Conversation 25: Renga – Writing and Connecting at THE DAILY HAIKU

Introduction

On Friday nights we renga.  On Wednesday evenings we have a slow renga.  It sounds like a dance doesn’t it. And in some ways it is but with words and friends, a collaborative writing experience – a haiku party. Fridays are really playful, fun and often fast paced.  Wednesdays are more thoughtful and as it says on the tin slower, but they can speed up their tempo too later into the evening.

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Renga started in Japan 700 years ago and is accurately translated as ‘linked poetry’. Renga requires another person or group of people to take part at the same time where alternating haiku are written by a different person. Our variations on this for our Friday renga takes the last line of the preceding haiku to start a new one and seeing where this goes. Our record is 795! And on National Poetry Day on 1st October 2020 we had a 24 hour renga.

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For our slow renga we have time slots to post haiku that all share the same first line which is  voted on in our running poll.  After time slots which end at 9pm there is free posting. The idea behind the slow renga, initiated by THE DAILY HAIKU member John Lanyon, was to give people space and time to mull over their haiku using the same prompt and getting more deeply into the themes.

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Conversely the Friday night renga is fast and furious; it encourages those taking part to go with the flow, more like free-writing and can be very conversational. Whilst writing renga people connect, respond to other haiku, take the baton of the last line on and continue the adventure until everyone goes to bed. And with people all over the world it often carries on and then continues into the next day. There is never an official end point.

 

Here are some renga experiences from our members at THE DAILY HAIKU:

Renga Reasons to Be Cheerful – Damien Carroll

I signed up on Facebook several years ago but didn’t interact. In 2019 for reasons best known to others, I joined a writer’s group and engaged in sharing some poetry. It was an eye opener.

I could put a few verses together, who would have known. Were they any good? The odd time. I was in a group where I could learn.

So I started to put up a few short poems on Facebook and during last summer’s lockdown I spotted TDH group and then the evening Rengas. Hmm, might have a go at that, I thought.

I was immediately sucked in. The adrenaline was up and I actually found it competitive.

Each last line was the beginning of a new story which I had to complete with two more lines. Loved it but hey, it’s kinda stressful, in a fun way.

I love the way you can drop in at any stage over the hour or so and engage for a few minutes or more. It’s a great educator because reading how others put together some great stuff helps bring your own levels up

Great way to get you ready for the daily themes.

I love it, but please don’t tell anyone, eh?”

Carolyn Crossley:
When I first joined The Daily Haiku (TDH) I enjoyed the Friday Fast Renga it kept me on my toes and maybe the haiku would not be the best, it was great fun to write ‘off the cuff.’ It stirred up the brain and got me firing on all cylinders!
When the Slow Renga was introduced I thought, great, something I can take my time over. It is nice just to catch the words and phrases and write them down, rearrange them if there are too many syllables. Leave it while I do other things and then, return to it. Read it aloud. Am I tripping over any words, do they need to be changed? Could I say what I am saying any better? Edit it, if it needs it, yes even 17 syllables can be edited. Then put it on the site knowing it is the best I can do.
So there are pros and cons for each type of renga, how good is that? It sort of fits in with today’s 311th Theme, Chaos. Chaos and Order, fast frantic renga or slow, ordered rents both can be enjoyed, dependant upon my mood.”
Bridie Breen:

“You asked what I think about Renga, well I’ve had a think and I consider it like a dance, not a tango, more a French jive (ceroc style). Not that i have danced in years since I mashed up my ankle. But on Wednesdays and Fridays it feels a bit like a night out . Even though we are in lockdown. Sometimes I arrive late and sometimes I am on time to take a twirl.

I love the inspiration for the Renga chosen, love to read the background for each. Amanda, always something so creative and beautiful to spark off.  Renga for me is about spontaneity, free flowing and exciting. Sometimes I will take opportunity to read back on what others have offered, to get a feel of theme and range of emotions, then I like to keep in mind how it actually started. If I can bring it back, I do.  if not and its free rein , I just go with it and it is lovely to drift all around the dance floor.

Renga is fun, I find myself tapping into text box in reply free flowing and impromptu, that’s how fast it is all flowing.  It’s great having a core group of characters that keep it all lively ,warm and engaging. if there is a night, I don’t make it at all, it’s more likely down to losing track of days in lockdown that’s all. All in all, I love Renga.”

Stan Phillips:

I’ve always thought we writers tend to plough a lonely furrow (so to speak) and I have written, fairly aimlessly down all my years.

