Photo by GL
What is renga?
Renga is collaborative linked verse. It starts with the haiku master providing a verse of seventeen syllables (a "haiku")* to start with, which will suggest the theme and tone. The next poet follows this with a couplet of fourteen syllables (making a tanka of 5-7-5 followed by 7-7)**.
Another poet then contributes a haiku based on the couplet, which is then followed by another couplet. And so the renga continues, with three-line stanzas alternating with two-line ones.
Each stanza will follow on from the previous, but does not continue from earlier stanzas-- the whole poem doesn't tell a story, but is allowed to wander. Each stanza thus is part of two miniature poems-- one when read with the stanza before it, and another one when read with the stanza following it.
Renga do not tell stories in the usual sense. They connect thoughts and images suggesting an overall picture, theme, idea or emotion. A great part of the fun of renga is the surprise, the imaginative leaps and tangents explored along the way.
Or, as one poet phrased it, "The result is a constantly changing mosaic which discourages development of a logical, sequential narrative."
In Japan, writing renga was a social activity-- poets got together in person to have renga parties, passing around sheets of paper with the verses. (Say, that might be a fun thing to do at a local poetry reading-- how about at Deep Cleveland?)
And, hey, the Haiku Society of America has a contest for renga.
So, here's my proposal: let's use the blog to write a clevelandpoetics renga-- a collaborative renga with a Cleveland theme.
*actually, the first stanza of a renga is the hokku, not a haiku. But that doesn't matter here-- it's identical to a haiku in form.
**yes, I know that English syllables aren't the same as Japanese, and Japanese don't write haiku in three lines. For the purpose of this renga, though, let's go with the idea of a three line stanza followed by two lines. We can be loose about seventeen syllables for the haiku and 14 for the couplet, but keep the idea that the haiku has a pattern of long-short-long, and the couplet has two longer lines.