‘Unbecome’ publication announcement by Branko

Hello everyone,

This is to let you know I have just published a poem in four acts in collaboration with a US poet, Jerry Gordon. The chapbook is called ‘Unbecome’.

We have privately made a total of 20 copies (10 apiece). Each book has a unique cover, hand painted using a special technique, and is hand-sewn.  I thought you or someone from haiku class might be interested in purchasing one? If anyone is interested, please let me know through the reply (comments) box below or email me (cacti”at”live.co.uk), as there are only 5 copies left (1000 yen per copy).  A sample of this book will be available to inspect at the next few Hailstone seminars in Osaka and Kyoto. 

Click on either photo to enlarge. Here’s an excerpt from a review by Stephen Gill:

“A renga-like dialogue for two (ryougin 両吟 in Jap.), I like the way it links and moves on. We have to uncover a hidden story/character development dictated by arbitrary means imposed by structure (pre-determined rules) while letting imagination have full play […] The work is a success in as much as I think it does actually exert a pull on the reader to find out what’s going on, where we’re heading, what conclusions to draw. Building a future with two pens. Tonally, it’s very good, too. On the downside, it’s very cryptic and varies in tone from ultimate philosophical sincerity to virtual insincerity (or at least bravura, having a good time with words). This left me wondering what a ‘roller coaster’ is beyond simply a hell of a ride and an adrenaline rush. The answer perhaps is that it occasionally gives you good views (insights). Your work does this, too.”



Chhoki & Rajan Unlimited










It is unusual for Icebox to advertise a book by poets with no obvious connection to the Hailstone Haiku Circle, but Unexpected Gift  is an e-book of collaborative haikai ‘poems’, authored by Genjuan (& Kikakuza) Haibun Contest multiple awardees, Sonam Chhoki (Bhutan) and Geethanjali Rajan (India), and they have both expressed to me gratitude at how the Contest helped to bring them together and for my personal encouragement of their writing over the years. It’s a joy to be able to do so and for sure, there is some very delicate dancing between the authors here. This is very sophisticated, if that’s permissible in such a simple world as haiku. Published by Éditions des Petits Nuages in Canada, the book contains 25 responsive ‘poems’ chosen from 7 years of writing together – featuring haiku, senryu, tanka, haibun and tanbun – with a foreword by Mike Montreuil. The beautiful cover art and interior illustrations are by Dhaatri Vengunad Menon. What I found especially interesting was the way that, irrespective of whether the component parts were haiku or senryu or tanka or prose, they were treated as if the resultant composite piece was one longer poem.  Available on Kindle: ASIN: B09KV9SMNW. Highly recommended!

A rengay from the book (click on the page to read; Chhoki in italics):

Beneath Northern Hills


Beneath northern hills
a green, shining lake
dappled with fallen leaves
………………………….. David

Speckles of fungus,
dead tree still standing
………………………….. Branko

Stalked by a grey heron —
the floating isle
of Midorogaike
………………………….. Richard

Sleepy, at this water’s edge,
where wild boars roam
………………………….. Hitomi

By the roadside,
alone with his ghost,
a taxi driver dozing
………………………….. Ursula

Goddess of the pond,
her silent face
………………………….. Tomiko

Feels like
a reed pipe
playing in the distance
………………………….. Teruko

A lunatic scream
pierces the air
………………………….. Branko

Uprooted trees
shelter their young —
echoes of the Ice Age
………………………….. Akira

Feeding the marsh,
a handful of sprinkled acorns
………………………….. Hitomi

Green brooch
on a red sports-car:
the praying mantis
………………………….. Mayumi

The mood of these trees
in all their colours
………………………….. Gerald

Poets wandering
beside the lake —
cold hunter’s moon
………………………….. Ayako

At last, one bubble
makes it to the surface
………………………….. Tito

Editor’s footnote: this ginko-no-renga was composed after a memorable composition stroll around Midorogaike (Midoro Pond) in Kitayama, Kyoto on 4 Nov. 2018. It was compiled by David McCullough with assistance from host, Branko Manojlovic. Most but not all of the 13 participants got a verse in. We hope to do another by a pond in Osaka next spring!

