Note on Renga

The poem sequences called Renga are typically divided into three movements, called Jo, Ha, and Kyu, which are supposed to have a different tempo and different types of linking. You will notice that in English the form is composed of alternating three and two line stanzas; this reflects the Japanese division into sets of syllables. (The form known as haiku developed out of the three line portions of renga.)

Renga are composed live in a group session. This example was composed by a teacher and five students at Bates College in the spring of 1995. The poets worked in a fixed sequence (Sandra, Christa, Chris, Raloon, Heather, Sarah) that repeated. Each author was presented with the work up to that point. The poems are supposed to have constant reference to nature, and the links can be various types, generally arranged to that any two successive stanzas can be read a complete poem. Thus each stanza other than the first and last must do double duty, both starting one unit and finishing another. Read the text one unit at a time, but joining with the one before, and with an eye to the con/dis/continuity of the whole.

Thus the renga form is a linear form, but it has a kind of discontinuity/continuity that is different both from classical ideas of order, and from attempts at abrupt or ironic or deconstructive differences. There are many ways we can find or make.

Date created: 6/2/95
Last modified: 6/2/95
Copyright 1995, David Kolb
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