I didn’t write for fame or glory or money ( which was good, because I never made any) but I always tried to get my doubts fears and wacky ideas onto a page. I suppose it was a way to deal with my own demons which, once they were on a page, left me without the need to carry them around like Marley’s chains, allowing me a modicum of freedom in a difficult world.

I suppose Renga, which I came to through Haiku, fairly late in the day, gives me the same feeling of freedom.

Does that make sense?

I hope so, for it is in the collaboration with like minded, non judgemental others that allows us to step out of that solitary furrow of ours. To share feelings, ideas, laughter and tears with the group that can only be positive.

So I look forward to our Renga sessions which start easy, but our flights of fancy can take us anywhere.

Vivien Eliades

I find renga quite stimulating when I have time to do it. It’s important for me to be in the right frame of mind, to be able to focus exclusively on the words. I’m often surprised by what comes up from contemplating those 5 words at the end of someone’s haiku, or the first five on a slow renga Wednesday. I think I’ve come to prefer the latter. Here are two of mine from last Wednesday, when we were given two options:

Waxing and waning
Moon pulls inexorably
Tide swishing in, out

Lost on the same path
We came upon a clearing
Where the sun shone through

It’s fascinating to see others’ takes on the same five words.

My Renga Times – Judith Railton: 

Not wandering alone through the changing colours, sounds, seasons . Outside in all weathers, composing haiku, often forgetting the lines before I write them down.

Sitting comfy among cushions and fabrics, surrounded by textures, artwork and my sculptures. My kind of nest, is where I join the Renga crowd . Familiar names leap out, as if we were together in an exhilarating room.

Following a thought pattern from another’s mind, a last line gift , stimulating instant action.

Joining in the thread at odd gaps between evening telly. I don’t write down these renga lines, just enjoy the flow of conversations, fleeting, potent.

Cherrie Taylor:

I’ve been doing responsive tanka for couple of years with one friend poet. And performed them and had a few published.

Not done any since last March mainly because we used to meet up to discuss and perhaps revise a word or two.

We’ve started Rengay recently… is that the same as renga? And enjoying the different form. It usually takes me a while though with responsive tanka and now Rengay to respond… I like the pondering… ruminating … until it comes!

With the daily haiku its easier because especially at this time… it helps me start the day and really makes me focus in a short time to create a haiku with your prompts. Very satisfying and good too if a photo or picture works alongside.

Keith Evetts with an example of a renga exchange

The two renga sessions each week are stimulating.  They are not classic rengas, but are highly simplified.  The slow renga fosters variation on a theme, the first line being specified.  This allows time to think about composing – for whenever you post, your renga will be valid.  The fast renga, where you pick up the most recent (or two) last line and instantly compose a haiku upon it can be very fast.  As a result, sometimes the quality degenerates.  However, both fast and slow rengas are energising, and the attempt to compose many haiku in an evening, especially playing of the contributions of others in the last-line fast renga, can be exhilarating and at times leads to the heights.

The fast renga can be intimidating for those who find it difficult to think quickly; however, at times during the evening, and later on after four or five hours, it slows down enough for others to come in.

Very occasionally, I have found an extraordinarily stimulating connection with usually one or two other contributors in a chain where we can raise the quality.  The best such occasion for me was during the 24-hour renga on National Poetry Day, in what were the pre-dawn hours in UK, when Rajeshwari Srinavasan entered.  A privilege to be part of this.  I even clipped it to my files, and now reproduce it here (See Link File).  As Don Morley said: Rajeshwari Srinivasan has moved beyond us.

SampleofRengaExchangeNationalPoetryDay

 

To join a renga come to THE DAILY HAIKU on Facebook or now on Twitter on The Great Margin too.

www.facebook.com/groups/THEDAILYHAIKU and @TheGreatMargin

 

 

 

10 Comments on “Conversation 25: Renga – Writing and Connecting at THE DAILY HAIKU”

  1. Great read of all views . Feeling privileged to be part of this commentary . Many thanks to Keith Evetts , feel honored to be so and enjoy this partbof haiku journey in Daily Haiku forum . Best wishes 👍❤️

