Reading Ronkas

This last month of the year is full of  “Best Of” lists. I look at the statistics on views of my ronka poems here and have tried to figure out what makes some more popular than others. So far, I have not found a pattern or formula for popularity.

The two top pages here are the home page (which means the visitor may have read any of the five poems shown there) and a page explaining the ronka form. I like to believe that others are trying out the form themselves. I know that some other poets tried the form when I used it on my long-running website, Poets Online. I reproduced those poems here , but I haven’t seen many others, so either I am still the only regular writer of ronkas, or they are not being released into the wild.

During 2014, I wrote a ronka each day. It was an excellent daily practice. Now, it is a still a practice but not regimented. This past year, it has been more of a weekly activity, but one that I still enjoy – maybe more this year because I only write when I am inspired rather than trying to be inspired because I need to write. Honestly, if you can’t find an inspiring moment in your day every day, there is something wrong with you, not with your day. The important thing becomes to find a space in the day to set it down in words.

Here are the stats for the top reads this year that is 11/12ths over – a mix of poems from 2014 and 2015.

On to 2016…

Top Reads in 2015
Home page / Archives
The Ronka
Nothing Is the Force That Renovates the World
Her Royal Highness Princess Charlotte of Cambridge
The Pequod and the Rachel
Giotto Blue
If Two Roads Diverged In A Wood
Finding a photo of her
The Year to Ashes
Day of the Wren
Might I but moor – Tonight – With Thee
Tenth Muse Lately Sprung Up in America
Shades of Darkness
Moonlight Sonata
The Scent of Old Poems
Only Two Seasons
Geronimo [after Gary Snyder]
Writing the End of the Year
About This Site
At the Beach with Sylvia Plath
Before the Fall
The Trail Ahead
Losing My Grip


“Form ever follows function,” said the architect.

The shape from intended function or purpose.

Long-necked giraffes reaching the tallest of leaves.

The poem beating with its 5-7 heartbeat.

Our life evolving into an unimagined design.




(“Form ever follows function” is credited to American architect Louis Henry Sullivan.)

Trying the Ronka Form

Cloud computing

Last February, I posted my ronka form as the writing prompt on Poets Online. That is a site I have been doing since 1998 and it offers a monthly prompt and publishes selected responses.

I imposed my form on readers in the hopes that some of them would also like the idea of a form that resembled the haiku, tanka and other short forms, but wanted to try something new.

I gave the basic instructions:

  • These poems are meant to be one observation on the day that should come from paying close attention to the outside world from earth to sky or from inside – inside a building or inside you.
  • There are 5 lines, each having 7 words without concern for syllables. Like traditional tanka and haiku, the ronka uses no rhyme.
  • You want to show rather than tell. You want to use seasonal words – cherry blossoms, rather than “spring.”
  • I suggested that Western writers have a problem staying out of their poems – lots of “I” – but most of those eastern forms have fewer people walking about in the poem and fewer exam[les of navel gazing. But even I didn’t follow this rule all the time, so…
  • The ronka is just 5 lines, but I suggested that you might write several on a single theme and chain them together renga style, and a few poets did just that.

Here are some the ronka poems that were submitted and published on Poets Online.


An ice storm subdued the unruly bamboo
its bend now architectural, space becoming place,
a momentary home, refuge for no one,
topped by errant grackles tired from flight.
Somewhere icicles crash, and they are gone.

Peter Goudaman



A steel grey sky, swollen with clouds,
hovers over the tall green spruce trees,
the air alive with fresh falling snow.
I am surprised to catch the sparrows
feasting on the rose glow barberry bush.

Marie A. Mennuto-Rovello



Deer tracks on old snow and now
Purple skies warning of yet another storm
After the last, two deer came ’round –
Mother, munching pine needles staring at me,
over oatmeal. I staring back at her.

Beverly Rosenblum



A majestic orchid stands by my bath
dressed in royal purple, its branches arced
as if waving to its subjects. No
need to peer in the mirror to
question its beauty, angst over age lines.

Barbara Whitehill



Snow fell hard and heavy all night.
Cold but pristine, the glittering white blanket
covered all the world in quiet beauty.
The frigid silence, so fragile as glass,
was shattered by the hulking city plow.

Letitia Minnick



Walk the Live Oak Trail and you
will come upon a crumbling concrete circle.
Why is it there? for what purpose?
Those ancient live oaks will not say
They will not give up their secrets.

Bobbie Townsend



As Mother shuffles along the garden path
Waiting for me to hold up roses
She no longer sees, she is awake
To gifts her dead husband brought her,
More than my arm she leans upon.

In the nearby pines, a pileated woodpecker
Routinely knocks his head against a tree.
She talks of her lonely married nights:
Her husband’s insisting respectable women avoid bars.
From over our heads the woodpecker laughs.

Ron Yazinski



Maze of boulders on the hill’s backside.
Old tin cans glow red with rust.
Lost pocketknife, bottles burned blue as sky.
No rain. Tunnels appear in dry soil.
The calendar claims that winter’s almost over.

