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.
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.
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.
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?”
“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.”
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.
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.
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.
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