Tanned and Healthy: A Dozen Tan-renga from Asilomar

First published in a trifold broadside titled Tanned and Healthy in 1997, written at the 1996 Asilomar haiku retreat in Pacific Grove, California. Also published in Frogpond XXI:2, October 1998, pages 32–34 (without tan-renga being hyphenated, as I now prefer to treat the term). Prior to this, tan-renga never seemed to appear in any of the haiku journals, but started to appear regularly after the following short article was published. I’m not sure that my article was the chief catalyst for this change in the haiku journals, but perhaps it was. See also “An Introduction to Tan-Renga.”

What Is Tan-Renga?

Tan-renga is an ancient Japanese form of linked poem. It’s the shortest linked poetry possible—one verse each by two poets. Tan-renga consist of a three-line verse followed by a two-line “capping” verse. As with renku verses, the main technique is to link and shift. Typically, the second verse has some connection (link) with the first, yet shifts away from it significantly. A few of the following capping verses deliberately do not shift away, showing a more thematic approach to this poetry. Another way to look at tan-renga is as a tanka written by two poets. The “turn” technique commonly used in tanka occurs naturally in the shift from one poet to the other. The following tan-renga were composed at the Yuki Teikei Haiku Society’s annual haiku retreat at Asilomar Conference Center, Pacific Grove, California, in September 1996.

A dozen tan-renga from Asilomar, written by Michael Dylan Welch with Jerry Ball, Alex Benedict, Beth Brewster, Jocelyn A. Conway, Helen K. Davie, James Ferris, D. Claire Gallagher, Christopher Herold, George Knox, Liz Knox, John Schipper, and Laurie W. Stoelting.



nearing the summit—

this tiny ladybug

      on my shoulder


            Michael Dylan Welch


circular horizon

and not a cloud in the sky


            Christopher Herold


            ~     ~     ~


a letter from home—

the cat on my laundry

paws the red socks


            Michael Dylan Welch


another Christmas Eve alone

smell of burnt cookies


            Jocelyn A. Conway


            ~     ~     ~


walking the dune

with a bird book in hand—

bark of a seal


            Michael Dylan Welch


web-footed tracks through the sand

lead away to the empty sky


            Helen K. Davie


            ~     ~     ~


an old fungus

imprinted with a maple leaf . . .

the story she tells


            Michael Dylan Welch


of this revealing tattoo—

better to say little more


            D. Claire Gallagher


            ~     ~     ~


last day of vacation—

mailing a postcard

to myself


            Michael Dylan Welch


the crowd near the train station

reflection in store windows


            Jerry Ball


            ~     ~     ~


beach path—

the flapping of the kite

in the little boy’s arms


            Michael Dylan Welch


his father     some distance away

with a metal detector


            James Ferris


            ~     ~     ~


    above white breakers

the gull on the rocks—his cry

    drowned out by the surf


            Beth Brewster


at last the sun sets

into offshore fog


            Michael Dylan Welch


            ~     ~     ~


the bonsai book

falls over in the bookcase—

the bent pine branch


            Michael Dylan Welch


some things are out of plumb

with the worlds we build for them


            George Knox


            ~     ~     ~


haiku poets

alert for nature’s sounds

but listening for the lunch bell


            John Schipper


dried stalks along the boardwalk

—do they smell the sea?


            Michael Dylan Welch


            ~     ~     ~


from hand to hand

the pumice stone . . .

distant surf sound


            Michael Dylan Welch


echoes of the quiet

last night on the beach


            Alex Benedict


            ~     ~     ~


colored grape leaves

closely cover the cheese tray

the grapes all eaten


            Liz Knox


all the way through the speech

his fly undone


            Michael Dylan Welch


            ~     ~     ~


race day—

one swimmer doesn’t stop

after the false start


            Michael Dylan Welch


the deaf girl watching smoke

from the starter’s gun


            Laurie W. Stoelting


            ~     ~     ~