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Tinker

American Ren Forms

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Explore the Craft of Writing
American Verse

North America's answer to the Japanese linked form Renku or Renga is to shorten the pattern and involve fewer poets. And even though they adopt the 5-7-5 7-7 syllabic patterns of the Japanese form, they often reduce the number of syllables and sometimes number of lines. The American versions do not "link and shift" like the Japanese but are usually built around a theme. Nor do they require an introductory hokku with setting and season and other such elements common in the Renga.

The following are a few American style Ren (Japanese for linked) forms.

  • The Rengay, a 1992 variation found at Baymoon, is a "light hearted" verse created by Garry Gay hence the name Ren-gay. The verse, unlike the Renga is written around a theme, is only 6 stanzas and employs only 2 or 3 poets. The elements of the Rengay are:
    1. stanzaic, written in a combination of tercets and couplets. If written by 2 poets the stanzas are framed tercet, couplet, 2 tercets, couplet ending in a tercet, the poets alternate, each writing 3 stanzas. If written by 3 poets the 3 tercets alternate with 3 couplets.
    2. syllabic, the syllables per line are tercets 5-7-5 per line, couplets 7-7 syllables per line. It is not uncommon to use fewer than the prescribed syllable or line count.
    3. thematic and light hearted.
      2 poets x=poet A x=poet B--------

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      3 poets x=poet A x= poet B x = poet C

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  • Renkay is a shorter American variation of the Renga. It fosters developmental linking in which the poets move the poem through a theme. It allows for linking of previously written haiku, unlike the renga's spontaneity.    The elements of the Renkay are:
    1. usually communal, written by more than one poet. (It can also be written by just one poet.) The change of poet can either be indicated by initials to the side of the stanza or in this day of computers, by italics or change of font.
    2. stanzaic, 5 linked tercets.
    3. syllabic, each stanza is 17 syllables or less, usually written in 3 lines of short-long-short pattern of the haiku, sort of.
    4. composed around a common theme.
    5. often composed with a senyru as the final stanza.

      A Fresh Start

      the sun higher
      I feel the warmth
      of this new year

      magnolia blossoms
      on a leafless tree of sticks
      spring coaxed by the sun

      a cicada sings -
      a little girl counts to ten
      and dives in

      song birds fly south
      only whispers in the yard
      from falling leaves

      a piece of paper
      joy is written on the white
      we have finished
               --- Mike Montreuil and Judi Van Gorder

  • Tan Renga is a 20th century, American Renga shortcut, even shorter than the Renkay. It is designed to be short and sweet and still involve 2 poets. The elements of the Tan Renga are:
    1. a poem in 5 lines, made up of a tercet followed by a couplet.
    2. a cooperative poem. One poet writes the tercet, the 2nd poet writes the couplet.
    3. syllabic, 5-7-5, syllables per line or 17 syllables or less created image. The 2nd link is 7-7 syllables per line or 14 syllables or less.
    4. composed with the couplet drawing a mood from the image of the tercet a kind of statement - response scenario.

      the phone rings
      a vendor mispronounces
      my name

      no offer sounds so sweet
      as a friend calling your name

      (I am sorry, I found this in my notes but I don't know who wrote it. I include it here because it is such a perfect example of the form and I love the verse. If anyone reading this recognizes it and knows the name of the poet, please let me know so I can give the author credit.)

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