Renku (連句 "linked verses" ), the Japanese form of popular collaborative linked verse poetry formerly known as haikai no renga (俳諧の連歌), is an offshoot of the older Japanese poetic tradition of ushin renga, or orthodox collaborative linked verse. At renga gatherings participating poets would take turns providing alternating verses of 17 morae and 14 morae. Initially haikai no renga distinguished itself through vulgarity and coarseness of wit, before growing into a legitimate artistic tradition, and eventually giving birth to the haiku form of Japanese poetry.
Traditional renga was a group activity in which each participant displayed his wit by spontaneously composing a verse in response to the verse that came before; the more interesting the relationship between the two verses the more impressive the poet’s ability. The links between verses could range from vulgar to artistic, but as renga was taken up by skilled poets and developed into a set form, the vulgarity of its early days came to be ignored.
Haikai no renga, in response to the stale set forms that preceded it, embraced this vulgar attitude and was typified by contempt for traditional poetic and cultural ideas, and by the rough, uncultured language that it used. The haikai spirit, as it came to be called, embraced the natural humor that came from the combination of disparate elements. To that end haikai poets would often combine elements of traditional poems with new ones they created. A well-known example of this early attitude is a verse, possibly by Yamazaki Sōkan (1464-1552), from his Inutsukubashū (犬筑波集, "Mongrel Renga Collection").
He was given the following prompt:
- kasumi no koromo suso wa nurekeri
- The robe of haze is wet at its hem
to which he responded:
- saohime no haru tachi nagara shito o shite
- Princess Sao of spring pissed as she started
This poem clearly derives its humor from shock value. Taking an ostensibly traditional and poetic prompt and injecting vulgar humor while maintaining the connection of the damp hems and the spring mists was exactly the sort of thing that early haikai poets were known for.
A comparable, though less evolved, tradition of 'linked verse' (lién jù, written with the same characters as 'renku') evolved in Chin-dynasty China, and it has been argued that this Chinese form influenced Japanese renga during its formative period.
During the last decades, the practice of renku has spread beyond Japan. With the growth of the internet and of electronic communications, international renku collaborations have grown in popularity, chiefly in English. However, renku have also been published in French, Croatian, German, Afrikaans, Romanian, Russian and Esperanto. Sometimes, renku are composed simultaneously in two or more languages..
Formats used in renkuEdit
Here follows a list of the formats most commonly used in writing renku
|Name of format|| Number |
| Number of kaishi|
| Number |
|Originator||Date of origin|
|Kasen (poetic geniuses)||36||2||4||unknown||1518|
|Han-kasen (half-kasen)||18||1||2||unknown||17th century|
|Shisan (four times three)||12||2||4||Kaoru Kubota||1970's|
|Jūnichō (twelve tones)||12||1||1||Shunjin Okamoto||1989|
|Nijūin (twenty tones)||20||2||4||Meiga Higashi||1980's|
|Triparshva (three sides)||22||1||3||Norman Darlington||2005|
|Rokku (six verses)||variable||variable||variable||Haku Asanuma||2000|
Periodicals regularly publishing renku in EnglishEdit
- Blithe Spirit – print journal of the British Haiku Society
- Frogpond – print journal published by the Haiku Society of America
- Journal of Renga & Renku – the only English-language print journal devoted entirely to renga and renku
- Lishanu - an interlingual haikai journal. Online journal of bilingual haikai
- Notes from the Gean – online journal of haiku and other Japanese short-form poetry
- Simply Haiku 2003–2009 – complete archive of all issues of the online literary journal
- Sketchbook – online journal for Eastern and Western short form poetry
- World Haiku Review – online journal published by the World Haiku Club
- ↑ Finch, Annie & Varnes, Kathrine. An Exaltation of Forms, University of Michigan Press, 2002, ISBN 0472067257, p.228
- ↑ Sato, Hiroaki. One Hundred Frogs: from renga to haiku to English, Weatherhill 1983, ISBN 0-8348-0176-0 p.53
- ↑ Reckert, Stephen, Beyond Chrysanthemums: Perspectives on Poetry East and West, Oxford University Press, 1993, ISBN 0198151659, p.43
- ↑ Sato, 1983, p.11
- ↑ Gong, Revue Francophone de Haiku, n.13, 2006, ISSN 1763-8445, pp.30,31,36.
- ↑ Pokriven Vjetrom in Simply Haiku v3n3 2005.
- ↑ Quintett für Neonlicht in Chrysanthemum 2, 2007.
- ↑ Vuursteen 28:4, 2008, p.122
- ↑ Albatros, Revista Societăţii de Haiku din Constanţa România, nr. 8/9, 2007, ISSN 1221-4841, pp.45-52.
- ↑ Пьёт из сосульки in Lishanu 1, 2005
- ↑ Tempo, April 2006, p.10
- ↑ Example of a renku composed simultaneously in English: Springtime in Edo and Japanese: 江戸の春, in Simply Haiku v4n4 2006
- ↑ Carley, John E. Common types of renku sequence. 
- ↑ Drake, Christopher. Basho's "Cricket Chapter " As English Literature in Journal of Atomi Gakuen Women's College 跡見学園女子大学紀要 14, 1981 p217
- ↑ Higginson, William J. Shorter Renku in Renku Home
- ↑ Darlington, Norman. Triparshva, A trilateral pattern for renku, in Simply Haiku vol. 3, no. 2, 2005
- ↑ Yachimoto, Eiko. October Rain, the first English-language Rokku Renku, a Tomegaki, in Simply Haiku vol. 6, no. 3, 2008
- Renga - the earlier collaborative poetry from which renku evolved
- Collaborative poetry
- Kigo - a season word or phrase used in many renku verses
- Matsuo Bashō - the 17th century Japanese poet who brought renku to a pinnacle of artistic achievement
- Winter Days - a 2003 animated film, based on one of the renku in the collection of the same name by the 17th-century Japanese poet Bashō
- Haikai - the genre which encompasses renku and related forms such as haiku, senryū, haiga and haibun
- List of Japanese poetry anthologies
- List of poetic forms
- renga platform's renga guide
- William J. Higginson's Renku Home
- John Carley's Renku Reckoner
- How to Renga by Jane Reichhold
- Translations of Basho-school renku by Sean Price
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