Global Haiku Tradition • Tan-Renga Fall 2020


autumn clouds
slip and slide
on wet leaves

I stumble away
from my past

no moon
no sun
i open the curtains

a grey landscape
to match my mind

Micky McNaughton & Sadie Scott

I liked the dichotomy of this haiku. Normally, curtains opening would bring a bit of natural light into the room and relieve you from the harshness that electric lights provide. Now, however, the capping lines make the opening curtains bleak. I pictured a cityscape after the fresh snow has been plowed into a gray tinted pile instead of letting it stay crisp and white. The person, who had been looking for a little solace in nature, doesn’t get it. I also like the wash of colorlessness that this haiku brings. Without the moon or sun, there’s no light—only darkness. When the curtains open, the grey landscape matches the person’s mind, which made me think of depression. It feels like the world isn’t as colorful as it should be, and I love how accurately this poem portrays that. Maggie Kusar, Fall 2020

library corner
hides the best series
and me 

floating in another world
without an escape plan

sleepless night
and the howling
midnight train

breakfast in bed
at noon’o clock

a metronome
his breath
holds me tight

a fermata without a conductor—
never let go

Danica Brezovar & Maggie Kusar

As I said in class, I really enjoy the music threaded throughout this haiku. The motifs of music intermingled with love is a cliche, but it doesn’t feel tired here. A metronome feels like the passing of time, an unstoppable force that we have to dance with in order to thrive. It can be restrictive and guiding at the same time. I think the metronome could also be a person that is grounding--the musician’s rock or anchor. The additive lines bring a melancholy pause as we read about a fermata, a plea to keep holding on. The music must go on--life must go on, but the poet is grasping to a momentary pause. This reminds me of a doomed relationship, one where you know that you have to move on eventually, but you can’t bring yourself to leave and never come back. You are your own conductor, this haiku says. Only you can write the music you play. Mara Cullens

I really loved this one. I feel that the addition makes the statement a very powerful one. They love each other and wish to spend as much quality time as possible, which they hope is forever. The fact that it mentions a metronome makes me think that they were really in the moment, ignoring every other thing around them, as they were able to note a thing as simple as a steady breath, and appreciate its beauty. Now I don’t want to get technical, but technically, a fermata without a conductor could end. Now let's just ignore what I just said since that is not only ugly but also it’s just wrong for the poem. A fermata without a conductor, never let go? Isn’t that beautiful? I can feel the love through the screen, I can tell that they really love each other, and they might not be even real. Holy guacamole. Adrian Sanchez Rodriguez, Fall 2020

remote control—
I ask my brother
to fetch me water

a queen, her loyal servant
feeding her grapes

Binny Tamang & Maggie Kusar

I really enjoyed this haiku because it exudes a youthful energy. Although I can’t relate to this situation personally, because the roles were reversed, I would have loved to go back and recreate this. This is one of those scenes that would be in a movie where it goes from a normal back yard pool, to a medieval banquet hall with the sister perched on a throne being fed grapes by her brother. The whimsicalness of this haiku was very refreshing to read. Emily Kemp, Fall 2020

playing one-sided
with a squirrel

a break from planning
world domination

Rebecca Murphy & Binny Tamang

I love how playful this tan-renga is! The link in this tan-renga does a really great job connecting to the original hokku, but also adding something new and taking the reader in a different direction rather than repeating what’s been said or deviating too much from the source material. I can see a little kid who’s maybe nine years old in his backyard on a nice warm day, using his creativity and imagination and coming up with all the ways he’s going to take over the world, complete with gadgets and futuristic transportation made from this week’s recycling, when he stops to take a break and chase a squirrel around the yard. Bryn Sentnor, Fall 2020

This pairing really reminded me of Pinky and the Brain. The fact that we know squirrels communicate, store food and make plans is one thing, but the hints at ulterior motives in the last two lines really give so much life into this tan-renga. I imagined the author writing this from a park bench, with the first part being lighthearted and fancy-free! And then the last two lines give it such a playful yet sinister edge - like everything they’re doing is all according to one grand masterplan. Not being a matter of if their plans will be executed, but when. Grant Unruh, Fall 2020