  2. If renga were a dance as suggested in several references here what would it be? A bop, a tango, a crumping contest?

    1. Two taken to tango
      Across land mass to merengue
      Dominican dance

      Dominicans dance
      Their way to Lindy hopping
      The Caribbean

      The Caribbeans
      Dance with their bumping partners
      To a reggae beat

    2. Two taken to tango
      Across land mass to merengue
      Dominican dance

      Dominicans dance
      Their way to Lindy hopping
      The Caribbean

      The Caribbeans
      Dance with their bumping partners
      To a reggae beat

  3. I’m thinking the Friday renga would be a fast paced Scottish circle dance where partners change frequently and new partnerships are briefly formed

  4. Having had only three years at the Argentine tango, which needs at least ten IMO, I don’t think that either of these rengas are like it. In that form of tango, the bodies are very close and the lead and follow is through weight shifting. It is the yoga of the dance floor. I’d go for Judith Railton’s choice for the Friday renga (though I always avoided Scottish dancing!). For the slow renga, maybe the waltz? (limited number of variations on a theme?)

    For a beautiful tango which is led (i.e. not totally choreographed in advance, but between two partners who know each other’s moves well) try:
    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=JaEsttvrXkY
    And for a stunning pre-choreographed competition one:
    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=z_4LLNp-bCU
    Nothing like renga!….. But Mmmmmmmmmm…

  5. Hi everybody,

    I’d like to share my experiences on writing “renga”.

    I’m afraid that I can’t tell you any interesting point that you aren’t already aware of. In fact, I learned about “haiku” due to a certain “A daily haiku” treasure.

    When it comes to “renga”, sometimes I take part, and what I can say is the following:

    – It’s an interesting and “addictive” habit. I have fun, indeed.

    – It’s gratifiying to “talk” and to receive feedback from another person using haiku. Kind of dialogue. The best point, in my view.

    – A bit estressing, since you want to send you haiku ASAP, so that it doesn´t stay in land because another person responded before you.

    – Another good point is that you can start taking part, leave it whenever you want and return later.

    – Sometimes, the messages don’t meet the rules. I mean, not all the haikus begin with the last line of the previous one. I doubt whether it’s because people prefer to choose another beginning than the last haiku’s, or it’s simply a delay due to the internet in receiving and posting the messages.

    – Interestingly enough, I think that sometimes some of my haikus in the “renga” are better (not really difficult…) than my ones when I take more time to create then. Perhaps the fact of being a live interaction with another person may be the reason. Don´t really know.

    And that’s all. Nothing new as you can see.

    I don’t want to finish without saying thank you to Amanda again for ymher work. I’ve always loved poetry and literature, (a poor math teacher…), and I love English, as well, so, the discovery of this new world was as though I´d entered a genuine paradise…

  6. Composing haiku, under lockdown, is a great pastime and ‘The Daily Haiku’ is the perfect platform to do this. In contrast to the Zen of Haiku, I was surprised to find Renga on Friday to be a poetic roller coaster. This felt more like free writing and the surprising accidents that can occur are quite exciting and refreshing.
    If given too much time to compose a haiku, I am prone to cliches and often the words wind up sounding like the inside of a Hallmark greeting card. So, the challenge of time restriction was just right for me.
    Initially, I did struggle to post my haiku in time to coincide with the previous one. Fortunately, the rules are not hard and fast and often two separate threads appeared to choose from. I found a cheeky way around this by writing my two lines and waiting for an appropriate last line to appear. But everyone is welcoming and has their own unique way of contributing, allowing for a relaxed but challenging way to spend an evening.

  7. Renga is such a fun, exciting experience. For months I was reluctant to participate because I was too new. Now I make a point of participating if not at the beginning then at the end. I’m in the states so we’re six hours behind. I get to read the haiku submitted while I’ve been sleeping and add a post or two in the morning, even before my morning caffeine. Occasionally my renga verse inspires another creative activity, i.e. take the haiku verse, layer it over a photograph that I’ve made, and then make it into a 5″ x 7″ greeting card.

    I cannot show you the final image here but today’s renga prompt for all of us is “tomorrow’s yesterday.” From that I wrote the following:

    tomorrow’s yesterday
    will be whatever you create
    make a masterpiece

    These words I layered over my 8/3/2015 photo of the painter’s palette of Aribert Munzner (my 91+ year old friend who was an art professor at the Minneapolis Institute of Art.)

    For me, this extends the life, purpose, and beauty of haiku. It will ultimately be a gift that I share with others.

    This is all thanks to the exhilarating and inspiring experience of writing a haiku during a renga night.

    Thank you to Amanda White and all who make it happen.

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