Oyamazaki Ginko-no-renga

May 20, 2017 (please see the preceding post, “Spring at the Edge”)


A clear sky …
sprouting green leaves
breathe with us                                                    (Akito)

The sound of ice
being dropped into a glass                                    (Tito)

Beside the hot train tracks
the old man mutters
“Don’t hog the shade!’                                           (Richard)

Three rivers join and flow –
Hideyoshi’s proud pagoda                                      (Eiko)

Only the red roof left,
the museum returning
to nature’s green                                                  (Hiroko)

Birdsong carried
by stream ripples                                                   (Akira)

At Takara Temple
recalling Soseki –
an early summer breeze                                          (Teruko)

Distilled on Mt. Tenno
“Angel’s Share”                                                      (Kyoko)

The girl counts out
twelve visitor cards at reception –
cool interior                                                            (Hisashi)

in the western window                                            (Kayo)

A black swallowtail
visits the Siberian irises –
afternoon heat                                                        (Eiko)

Until the liquid turns amber
long way to go                                                        (Noriko)

Enma and his fierce men:
heaped before them
fruits, jellies, just desserts                                        (Eiko)

Slippery on this steep slope
pilgrims’ straw sandals                                            (Noriko)

A mayfly lands
on my handlebars –
the luminous day                                                    (Tito)


Ed. by Hisashi Miyazaki and Richard Donovan

For John

British renku master, John Carley, who died on 31 December 2013, is commemorated in a new page here on the Icebox: “Memorial kasen for John Carley”. Please click this https://hailhaiku.wordpress.com/memorial-kasen-for-john-carley/ to read the linked verse composed by 10 international poets led by Eiko Yachimoto using a haiku of John’s as its lead verse. If you have any comments, you can either leave them beneath this announcement or at the foot of the kasen page itself. Enjoy it, please!

“Fire & Water” ginko-no-renga

dedicated to the memory of Ken Jones (1930 – 2.8.2015)

As its last event of the summer, Hailstone Haiku Circle held a ginko-no-rengakai (‘stroll and scroll event’) at Arashiyama on Daimonji Night, 16.8.15. Sixteen attended. On this, the last day of the O-bon season, multiple bonfires are lit on the hills around Kyoto as a way of seeing off the spirits of the dead who are thought to have been invisible guests in the homes of relatives these past few days. The first fire to be lit, and the largest, is shaped like the Chinese character for ‘big’ and dominates the eastern side of town; the last, overlooking Kyoto’s western side, is shaped like the ‘torii’ or sacred gateway leading to the Fire God’s shrine atop Mt. Atago, which is ‘the mountain’ alluded to in the hokku (first verse) here. The ageku (final verse) thus links back to the hokku. We climbed the steps up to Hōrinji Temple to get a better view of the bonfires. Rain is mentioned once, and once only, as it turned out to be but a heavy shower.

Arashiyama renga Micah 1a

Ken Jones gave a reading to Hailstone 12 years ago in Osaka and news of his passing had just reached us. On the night he was in the sabaki’s mind. This linked verse is what we managed to get down. Each verse has become a picture in a kaleidoscopic narrative poem.


….. Thunderhead looms
….. behind the mountain —
….. the same silhouette

(Tito) ….. ….. ….. ….. 


….. ….. Over the river, dusk
….. ….. with dragonflies

(Peter) ….. ….. ….. ….. 


….. Where three rocks jut
….. from the green water
….. no ripples to be seen

(Masako) ….. ….. ….. ….. 


….. ….. People crowd the bridge
….. ….. egrets cooling down

(Eiko) ….. ….. ….. ….. 


….. Greater China
….. takes over the street —
….. the flash of credit cards

(Peter) ….. ….. ….. ….. 


….. ….. Only special guests admitted
….. ….. to the viewing platform

(Tito) ….. ….. ….. …..  


….. Sound of geta
….. on stone steps –
….. yukata beauty

(Tomoko) ….. ….. ….. ….. 


….. ….. In spite of sweet repellent
….. ….. one mosquito drinks

(Takeshi) ….. ….. ….. ….. 


….. Cooler air —
….. cicada chorus
….. at summer’s end

(Mika) ….. ….. ….. ….. 


….. ….. Treading on occasional
….. ….. yellowed cherry leaves

(Tito) ….. ….. ….. ….. 


….. The rain begins
….. before the lighting of bonfires —
….. etching lines

(Peter/Micah) ….. ….. ….. ….. 


….. ….. Light captured on the water’s surface
….. ….. tears

(Hideyuki) ….. ….. ….. ….. 

Micah Gampel_8852 c-

….. A misty blaze starts up
….. on the distant hill —
….. Ken, now rest in peace

 (Tito) ….. ….. ….. ….. 


….. ….. Reflection of lanterns —
….. ….. broken by a passing boat

(Kazue) ….. ….. ….. ….. 


