::::: Poetry :::::

 

Renga

WHAT IS A RENGA? A RENGA is a group of HAIKU-LIKE verses linked in any one of several special ways. Renga is usually written by two or more poets who take turns writing the verses. At Kaji Aso Studio, as in the Japanese tradition, we write together while enjoying tea and a snack. In classical RENGA, 3-line and 2-line verses are alternated, beginning with a 3-one of several methods with the first. The next line verse (a hokku, usually approximating 5-7-5 syllables) resembling haiku and indicating a season. A second poet composes the following verse (2 lines), linking it by verse (of 3 lines), links with the second but not with the first. Traditionally, each verse employs a season word, most especially the ones requiring a reference to autumn, moon, flower, etc. Season words are words usually associated with one season more than another (blossom = spring; snow = winter; baseball = summer, harvest = autumn, etc.) Verses do not refer to moon or flower except when they are specifically called for. Beginning capitals and ending punctuation are usually avoided. These patterns continue throughout the renga, each verse linking somehow with the verse preceding it, but with no others. Each verse may launch us in a new direction, providing the next poet with a new puzzle to solve. Once a significant noun, verb, adjective or adverb occurs, it is usually not used in another verse (although a witty switch of meaning or context might be acceptable in adjacent links). This technique keeps a renga continually twisting and turning, challenging both poet and reader. The result is a constantly changing mosaic that discourages development of a logical, sequential narrative. The pleasures derived from continual surprise, striking imagery, and delightfully sudden (and often witty) insights can be captivating. That is one of the chief delights of renga. FREE RENGA Writers of renga in English frequently approach the traditional patterns in nontraditional ways. Some write Solo Rengas, composed entirely by one poet. Others adopt only a few or none of the guidelines outlined above. We are currently in an age of experimentation in renga, just as we are in haiku and other borrowed patterns.

some examples taken from our summer session 2005

Renga I


new puppy
biting at
autumn mosquito


blue sky
goes on forever


sudden red bush
gigantic tree trunk
few crickets still singing


I have never seen this blue
today’s autumn sky


lump in my throat
letters of dead GI’s
in New York Times


old man
his blue eyes smiling


I’m sorry
my mother is hiding
her pain


tiny bird
shakes off snow


frightened eyes
desperately searching
3 year old lost in the crowd


the old woman examines prices
on every can of mushrooms


at window
spring a month ahead
bud of daffodils


beggar washes windshield
wishing me 80 more years of life


as quiet
as baby’s sigh
fox snow


in the store window
laughing Ebisu with fish


from far shore
cry of seagull not
morning yet


spring night
sound of magnolia opening


electric guitarist
loses hearing
but still makes money


wind playing song
in delicate chimes


young seagulls
sitting on the dock
unafraid of people


is he afraid of me
cockroach shaking his antenna


boys climb trees
who can reach
highest branches


soft breeze shakes
empty body of cicada


seminary student instructed
shapely woman-
imagine her full of worms


adventurous man
his body frozen in time


glistening trail
slug’s journey
in the moonlight


unidentified night noise behind
the wall
they might be dying


over city buildings
and slow moving traffic
pale moon rising


full energy
striptease theater


so many bags on his back
walking slowly
in the alley


dog barking
at first snow


her red cheeks
and wet eyelashes

indelible image
monkey’s bottom at the zoo


every year forget
every year surprised
beautiful first bud of cherry


flower blizzard
becomes the river


spring sun
shadow of pure cognac
contains gold


peony snow
melts on green bud