A poem-a-day for National Poetry Month

Archive for April 23, 2011

Prompt #24: Chain Renga

Today’s form prompt is brought to us today by Nikki Magennis. It’s all about the Chain Renga, a cool but complicated poem structure. You can join with friends, use the poems to jump off from or follow along with Nikki’s prompt in the comments.


Jasmine Revolution – Chain renga

Would anyone like to join in a chain renga? We need at least three people.

The idea of renga is to express ‘change’ – more on that below.

The poem will be written over 36 verses, alternating 5-7-5 stanzas with 7-7 stanzas.  Each verse should relate to the previous one, whether overtly or obliquely. There are various other subtle and complex rules and ideas, but I propose we treat the form fairly loosely to begin with.

I propose a title/starting point of ‘Jasmine Revolution’.


More on the form here, taken from the Wikipedia entry<a href = http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Renga/a>:

‘The essence of renga is in the idea of “change” (変化, henka?). Bashō described this as “newness (新み, atarashimi?), and as “refraining from stepping back”.
A renga starts with a hokku of 5-7-5 sound units. This is followed by the second verse of 7-7 sound units, called the waki (脇?, “side”), and then by the third verse of 5-7-5 sound units, called the daisan (第三?, lit., “the third”). The next verse will be 7-7 sound units, and this pattern is repeated until the desired length is achieved.
The kasen renga, favored by Basho because it was easier to complete 36 verses in one night than the normal 100-link renga, has three sections of development. The beginning, called the jo should reflect the atmosphere of the beginning of a social evening – everyone is very polite, restrained, cautious and referring to the reason for the gathering.

The middle part of the kasen renga (verses 7 – 29) are more loose, and will include themes not allowed in the beginning and end such as love, religion, and laments. This reflects the conversation flow during dinner when the wine has been consumed and the participants are feeling free and friendly. The kyu is the rapid finish and involves the last six verses. The speed in this section is much like the broken conversation of people as they prepare to leave the party and people are quickly winding up their conversations.

The ageku is the final verse. It is considered fine if the final verse makes some reference or has a tie to the hokku or beginning verse.
A renga and its participants are judged on how well each link relates to the previous one. The most common technique of linkage used by beginning English writers is simple stream of consciousness. The previous verse reminds the writer of something else and then adds that image to the poem.

Examples and more ideas on the form here: http://www.renga-platform.co.uk/webpages/renga_01.htm

‘The two key principles of renga are link and shift. Link means that each verse should connect in some way with its immediate predecessor. Shift means that, with the exception of the link just noted, each verse should move on, drawing on imagery, which is new’



Reminders for Participants: You can post your poem below in the comments, offer a link back to your site where the poem is posted, or comment about the experience of writing the poem (without actually posting the poem). If you’re going to comment on other participant’s poems, please remember that this is not a critique space — comments should be kept thoughtful and supportive. Lastly, remember you don’t have to use the prompt to write your poem — they’re here for your inspiration but they’re certainly not a requirement.

Let the Wild Poeming Being!