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Essays on how to write specific forms:
Haibun. Haiga. Haiku. Hay(na)ku. Rengay. Renku. Tanka. Tan-renga.
Concrete. Ghazal. Lai. Pantoum. Prose poem. Rondeau. Rubáiyát.
Sestina. Skaldic verse. Sonnet. Terza rima. Triolet. Tritina. Villanelle.
|Yuki Teikei Haiku Society: Join. GEPPO magazine. Annual anthologies. 2007 Asilomar Haiku Retreat.|
Toward an Aesthetic for English-Language Haiku by Lee Gurga.
2004 Pescadero Haiku Weekend Workshop (including exercises) with Christopher Herold.
|Las formas de la poesía en Español: El Poema Concreto.|
|Haiku by Bashō. Haiku by Shiki. Haiku by J. Zimmerman. Haiku by Marianna Monaco:|
The Rengay Verse Form
by J. Zimmerman
History. Form. Examples. Your Composition. References.
The Rengay is a North American variation on the Japanese linked verse form. It was invented in 1992 as a synthesis of:
"The rengay is to renga (and other collaborative verse)
as the nosegay is to a large wreath of flowers -
small, intimate, accessible, and typically lighthearted and joyous."
Garry Gay, John Thompson, and Michael Dylan Welch.
The original form of rengay, a 6-link collaborative poem by 2 poets, was invented in August 1992 by Garry Gay.
Gay was the first president (1989-1990) and co-founder of the Haiku Poets of Northern California and former president of the Haiku Society of American. He felt that many rules of the Japanese renku ("linked verse") were rather too complex and culturally irrelevant to North Americans.
To allow collaboration among three poets, the 6-link form was soon adapted to support the 3-person form of rengay.
The first 2-person regay written was Deep Winter, composed August 9, 1992; its authors were Garry Gay and Michael Dylan Welch; it was probably written with special glee in being out of season! It was published in Welch's Frogpond essay (see Related Publications). That essay also notes the first written 3-person rengay, A Rain of Leaves was composed on November 18th, 1993; its authors were D. Claire Gallagher, Patrick Gallagher, and Michael Dylan Welch.
The first 2-person rengay published was Canoe Through Autumn written by Garry Gay and John Thompson. The first 3-person rengay published was A Rain of Leaves (also mentioned earlier). Both appeared in the Spring 1994 issue of Woodnotes, a haiku magazine edited by Michael Dylan Welch.
More information on the rengay's history is in Related Publications.
These are the attributes of the Rengay:
A's Haiku. B's Haiku-like verse. A's 2nd Haiku. B's Haiku. A's Haiku-like verse. B's 2nd Haiku.
If the "traditional" syllable count is used for the haiku, and if the haiku-like verses are written as 7-syllable lines (as are the "traditional" alternate verses of a renku), then the form is:
5-7-5 syllables - A's Haiku. 7-7 syllables - B's Haiku-like verse. 5-7-5 syllables - A's 2nd Haiku. 5-7-5 syllables - B's Haiku. 7-7 syllables - A's Haiku-like verse. 5-7-5 syllables - B's 2nd Haiku.
The first edition of Rechhold's has a significant "typo" on p.149: the book gives the rengay form as stanzas of "3-2-3-2-3-2" for both the 2-person and the 3-person rengay. The error is that form of the 2-person rengay is "3-2-3-3-2-3" lines.
Writers in the USA often use fewer syllables in their haiku, either from personal preference or from a belief that this approximates better the time taken to speak such lines in Japanese. In the first rengay written, Deep Winter, I count:
3-5-4 syllables - GG [Garry Gay] 2-6 syllables - MW [Michael Dylan Welch] 5-6-4 syllables - GG. 4-6-4 syllables - MW. 3-4 syllables - GG. 3-6-5 syllables - MW.
In English it may be useful to count stresses rather than syllables.
5-7-5 syllables - A's Haiku. 7-7 syllables - B's Haiku-like verse. 5-7-5 syllables - C's Haiku. 7-7 syllables - A's Haiku-like verse. 5-7-5 syllables - B's Haiku. 7-7 syllables - C's Haiku-like verse.
American rengay tend to have fewer syllables, such as in Seasonings below:
5-6-5 syllables - A's Haiku. 4-6 syllables - B's Haiku-like verse. 4-5-6 syllables - C's Haiku. 7-7 syllables - A's Haiku-like verse. 6-5-4 syllables - B's Haiku. 4-8 syllables - C's Haiku-like verse.
|Have each successive verse (or link) created by a different author.|
|"Link " between verses by:
|"Shift" or leap between verses, so that the poem is not a linear narrative.|
|Have short links, each being of comparable length to a haiku, or shorter.|
|Have the same sequence of stanza forms in the
3-person rengay and the renku. Each of them alternates
the haiku-length link with the shorter link.
