As I promised in the last episode I’m going to review Tim Gardiner’s new book “The Flintknapper’s ghost”. Then I’d like to introduce Renku otherwise known as linked verse to the podcast and ask you to join me and see if together, we can complete a 22 verse renku over the coming months and last but not least I’d like you to meet a poet new to the community, Andy Syor.

I promised Veronica Hosking that I would remind people that this month, March, is cerebral palsy awareness month. If you’d like to know more then Veronica has shared a link with me .

Tim Gardiner’s book “The Flintknapper’s ghost. A book of haibun.”

As I write this I wonder is Flintknapping a British thing? Probably not but just in case let me tell you what it is.

It is the process of chipping away material from high silica stones like Flint, To produce sharp objects or tools, like for example, arrowheads or building materials.

Before I start, I should make it clear that I don’t benefit in anyway should you go ahead and buy Tim’s book.

As many of you will know, Tim is a regular contributor to the haiku pea podcast. I very much enjoy his work, which so often displays his love for nature. So when I heard that he had published a book of haibun I was excited to get my hands on a copy.

If you’re thinking that you have no idea what haibun is and could not therefore appreciate the work, I’d say don’t worry. Tim opens his book with an introduction to the history and technique of this art form which I believe will be sufficient for the beginner.

There are 40 haibun in this book and they cover a lot of ground. From the transition from childhood through to death and many of the highs and lows in between.

Writing haiku does not allow you to indulge in the embellishment of a poem as is the way with western poetry. It relies on a certain minimalism in its form to allow the reader to use their imagination. This is not the case with the prose element of haibun. Tim uses this freedom to express his absolute love for the landscape.

Let me read you a few sentences of his prose, which comes from The Witches Tree and I hope you can feel that you are with Tim, as I did:

“it’s bough arches over the silver sheen of the pasture; somewhere in the Hawthorne thicket, a gravestone rests on its side. I peer over the crumbling brick wall, barbed wire preventing my ingress into the old churchyard. “

Let’s not forget the haiku element of the book. It contains many strong haiku, perhaps I can read you a couple of them so you get a taste:

sheet lightning
filling the dark space
between memories

apple blossom
futile confetti
bears no fruit

To conclude, the book flows gently through the haibun, evoking a mixture of emotions and displaying a range of skills that made the book a thoroughly enjoyable read. A book I will dip into time and time again.


This art form has been around from the days of Bashô, who was himself a Renku master. But what is it?

In brief it is the collaborative writing of linked verse. In the days before the internet, people would of course meet in a social situation, now we have other opportunities. We can go global and can write them together over the internet. Which is what I hope we can have a go at. I hope you’ll join in.

For our first go, I would like to try a 22 verse renku. Renku should be thought of as a 3 part piece, much like a concerto or a three act play.

I like the way Jane Reichhold describes it, like a dinner party, in the first movement a group of strangers have a stilted conversation as they get to know each other, in the second movement the wine has flowed, tongues are looser, there are flights of fancy, laughter, and a little bit of nonsense. In the third movement, things are wrapping up, new friends have been made and people are leaving.

I’ll put the rules on the poetrypea website, but this in brief, is what I’m working with:

The renku takes the form of a three line haiku (no more than 17 syllables), followed by a response of two lines (no more than 14 syllables). Sounds simple enough, but that’s when it gets a little complicated. We need to link and shift, so:

The link and shift:
Each new verse should link to the previous one
The new verse should shift the renku on to new material, when compared to the previous but one verse

How can we link:
Object linkages: physical associations between objects, space or time
Meaning linkages: linking words in adjacent verses, perhaps using association, comparison, or contrast
Scent linkages: linking the emotion or mood

Shifting I think is self explanatory, but what I would ask is that at least in the first movement the shift is not too extreme.

Another thing, Don’t use a noun that has been used in an existing verse

There will be more but for today’s writing challenge that is enough.

So let’s get started.

I received two haiku from Giddy Nielsen Sweep and Robert Horrobin which I thought would be an excellent start to what I would like to try and achieve.

The first hokku is from Giddy the second haiku is Robert’s. I have added the two two line responses, so here goes:


cold sun
ageing reflections on
orange snowflake

Giddy Nielsen Sweep

the world turns
a half frozen ball



over the hill –
now I look forward
to the sunset

Robert Horrobin


in the valley
footprints in the dew


I have linked Verse 2 to verse 1 using object linking. The idea of ageing in time and space. Giddy has used the word ageing and I’ve linked it with the turning of the world or you could also say I’ve linked them using the season, winter.

Verse 2 and 3 are linked by the association of movement. The world turning and the person in verse 3 having moved over the hill. Verse 3 needs to make a shift between it and verse 1. This it does by shifting the mood from one of melancholy to one of hope. As we are still in the first movement or “Jo” of our renku we should not be making huge shifts, just baby ones.

Verse 4 links with 3, again in physical space. When you go over a hill you usually find something resembling a dip or valley. It could also be said to have a contrast in meaning between hill and valley. It has definitely shifted the renku onwards from verse 2. We are in a different physical environment. The world is no longer frozen, it is damp with dew.

Now what I would ask of you is to compose a three line haiku that links with verse 4, but makes a shift from verse 3. Oh and it should also make a reference to the moon. That is a rule for verse 5. The Deadline for your 5th “moon” verse is 31st March, please.

I’m looking forward to reading where your imagination takes you.

If you need help, just email me.

Andy Syor

This week I’m pleased to introduce a new poet to the podcast, Andy Syor. I thought this would be a good week to introduce him because Andy is a writer of solo linked verse.

Andy, is now retired but has done some interesting jobs in his time. He is often very philosophical in his approach to writing as we will see during this year and it’s little wonder because he has read the works of many of the ancient philosophers.

He wrote a piece which explains his attitude to haiku:

precise and direct
in the rhythms of haiku
my thoughts are expressed

I’d like to give you a sample of his linked verse, which is inspired by his time in the marines.

Bird dog
Ageless cautions sent
to the wise and the foolish
forethought afterthought

awareness on the
embracing random resolve
of Fates’ three sisters

ancient challenges
inherent motivations
correct impulses

Thanks Andy


So that’s it for this week. My thanks to Tim Gardiner and Andy Syor for featuring this week and to Giddy and Robert for letting me use their haiku to start what I hope will be a 22 verse renku.

That can only happen with your help so have a go send me your moon verses by the end of March, please.

Thanks as always to everyone for sending me their submissions. The deadline for the music podcast is coming up fast that’s the 11th of March. Thanks to everyone who submitted so far and I hope there will be more submissions before the deadline. Don’t forget I take general submissions too so that I can feature some poets in between the special podcasts.

I’m always very grateful to you for coming along and listening to me the podcast and I love to hear your feedback, so keep it coming. Until we meet again in a couple of weeks take care and keep writing.

Twitter: @thepoetrypea
Instagram @pealogic


Cerebral Palsy Awareness month
Tim Gardiner’s Book: The Flintknapper’s Ghost buy
Jane Reichhold Aha poetry
Andy Syor’s Blog

Series 2 Episode 5: Aiming for the moon

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