….. Seeing off the souls
….. a soft wind blows —
….. still alive!

(Hiroko) ….. ….. ….. ….. 


….. ….. Gentle glow of the Torii
….. ….. to dim city lights

(Masako) ….. ….. ….. ….. 

[Participants: Stephen Gill (Tito, sabaki, rt. below), Peter MacIntosh (shuhitsu, lt. below), Masako Fujie, Eiko Mori, Tomoko Uemura, Takeshi Saito, Mika Nakamura, Micah Gampel, Hideyuki Jitsumasa, Kazue Gill, Hiroko Nakakubo, J.P. Thomas (Hakama), Aya Hotta, Vera Ishiyama, Yushi Yanohara, Manoha. Photos: Micah Gampel.]Arashiyama renga Micah 0a

The Wooden Tub

shisan renku consisting of twelve verses that follow the progress of the seasons: 春-夏-秋-冬.
P1190709a- This linked verse, the last in our Four Seasons series, was composed on 3 May ’13 in a roof-top tearoom (川 Sen) at the Tatsumi Building near Kyoto Station on a bright and breezy spring day. As we worked, we enjoyed a sample of rare imported teas and took lunch outside on the patio roof with its views of Mts. Hiei and Atago. Ten poets took part and most had at least one of their offered verses chosen.

The wooden tub
suddenly overflowing
with violets

Stepping out
in my new sneakers

One of the cans
kicked by the youths
still rattling down the road

Swallows refashion
the rim of their nest

A barque by the shore
ready to take us to
never-never land

Drops from the paddle
form a stream of stars

No cow
in the slightly frosted meadow,
a low moon in the east

Worms eating into
the apple’s core

November wind
blows through the streets –
miniskirt assassin

Boston Marathon bombing
green card applicants’ despair

Curled up for warmth
offering winter prayers –
hungry ghosts drink in the Light

Interwoven hopes,
fabric of a linked verse.

participants (in random order): Ursula Maierl (sabaki), Tito (shuhitsu and host), Hitomi Suzuki, Peter MacIntosh, Haruka Hasaba, Toshi Ida, Kyoko Nozaki, Mayumi Kawaharada, Keiko Okumoto and Richard Steiner.

Other renku in this Four Season series can be read here:

Snowflakes Wander

A shisan renku consisting of twelve verses that follow the progress of the seasons: -冬-春-夏-秋. P1190042a-The linked verse was composed on 24.2.13 in an 8-mat room upstairs at Murin-an 無鄰菴, Okazaki, Kyoto on a bitterly cold late winter day of sun and passing snow flurries. Some enjoyed a stroll around the watery, Meiji-period landscape garden we could see from the window. Twelve poets took part and most had at least one of their offered verses chosen.

Snowflakes wander …
grey down snagged on juniper
from the goshawk’s kill

With one brush stroke
the frozen river

the boatman’s monkey

Irritable lady
explains over and over again

Pink plum blossoms
bursting on the bough;
the skirt tighter this year

Rainbow-patterned curves
of painted Easter eggs

My wish to be in Hawaii
attending a wedding –
dreams come true

Sudden showers
lovers run for cover

Since the nuclear meltdown
no more swimming
in the turquoise sea

A candle burns on
changing shadows of itself

Foxes approach:
the harvest moon keeps her eyes
on the rice-cake offering

Ripened fields stretch
to the world’s end.

participants (in random order): Tito (sabaki and host), Jiko (shuhitsu), Mari Kawaguchi, David McCullough, Hitomi Suzuki, Ursula Maierl, Keiko Kurumizawa, Kyoko Nozaki, Michael Lambe, Kazuko Miyazawa, Masako Fujie and Peter MacIntosh

Crimson Tallow Leaves

A shisan renku, consisting of twelve verses that follow, through the process of shift-and-link, the progress of the seasons: 秋冬春夏.

The linked verse was composed on 4 Nov. in an 8-mat tea-room at Yasui Kompira Jinja Kaikan on a fine, still autumn day, which included a lunchtime stroll to the Kamo River in eastern Kyoto. Eleven poets took part and most had at least one of their offered verses chosen. The ‘tallow leaves’ are those of the  ナンキンハゼ nankinhaze tree (candleberry). Subhadassi, a visiting British artist with a passion for renga, had visited Mt. Ogura the previous day.