(The 2-person form of rengay uses a different sequence so that each of the two poets writes two haiku.)
Starting and ending.
|The rengay, being short and theme-based, has links like the ribs of a parasol with the theme
of the rengay at the hub.
There is typically no overall progression.
A renku has a clear beginning and a closure,
akin to a butterfly's seemingly random flight from one blossom to another.
The poets are mindful of the overall structure of the poem, by making each link a definite wing beat (to continue the simile) along the way to the alighting place that is not yet know.
The last link is recognized as being connected to the opening link (the hokku).
|Prescribed links.||The rengay uses no recipe for what types of links (such as compliments to the host, or special topics like the moon or love) appear anywhere.||To guide renku poets, recipes have been developed, such as inviting an honored guest to contribute the opening stanza (the hokku), whom the hokku writer recognizes in the stanza, while also referencing the season when the poem is written. Other links are required to reference the moon or flowers, or one of the seasons.|
|Reference.||The rengay does not necessarily refer to the current season, location, or circumstances of writing.||The renku traditionally references the season when the poem is written, the current location, and the circumstances of composition.|
|Length.||The rengay is brief (6 verses).
[Werner Reichhold in his essay A Few More Words About Symbiotic Poetry bridles against Garry Gay's creation of such a short form: "The dynamics between collaborating partners don't have enough time to develop."
Ariadne's Web, however, believes poets that enjoy the rengay appear to have enough time.]
|The renku is longer, with 36 links being popular. Historic renga of 1000 verses and more are recorded.|
|Theme.||The rengay is thematic; it develops a theme.||The renku either has no explicit theme or wanders further from the theme in its shifting.|
|Control.||Acceptability of rengay links is controlled by participant poets.||Acceptability of renku links is controlled by the "renku master".|
These 3-person rengay are from Beyond Within: A Collection of Rengay, a collection edited and introduced by Cherie Hunter Day.
One is Seasonings by J. Zimmerman, Ebba Story, and Marianna Monaco:
Seasonings sewing a garland of cloves and cinnamon my mother's gnarled hands behind each ear a touch of vanilla hum of a bee my dog snuffles up a waft of rosemary rain squall and the scent of salt - dropping off legal papers a splash of vinegar over fish and chips the awning snaps our goodbye kiss - the lingering taste of breath mints
Copyright © 1997 by Sundog Press. Reprinted with permission of Sundog Press.
Another sample rengay published in that collection is The Right Words by Ebba Story, Marianna Monaco, and J. Zimmerman (the following preserves the published layout):
The Right Words brisk autumn breeze - unraveling my midnight scrawl in the morning light sparrow for company - I read my new poem aloud difficult letter - on the wall the cuckoo clock keeps ticking searching for just the right word in my tattered dictionary call of a crow above the keyboard's clatter looking up from the last line to the new moon
Copyright © 1997 by Sundog Press. Reprinted with permission of Sundog Press.
Here are some steps to take in creating a Rengay:
Just because you start with the intention of writing a Rengay, you do not have to keep your poem in that form if it does not work for you and your collaborators. Your attempt to write a formal poem may help you find words that you would not have found otherwise. And you may decide that you choose to end up with a poem in a different form.
|A collection of rengay.||
Beyond Within: A Collection of Rengay,
Edited and introduced by Cherie Hunter Day. Day writes in her Introduction, "This collection is the first of its kind - poets writing together over a span of years, intentionally exploring the rengay form."
|Essay.||Several essays by Michael Dylan Welch introducing and explaining the rengay include his "Rengay: An Introduction" and "Rengay Clarified".|
|Essay.||Collaboration: Exploring Rengay,
Northwest Literary Forum #25 (Summer 1997), by
Explains the benefits of rengay, and contrasts with renku.
|Essay||Toward an Aesthetic for English-Language Haiku by Lee Gurga.|
|The Haiku Seasons: Poetry of the Natural World by William J. Higginson.|
|Haiku Handbook: How to Write, Share, and Teach Haiku by William J. Higginson, William S. Higginson.|
Books of Poetry Form. Alphabetic list of poetry forms and related topics. How to Write Poetry.
© 2002-2013 by J. Zimmerman.
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