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Renga anyone?


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Renga, (linked poem) is a cooperative poem of many stanzas. Poets, (2 or more) gather to create a spontaneous poem of alternating 17 syllable (5-7-5), 14 syllable (7-7) stanzas. A popular form of Renga is written in 36 stanzas. The custom dates back to 13th century Japan.


The poets in rotation take turns writing the stanzas. The poem begins with the hokku (5-7-5) recording when and where the gathering occurs. The next stanza (7-7) is usually written by the host, in response to the subtle compliment suggested in the hokku. From there the stanzas are written in turn by the various members of the assembly in an alternating (5-7-5), (7-7) pattern. The poem is ended in a tanka (short poem) which combines 2 renga stanzas into 1. (5-7-5-7-7)


The renga is not meant as a narrative, it doesn't tell a sequential story. It is meant to move around, the stanzas should "link and shift" Bruce Ross, How to Haiku. The stanzas link in some subtle way to the previous stanza only, not the whole poem. The link can be through a word, a mood, an idea set in the previous stanza. It "develops texture by shifting among several traditional topics without narrative progress" William Higgins, The Haiku Handbook.


The Renga is:

  1. syllabic. Alternating stanzas, usually of 5-7-5 and 7-7 syllables. (onji or sound symbol for which there is no exact translation in English, the closest we can come is syllable).
  2. a cooperative poem, written by 2 or more poets.
  3. spontaneous.
  4. composed with stanzas that "link and shift", it does not tell a sequential story. Can have over a 100 stanzas, but a popular form is to end at 36.
  5. structured with a beginning, middle and end. Hokku (starting verse), followed by linked stanzas, and ends with a Tanka (small poem).
  6. connected to the seasons. Although the hokku indicates the season in which the gathering occurs, somewhere within the renga, there should be stanzas referring to each of the seasons to create a complete circle.

~~ © ~~ Poems by Judi Van Gorder ~~

For permission to use this work you can write to Tinker1111@icloud.com

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Tinker, are you supposed to write the next stanza?

"The poem begins with the hokku (5-7-5) recording when and where the gathering occurs. The next stanza (7-7) is usually written by the host, in response to the subtle compliment suggested in the hokku"


Or are we supposed to jump in?



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I presume Tinker to be the honored guest. The second part, the 7-7, should be written by the host in praise of her.


However, since we are not face to face, we may need a 'renga master'. Then, all who care can post a 'second part', and the 'master' would choose one in order to control and guide the succession to some unifying content. The one whose 7-7 is chosen would have to skip the next turn, that protocol then followed for all subsequent parts. A set time interval would be set to give most members a chance at each step.


Otherwise, in my experince, chain poems reminiscent of the renga practice often turn out to be just an innocent 'laffer'.

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  • 6 months later...
blades of new grass

cushion the silent footsteps

of poets gathering


deep silence has settled in

first to speak is one least shy

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  • 1 month later...

Hi Tink,


Your renga invitation has made me realize how interesting this form is. Quite different from tanka and haiku and yet intrinsically linked with these forms.


One of my 2010 resolutions has been to research more and try this form.


Will be back :)

I hope all's well with you. Happy New Year :wine:




Even a single enemy is too many and a thousand friends too few - Bhutanese saying.

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