Crimson tallow leaves
light up the paths
towards smoke blue Ogura

from somewhere
the smell of mackerel

singing children
disperse for home
with the temple bell

a stone thrown far
into the moat

after washing my face
at a service station
winter full moon

she cycles through
each season

cherry blossoms
have fallen
into the maiko’s kimono

the newborn arrives
ahead of schedule

on the riverbank
somebody touched my shoulder
weeping willow

echoing down the phone line
his loneliness

they punch back
sturdy sunflowers
holding their ground

the elevator goes up
but doesn’t come down.

participants (not in order of their contributions): Subhadassi (sabaki), Tito (shuhitsu), Mayumi Kawaharada (host), Jiko, Mari Kawaguchi, Hisashi Miyazaki, Ursula Maierl, Gerald Staggers, Kittredge Stephenson, Masako Fujie and Peter MacIntosh.

Shimmering Pavements

A shisan renku consisting of twelve verses that follow the progress of the seasons. The linked verse was composed at ‘Kaze no Ma’ (Room of Breezes) after a composition stroll through the heat and squalls of early summer in the eastern hills of Kyoto. Eleven poets took part and all contributed to this linked verse.

Shimmering pavements –
forgotten stones of the city
reflecting the sky

The rickshaw man
just waiting for a heavy shower

Birdsong rings
over the poet’s hut,
dripping eaves

Lifted on a breeze
the scent of boiling mushrooms

At nightfall
a gang of trolls comes forth
to worship the moon

Rabbits hide themselves
among the pampas grass

Seeking the meaning
in this shared cup
of steaming chocolate

Couples along the river
snuggle beneath frozen stars

The highest branch:
tenderly preening each other,
two crows

No traces are left
on the softening path

Ancient marble statues
reveal their eyes:
blue veronica

Deep in meditation
the reading lamp fails.

participants (random order): David McCullough (sabaki), Tito (shuhitsu), Keiko Yurugi (host), Toshi Ida, Mayumi Kawaharada, Michael Lambe, Masako Fujie, Kittredge Stephenson, Hitomi Suzuki, Yoshiharu Kondo, and Peter MacIntosh.

The Spirituality of Haiku

I wonder if I could draw members’ attention to a piece on my blog… It includes a short account of the classical-style renku session at
Kitano Tenmangu last Saturday, put on as part of Kyoto City’s Bunka-sai, followed by a quotation about the spiritual nature of haiku which I think practitioners might find inspirational.
Please see here. Thank you, JD.


We had a renga meet scheduled for the 12th, and went ahead with it in spite of the calamity that had befallen the country 400 miles to the northeast less than 24 hours before. We walked and wrote of what we saw in Kyoto, but this seemed to merge with what we already carried in our heads of the horror and grief. We had planned to begin the renga with a verse by Buson about the lengthening day and a pheasant fluttering down onto a bridge. In view of the awful situation, the sabaki used another one. Someone has just written – in an email asking after our group (who are all, we think, safe) – that ‘poetry is prayer’. You may remember, in Basho’s ‘Road to the Deep North’, that his companion Sora wrote at Matsushima (on the coast near Sendai) 鶴に身を借れ ‘borrow the wings of a crane!’ If only everyone on that coast could have done so.

Such as it is, then, with some trepidation, we here share the linked-verse we created, hoping that we might have captured in it somewhere a glimmer of beauty or truth.


The day grows longer –
echoes are heard
in a corner of Kyoto….. (Buson)

Between two gardens
abandoned tiles

Calm corridor –
one step, one prayer
white plum blooming beyond

Struck dumb
by the presence of stones

Again and again
from far across the still pond
one black wave

The silent hills look on
bathed in watery sun

An old lady working
in the woodland field
gives a glance to passers-by

Cold front
shivering dog

Which is the house
their friends lived in?
the couple disputes

Swinging from a branch
a bagworm’s cloak of sticks

Water drips
from a bamboo pipe –
an unknown tune

Two days of rain
two days of melancholy

A polished floor
inside the shuttered room
reflecting nothing

Painted on paper doors
cranes still frolic

The reddish haze
of thousands of buds
against the dim sky

Wayside Buddha
bidden farewell

Our little world –
from it, we search for meaning
in the spring stars


sabaki: Tito with Keiko
hosts: Itsuyo/Yoko
renjuin: Michael Lambe, Keiko Yurugi, John Dougill, Tito, Kazue Gill, Masako Fujie, Anne Vadgama, Yae Kitajima, Itsuyo Higashinaka, Mari Kawaguchi, Akito Mori

venue: Iwakura, including Jisso-in Temple, Kyoto, 12.3.11, the day after the Great Tohoku Quake