I splash through the puddles
where once
an oak stood

my aging reflection
takes its place

Stark Winter

The cap on this tan-renga is quite possibly my favorite of all of them. The mention of an aging reflection is so beautiful and yet so scary. The mention of the oak is also a symbol of aging. A tall tree takes decades to grow. I think these two pairs together so beautifully, but I believe they can both stand alone. Even the cap is strong enough to stand alone even though it’s only two lines. Sadie Scott, Fall 2020

hey, what if . . .
i write you a love letter
in crayon

PLEASE give me back
the blue one

Sydney Griggs & Danica Brezovar

This tan-renga made me smile. The hokku originally made me feel warm and brought up fond childhood memories, but the switch made this a comedic poem. I think it was a brilliant link. I also like the capitalization of “PLEASE”. It made me imagine two toddlers sitting in a preschool class and arguing over a crayon. They probably think it’s the end of the world if they don’t have a blue crayon. It makes me chuckle. Rebecca Murphy, Fall 2020

sticky night
hay stuck
in uncomfortable places

I take my bra off
and find another bale

fog chokes my vision
as the moon
comes within reach

midnight brings
a new day

Rebecca Murphy & Kyle Jordan

Once again, the cap is amazing on its own. Midnight bring a new day is such a hopeful line that bring the tan rengu to a positive end. The haiku alone is ominous, suffocating. It leaves you wanting more, and I think the cap doesn’t give too much, but it gives enough to make you feel something wonderful. Sadie Scott, Fall 2020

I really like this poem. I think the moon imagery is stunning and I like the diction choice as well. I wonder if the choked vision is a suffocating image or one of holding back tears. Probably the former. I think this poem has such a clear image of what midnight feels like, with a new day and a new moon to match. Sophia Zinger, Fall 2020

even stitches
she reaches down
for the fallen fabric

her calm
hanging by a thread

Maggie Kusar & Stark Winter

I really enjoyed this tan-renga because I felt that the line cap really expanded upon the story of this seamstress. In the original, I almost saw the seamstress as patient and diligent about her work because she is taking the time to keep her stitches even first before she goes to pick up the fabric she dropped. This line cap switches it however. Now The seamstress is in a rush and is very overwhelmed. I also loved this play on words with the line “hanging by a thread”. I really thought this was a great tan-renga. Danica Brezovar, Fall 2020

foggy room
a creature in the broken mirror
sedis htob no ylgu m'I

leave that room
the mirror is one-sided

I walk alone
how dreadful it is
to be the main character

as we walk together
imposter syndrome overwhelms me

Sadie Scott & Danica Brezovar

I found this tan-renga really interesting. It made me think about how sometimes this ephemeral awareness just hits us about how everyone else is living a life as complex and vivid as ours. And it just blows my mind because we are so absorbed in our own life affairs that we barely think about such stuff. We see everyone else as a side character in our story which they are but this fact that we are the side characters in other people’s stories is really entertaining. But it also makes us more susceptible to imposter syndrome I think in a sense that we are not the only ones who go through life and though the experiences everyone goes through might not be exactly the same, they are somewhat similar. This feeling if we let it can make us insecure and just make us think less of ourselves and our experiences. Especially in the field of academia, it is common to feel that way, and the tan-renga really makes it relatable. Binny Tamang, Fall 2020

dozens of old love letters
fall to the floor
new year's eve

you kept one
all this time

from the depths of hell
her misery
now contagious

ink blooms
across a wet suicide note

Bryn Sentnor & Mara Currens

One of the reasons I think tan-renga is so cool is because it often requires multiple authors. I’m a little biased towards this one because I wrote the starting hokku/haiku, but the feeling I got when I read what someone else had to add to it was just . . . I got chills. It takes my original haiku that is fairly open to interpretation and therefore pretty relatable and adds incredibly specific imagery that just makes the hair on the back of your neck stand up. It’s really hauntingly beautiful and heartbreaking. I see this note that was written with a black ink pen, and there are fresh teardrops all over the page that are making the ink spread out and ‘bloom,’ as the link so eloquently describes. Bryn Sentnor, Fall 2020

This is one of my favorite poems that I have read this entire semester. There is something about the twisted vengeful wording from both authors that blends so well together, and creates a truly vivid image of the desolating effects of suicide. The image of the ink bloom perfectly compliments the hazy scene of hell that sweeps over those who were closest to her. Describing the note as wet really drove the context of the haiku, just as the reader begins to believe they understand the poem’s meaning, only to be wildly surprised. Emily Kemp, Fall 2020

