogative. There is no quotation.
    Lots of parts of speech at line beginnings:
    article: 2 each of “the” and “a” — 14,20 & 1,19
    adverb: 5,15
    adjective: 4,9
    verb: 10
    noun: 3,8,21
    pronoun: 8,12,17
    preposition: 2,6,7,11,13,22 (all different ones, at least)

    ALL this is academic analysis. The Art in the verses is wonderful — the variety of linking technique give a fine flow. Most verses have superb feeling. Poetry.


    Kudos due to our Guide whose labor is rewarding throughout this poem! Hear hear!
    – Paul MacNeil

    1. Thanks so much for your detailed reflection, Paul. Helpful to me in writing my final debrief–especially your observations about the consequences of triparshva’s shorter ha section.

      Re no exclamation points–back when I tweaked Gabriel’s verse to get a more varied syntax I was thinking that an exclamation point could go there if none came in through later verses; then I forgot to add the punctuation when I did the editing for this post. I’ve gone back and done so now.

      Re your point that we have few purely nature verses. Here in our triparshva, there were actually times when I called for a purely nature verse and received offers with humans in them anyway. Sometimes I’ve noticed a scarcity of purely nature verses in renku on The Renku Group also and have wondered if this could be a signal that we spend in our lives in a built environment these days and just don’t go out to commune any kind of nature that doesn’t have some sort of human impact. Thus we don’t have an idea bank of imagery to draw on when called to write from experience.

      The aesthetics of purely nature–wilderness–may be a Western concept anyway. Early on I used to think in terms of nature vs. human verses, and lump everything that included people or even artifacts of human presence–a coin in the gutter, a contrail, a coffee machine in an empty kitchen–in the human category. I think what changed for me was reading Herbert Jonsson and realizing that the Japanese categorization would be simply person (first and third, singular or plural) vs. non-person. I now tend to see verses with humans on stage as person. Verses with inanimate human artifacts–built environment–fall on the non-person side of things if there’s a sense of is-ness about them.

      But I agree–it’s important to have purely nature imagery substantially present in the renku. It’s something else to work on in future endeavors here at THF.

  12. I’m happy with the tweaks to my verse, and love the way our ageku rounds everything off 🙂

  13. I love that final verse! Sounds like the perfect end to our linked scenes. Title sounds great. I support your gentle tweaks on 13 and 17. I do have a question about 20/21; despite the colon it does still feel like a kire right there, although I get intellectually why it would grammatically underline that it’s not meant to be. I just wondered if adding in some more plurals would clear it up completely and fix the article issue:
    always find perfect
    apple blossoms
    …although this does take it fully into aphorism-like territory, and that may not be desirable? I have greatly enjoyed this collaborative writing process and look forward to the next.

    1. Good question you’ve raised here. As I was thinking about this verse, I tested in my mind whether it was a kire and syntactical break and finally decided that it was syntactical. As your edit shows, the break between line 2 and 3 is syntactical break within a unified image–not a juxtaposition of two separate images. Interestingly, though, if you were to read this as a hokku and assume that “one” referred to something separate from the apple blossoms–interesting that you could in fact read it that way.

      Re kire in the hokku and not elsewhere in the renku: The rationale as you know is that the hokku being the first verse has only itself to link to while all subsequent verses have the verse before and the verse after. I’ve participated in shisans and other modern forms in which we’ve written zip verses and realized that when you have a cut or caesura within verses, the consequence is fragmentation: each verse tends to fold in on itself, detaching from the previous and subsequent verses.

      On the other hand there’s the need for syntactical variety, as Paul has noted. Did I ever get around to giving everyone the link to Ferris Gilli’s article “English Grammar: Variety in Renku” in World Haiku Review? Pacing the flow of the language is important because it’s how you make a renku continue to be readable as poetry when the fun of the writing is over.

      So in this case, my question was, does the verse break or aide the pacing of the renku? Early on in the renku a construction like this might well have been disruptive but here at the penultimate verse we’ve build a strong foundation of expectations and have a full head of team up, so I actually like the syntactical break rather than another smoothly flowing verse. It’s like the orchestra in a short rest before the final chord.

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