Vaughn Seward, CA




Learning by Example

As mentioned in the December, 2007 Sketchbook, a renhai consists of three haiku verses and is typically written by two writers. The final result is similar to the first three verses of a rengay with each of the three verses having one or more common themes. Renku-like links exist between each verse including between the first and the last.

There is more than one way to write a renhai but after numerous experiments we have found one general approach seems to work best. Consider the following example from the December 2007 issue of Sketchbook:

Fairy Ring

A Renhai by Vaughn Seward and Zhanna P. Rader

Totem pole—
a lone eagle circles
high above.                                   /Vaughn

A fairy ring on the lawn—               /Zhanna
the gnome, to his chin in leaves.    /Vaughn

Easter Island—
tourists walk around moai,
necks craned, mouths open.         /Zhanna


Seven Steps to Composing a Renhai

1. Getting Started:

The first step in writing a renhai is to agree on a season in which to write. At least one verse in a renhai should contain a seasonal reference. In this case it was November, so "autumn" was chosen. The next thing before the actual writing starts is to decide on who goes first. For this renhai Zhanna volunteered to be the starter.

2. Write the Middle Verse, First Line:

Here Zhanna wrote the first line of the middle verse, "A fairy ring on the lawn". This is one of the most challenging parts of writing a renhai as it requires providing half of the verse's word image. When starting out, it might be easiest to think of a setting or the noun-like part of a haiku verse. It is also possible to write something with more action in the first line but this can be more difficult for both you and your partner. Also, sometimes your partner might write the second line but place it first in the middle verse. This is perfectly acceptable

3. Write the Middle Verse, Second Line:

The next step was that Vaughn wrote the second line of the middle verse, "the gnome, to his chin in leaves." The middle verse had then been completed with "leaves" providing the autumn seasonal reference.

4. Choose a Theme:

At this point some possible themes were discussed and the following was chosen: "Mythical, statue-like objects."

5. Write the First Verse:

Vaughn then wrote the first verse to this theme and linked it with, "Up in the sky / Low on the ground."

At this point it was noticed that "circles" and "ring" appeared in both verses and so it was decided that "Circles" would be added as a second theme.

6. Write the Third Verse:

Zhanna then wrote the third verse, referenced both themes, and also linked to the middle verse with "Gathered around (Leaves / Tourists)". She was also able to link to the first verse with "Aboriginal."

Note that it is aesthetically desirable for the partner who writes the second line of the middle verse to write the first verse of the renhai. This is a goal but sometimes the writers may decide that the renhai as a whole reads better with the first and last verses reversed. And in some cases we have found that the first and last verses can be reversed with the result being equally desirable.

7. Choose a Title:

The renhai was then complete except for a title. After considering a few alternatives, "Fairy Ring" was chosen.

We encourage you to have a look at the following examples, including the linked notes page, and to consider giving this new short-verse form a try.

Additional Renhai Examples


Keep Out

A Renhai by Karina Klesko (kk) and Vaughn Seward (vs)

Crosswalk traffic—
three Hail Mary's on the way
to the other side.                                    /kk

A tree's branches all bare—                     /vs
paint peels off the 'Keep Out' sign.           /kk

No Smoking—
the "No" crossed out with
a felt marker.                                          /vs

Click this link to read the Notes:

January 7-8, 2008



Pajama Party

A Renhai by Zhanna P. Rader (zr) and Vaughn Seward (vs)

Middle-school girls'
pajama party—secrets
pouring out.                                        /zr

A magpie joins another—                    /vs
the branch spills a bit more snow.        /zr

Poker night —
the remaining two boys pile
their chips.                                         /vs

Click this link to read the Notes:

January 2-14, 2008



Filling the Day

A Renhai by Vaughn Seward (vs) and Karina Klesko (kk)

Back porch—
from dawn to dusk, nothing
to do but whittle.                                  /vs

A gray sky fills the day—                      /vs
hand-bells left on the church pew.         /kk

Rain on a metal roof—
all afternoon, scaling
a pail of trout.                                      /kk

Click this link to read the Notes:

January 8-9, 2008



Along a Highway

A Renhai by Betty Kaplan (bk) and Vaughn Seward (vs)

"Are we there yet?"
on the way to grandma's—
packages galore.                                  /bk

A hitch-hiker holds a card—                  /vs
the dog's ears flap in the wind.              /bk

A truck whizzes by—
the loose tarp exposes
a bed and chair.                                  /vs

Click this link to read the Notes:

January 30, 2008







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