In neglected corners, the shelter of rocks,
weeds without names weave their thin lace.
My dog has learned a new dance.
A leafless oak blossoms with blackbirds singing
Spring, whether we deserve it or not.

Taylor Graham



Waiting for the ice to come, the
too early robin feels the scent of
rain looming on the wintry western horizon.
She huddles nearer to the scent of
life hiding in buds, tiny as hope.

Her twig dances in clueless play, jostling
with the wind’s first breath before the
rain arrives, falling into metamorphosis through a
sky gray as instinct’s failings. Feathers tremble
‘neath the icy weight of spring deferred.

Linda Watson Owen



Opera of a time in the park,
a day when diva trees are new
full and green luminescence plays pretty footsie
with dew. Iris tenor pantaloons purple meets
tulip coloratura, duet love scene is lilacs.

Mary Orovan



No, it’s not the Apollo Lunar Module
inside the moon’s Bay of Tranquility crater.
It glows in the gloom. Liftoff scheduled
tomorrow at noon — separation of lower left,
back-most molar from its curved jawbone home.

E.E. Nobbs



Sweet, salty stink of the duck pond;
bold, salmon pink of the western sky.
But we walk east, toward the darkening.
Shadows of fir branches blacken eastern skies.
Young walkers welcome warm dusk in August.

R. Bremner


You can find these poems and many others along with the prompts that inspired them in the Poets Online archive.  The prompts and things poetic also appear on the Poets Online blog.

Writing the Moment

My daily practice from last year to “write the day” in a ronka poem is over.

It worked. I did write every day. I did capture 365 pieces of the year.

As I read them over in this new year, I realized that they don’t capture the year, and in most cases, they don’t capture the day. At best, they contain a moment from the day. Maybe that moment was the best part of that day. Maybe it was the worst part. Some poems are just observations, haiku-like and without judgment.

I’m still writing poems. None have been ronkas. I have needed more workspace than the little box of 35 words provides. But I have felt a pull back to the form, so there will still be more ronkas and I will post them here. No schedule. No pressure.

Writing the End of the Year

day 1 post

I made it.  Tonight I will post my 365th ronka poem for this year. It wasn’t painful. I enjoyed it.

I expected there would be days when a poem just wouldn’t appear, and I was right. But there were days when two poems wanted to be written, so I kept drafts for the dry days.

Most of the poems were written at night with the rest being early morning poems. Somehow, daytime wasn’t conducive to writing ronkas – plus I was usually doing non-poetic work during the day.

I discovered a few writing tricks along the way that help with the form.  Titles can have 7 words too and that gives you an extra line.  Sometimes when I ended up with 8 words in a line, I found that a hyphen gave me a nice compression like a “new-blue sky” and “cafe-writing.

The busiest day of the year here was February 10th with the most popular post that day being Pillow Book. I don’t know why some post connected. perhaps, they were the best, but more likely someone posted a link to it somewhere that brought additional traffic.

The home page gets the most hits and the newest poems generally win the day in statistics, but overall for the year, these were the top poems for views:

Nothing Is the Force That Renovates the World
Finding a photo of her
Giotto Blue
The Ronka (nice to see that the post about the ronka form was popular)
The Scent of Old Poems
Geronimo [after Gary Snyder]
America’s Pastime
Might I but moor – Tonight – With Thee
Only Two Seasons

Since all the poems had keyword tags, I discovered some themes in these poems. I can understand all the references to “poetry” and big themes like “death” but 26 poems tagged with “Moon” surprised me. The Moon, stars, planets and the sky in the daytime or at night are definitely big topics when you are observing the day.

Here are the most common tags: aging astronomy autumn birds children clouds coffee death depression dream Earth father flowers God history home hope life love maps memory Moon morning mother nature New Jersey night ocean past poet Poetry rain river seasons sky sleep snow space spring stars summer sun tea time trees water William Shakespeare winter woods writing

Would I recommend trying a daily writing practice? Absolutely.

What’s next? I’m not sure. I don’t think I will attempt the daily poems, though I will always be writing poems.

Choosing a form was important to this daily discipline. The short form and requirements kept things under control. I couldn’t get lazy and just write a prose paragraph with some line breaks. I also couldn’t get lazy and just keep writing. Though I like my ronka form and will probably still use it sometimes, I have too many ideas for poems that don’t fit into the form.

What to do with this site…
It will stay online and, knowing the nature of the Web, people will continue to find the poems. But I know that new content is what brings people to sites. Perhaps, I will continue to post poems here – ronka or otherwise.

I am also considering going through the 365 poems and trying to get a manuscript from them.  I suppose it could be a “book of days” although I would probably want to reduce it, perhaps to months or seasons. I like the illustrations, some of which are my own, some that are not. It would be interesting to try doing some as drawings or watercolors and reactivate that lately-dormant part of my brain.

Any thoughts on what I should do?  Did any of you try the ronka form? Did you try a daily writing practice on or offline?  I’d love to hear from you.