half-grown rose
the artist
sets down her brush

erratically reaching
she swallows her pills

Gwen Klinkey & Emily Kemp

This haiku was sandwiched inbetween two of mine and still got recognized! No worries, I like it immensely--it is my type of haiku--dark, somber, and a bit unhinged. As an artist myself (Nicole also mentioned this as well) there is this constant pressure to succeed and create something that proves that you are worthy enough. I know there is pressure outside of artistry or creative jobs, for sure, but there is often a path to follow. Artists don’t have that ... there is no one way to become a renowned artist. Talent doesn’t do it by itself; knowledge doesn’t do it by itself. There has to be something else that makes you special. And many artists and creative people turn to drugs or other coping mechanisms in order to remain in a state of calm, which easily turn into dangerous addictions. The first link is calmer or more subdued, a haiku about a work in progress--perhaps the beginning of something substantial… and the second link takes it in a new direction--that this artist is stressing out or having withdrawals. There is always something hiding behind your favorite artist. I love how tragic it is! Mara Cullens, Fall 2020

I love this addition to this hokku. It added a depth and darkness to it that I never expected. It also changes the fist line, “half-grown rose” for me. Is it talking about a literal painting or is the artist a half-grown rose. She could be young, either a child or a teen, and dealing with depression or anxiety. Her art could be an outlet, but even that can not fix her mental illness. The flip in this link created a whole new look at this hokku and I give props to whoever wrote both of these. Rebecca Murphy, Fall 2020

concrete spires
a machine invisible
from the inside

a dead man’s body and
backwash wine

Gage Whittington & Mara Currens

I will apologize right now because in the last 35 hours I have only gotten about two and a half hours of sleep so my mind isn’t creating words like normal. I really can’t put my finger on why I like this one so much. It feels kind of Poe-ish but not quite. I think the pivot is incredible and somehow makes so much sense. The first thing I thought of was the movie Snowpiercer even though I have never seen the movie or read the book. This really reminds me of “The Cask of Amontillado” because of the concrete and the alcohol and the dead body inside of the machine. Gwen Klinkey, Fall 2020

chipped paint
peeling off the wall
was that there before me?

my study break
provides only questions

Kyle Jordan & Micky McNaughton

I relate. I get distracted very easily while doing simple tasks, so doing homework is not very different from that. Even though since I know it is important I can retain my attention for longer, if I notice something very simple and start wondering around that, I will fall down the rabbit hall. By the time I notice what is going on, I surely have some questions to ask to myself, apart from the ones that arose during that time I was not there. Adrian Sanchez Rodriguez, Fall 2020

I really liked this tan-renga because I think the hokku and the capping verse go well together. The first verse really sets this image about how one is paying attention to their surroundings and actually seeing seeing something which they hadn’t noticed before. This mostly happens when we are bored that even the smallest of things can attract our attention. And the capping verse provides the answer to why that might be the case. Studying sometimes can leave us with more questions than we started. But I like how that’s really a sign of we are learning or diving more into the materials. And again, how easy it is to get distracted when we are overwhelmed or don’t understand things while studying. So I really related to this tan-renga. Binny Tamang, Fall 2020

This piece has so much wit to it. I really enjoyed it. It’s fun and lighthearted but also so very real and relatable. I think it speaks a lot to the difficulties that come with study sessions and a little bit of the frustrations as well. I also think it's fun imagining the study break spent asking random questions. I picture the narrator accidentally procrastinating by overthinking different things. I found that pretty funny and I think it's something we’ve all done. Sydney Griggs, Fall 2020

patient poem . . .
how morning fog
clings to the grass

monarch swoops
down to the dandelion

sleepless night
and the howling
midnight train

pillow wrapped
around my ears

Sydney Griggs & Rebecca Murphy

This tan-renga really does feel like Decatur at its worst. Trains at all hours, waking up late after not getting sleep because of the trains… It’s all trains. Jokes aside, this poem does resonate with me because of those experiences. The bone-rattling freight trains passing the Woods at 2 A.M. wake me up every time, and I’m left struggling to shut my eyes again. The closing verse of this poem, though, gives a different perspective. The author has woken up after their sleepless night, and finds themself enjoying a hearty meal. There’s something simple and beautiful about that shift, and it lends the poem an air of completion and catharsis. I think that that emotion is at once relatable and fulfilling to readers, so the poem works well. Stark Winter, Fall 2020

I really related to this tan-renga. There is nothing more frustrating about living on campus than not being able to sleep on the day you get to sleep in and then right as your eyes start to feel heavy, you hear the damn train. Next thing you know, you are waking up at noon to make breakfast. I love the use of “noon’o clock” in this line cap especially because even though it looks weird and really does not make logical sense, I understood it as the justification for not getting up before noon. Whenever I say I woke up at noon, my mom thinks I am crazy because that is way too late to be getting up but adding the ‘o clock makes me feel like it really isn’t that late. Danica Brezovar, Fall 2020

