Renga: Poetic Forms

Poetic Form Fridays are made to share various poetic forms. This week, we look at the renga, a Japanese collaborative form.
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Poetic Form Fridays are made to share various poetic forms. This week, we look at the renga, a Japanese collaborative form.

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Renga Poems

At its most basic, the renga is a tanka written by two or more poets. This Japanese form preceded (and inspired) haiku, and its common for poets to link several renga into a renga chain.

Here are the simplest guidelines:

  • One poet writes the first three lines in 5-7-5 syllables.
  • Second poet writes the next two lines in 7-7 syllables in a way that communicates with the first three lines.

Note on renga chain: To make a chain, the two (or more) poets will go through the same process above by linking five-line stanzas. While each stanza should stand on its own, they should be linked by some common factor, such as shared images, subject, words, etc.

Next time you get a bunch of poets together in the same place, make a game of it and see how many stanzas you can cobble together.

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Here’s my attempt at a (solo) renga chain:

rain, by Robert Lee Brewer

rain covers the earth
but doesn't touch the front porch
cat surveys kingdom
covered in whiskers and fur
he is content to stay dry

children splash puddles
and kick water where they can
avoid their parents
mothers prepare warm clothing
before calling them inside

fathers feign fury
at the chores they can't complete
before reading books
stews simmer inside their pots
and the world puts on blankets