Reading Basho, I Notice the Cicadas

The tympanal clicks in the hottest hours

counting out a song in another language.

One of mating, and not of love,

that I know well and repeat myself

in the five seven of this poem.


Two Haiku by Basho

Nothing in the cry
of cicadas suggests they
are about to die

Lonely silence,
a single cicada’s cry
sinking into stone



The Double Ronka

There are several poetry forms that use a linked sequence of poems.

A crown of sonnets or sonnet corona is a sequence of sonnets, usually addressed to one person, and/or concerned with a single theme. Each of the sonnets explores one aspect of the theme, and is linked to the preceding and succeeding sonnets by repeating the final line of the preceding sonnet as its first line. The first line of the first sonnet is repeated as the final line of the final sonnet, thereby bringing the sequence to a close.

Renga, which means “linked poem,” goes back seven centuries in Japan. It was created in order to encourage the collaborative writing of poems. Poets sometimes worked in pairs or small groups and took turns composing the alternating three-line and two-line stanzas.

Finished renga could be hundreds of lines long, but the most common length was a 36-line form called a kasen.

It was several centuries after the renga that the opening stanza of the renga became its own short form, the haiku.

The ronka poems that appear on this site are 5 lines, but I started several this week that overflowed, so I think I will try at least a “double ronka” of two linked poems. The evolution of the ronka form continues.

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.