Taken on its own, the first three lines paint an almost-mystical picture of the midnight train. The author does acknowledge that there is indeed a sleepless night, but they lay out the details in such a way that it could be taken as a wolf or something else howling, yet they also reveal that the train is the one making the noise. And then the last two lines come in to really emphasize just how bad of a sleepless night this is - I could practically feel the sleep-deprived anger and resigned frustration with the pillow being wrapped around the ears in a vain attempt to cover the blasting sound of the train, if only for a moment. Grant Unruh, Fall 2020

the men in suits
are all people humans

may I have your attention please
this is called a neuralyzer

Sadie Scott & Adrian Sanchez Rodriguez

I loved the Men In Black reference here so much. We talked about tan renga verses being used to modify the original verse by adding on to it in a unique way. This piece did that so incredibly well. The first verse has this very somber tone to it and then the second verse completely changes up the ambience to something more upbeat and humorous. The movie reference and the two verses connect together perfectly. Sydney Griggs, Fall 2020

the men in suits
are all people humans

one saturday in november
the country decided: yes

then the world fell apart
we held our breath
as we watched

numbers rise
each person a statistic

patient poem . . .
how morning fog
clings to the grass

he confesses
as the sun rises

New Year's countdown
he avoids
her longing gaze

just three words
to drop the ball

Danica Brezovar & Sydney Griggs

The double entendre here is what lends this haiku so much of its charm. The slightly witty, but mostly sad tone of this poem fills me with something akin to guilt. The authors have used dramatic irony to their advantage, bringing the reader in before the events of the poem really happen. The result of this is that I feel close to the action, perhaps too close for comfort as this awkward snubbing unfolds. I’d hate to think about what happens after this poem, giving an interesting twist to the idea that readers should follow a haiku through to completion. Stark Winter, Fall 2020

lilac blossoms . . .
on the shingles,
the pat of rain

for a little while longer
I pretend you’re still here

Maggie Kusar & Mara Currens

This entire poem brought a sense of loneliness. The first part is my haiku—I pictured being alone in my room, listening to the rain in the summer and smelling the lilac blossoms from the front yard. I especially loved the capping lines to this. It brings a whole new feeling to the poem. When you’re alone, there are always a lot of thoughts that come to you whether you want them there or not, and the final two lines fully encapsulate that. I love that the “you” in these lines could be anyone—a family member who has passed away, a friend who has drifted apart, a pet, an ex. It makes it easy for any reader to relate to the poem no matter the situation and offers endless possibilities for imagining. Maggie Kusar, Fall 2020

The reason I really like this tan-renga is because the original hokku/haiku paints this beautiful picture that plays to multiple senses, and then the link adds some human perspective and emotion to make it relatable. The starting hokku/haiku sets the calm but gloomy tone with the consistent but gentle patter of the rain on the roof and the lilac blossoms in the yard that you can see out the window. With the addition of the link, I imagine a woman or a girl in one of three scenarios: 1) she slept with a spouse or a significant other the night before and that person just left the house; 2) she ended her relationship with said spouse or significant other; or, perhaps worst of all, 3) someone she loves passed away recently. I see her looking out the window, looking at the lilacs and listening to the rain fall, pretending and wishing that this person was still here with her. Bryn Sentnor, Fall 2020

I’ve spoken in the past about how much I love lilac and the rain, but with the cap added on to the end it perfectly captures the nostalgic feeling I have thinking about when I used to lie on my driveway during summer storms. Ever since I started working in the summers I haven’t been able to do this so much, so when I have the opportunity to do this now I normally get sad because it reminds me of all of my friends that I had back then that I just don’t keep in contact with anymore. Gwen Klinkey, Fall 2020

annoying speech
man can you just let me

midday lecture spent
passing love note

on a surfboard

the human doesn’t mind

Danica Brezovar & Bryn Sentnor

This poem is intriguing to me. I like the choice to begin with a frog. What an interesting creature. And even more interesting for it to be meditating on a surfboard. I wonder if this was an observation drawn from life. If so it is a strange one! The sunrise imagery is also nice. My favorite line, however, is “the human doesn’t mind.” I think this line is quite beautiful and serene. It also makes me wonder. Sophia Zinger, Fall 2020

fleeting glimpse
never enough

glass wall as
cat swats at the birdhouse


© 2020, Randy Brooks • Millikin University • All rights returned to authors upon publication.