A while back, Robert Lee Brewer posted the Somonka Challenge which sparked a tremendous outpouring of collaborative work amongst the poets. It yielded some wonderful imagery and poems. Today, we will delve into a similar endeavor as our form exploration is the RENGA.

Renga, meaning “linked poem,” began over seven hundred years ago in Japan to encourage the collaborative composition of poems. Poets worked in pairs or small groups, taking turns composing the alternating three-line and two-line stanzas. Linked together, renga were often hundreds of lines long, though the favored length was a 36-line form called a kasen. Several centuries after its inception, the opening stanza of renga gave rise to the much shorter haiku.

To create a renga, one poet writes the first stanza (three lines long with a total of seventeen syllables.) The next poet adds the second stanza (a couplet with seven syllables per line). The third stanza repeats the structure of the first and the fourth repeats the second, alternating in this pattern until the poem’s end.

The themes of renga are perhaps most critical to the poem’s success. The language is often pastoral, using words and images relating to the seasons, nature, and love. In order for the poem to achieve its desired goal, each poet writes a new stanza that leaps from only the stanza preceding it. This leap holds both the theme as well as maintains the connecting component.

The form has been used as a tool for teaching students to write poetry while working together; a lesson in cooperation!

Poets are asked to choose partners (or small groups) and compose RENGA poems. (Of course, you can write the chain on your own if you must!)

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Love walks in beauty,
gently stepping into hearts.
A journey two share.

A shared trip around the sun
turns tide and time; hearts are one.

From the fallow ground,
signs of new life have been found.
Love’s new beginning.

In renewal, love springs forth;
a new season to embrace.

Soon, temperate and full,
life with outstretched arms seeks warmth.
The heart of summer.

The fullness of life and love,
a steady passage of time.

Love bears fruit in a
season of maturity.
Beautiful harvest.

Reaping a wealth from our toil,
a trove, more valued than gold.

And in winter’s drear
two hearts that are warmed by love
journey side-by-side.

Two hearts walk in love slowly,
hoping to cherish each step.

Photo Credit: Cindy Barrick

Photo Credit: Cindy Barrick

Collaboration between Paula M. Wanken and Walter J. Wojtanik