RENGA is a Japanese poetry game that was invented centuries ago. Essentially, the game went like this: one poet starts the renga with a stanza (a hokku – three lines, 5-7-5 onji) and another poet responds to the content of the first stanza with another stanza (a wakiku – two lines, 7-7 onji). The first poet then responds to the content of the second stanza with a hokku, and the game goes back and forth until the end of the entire renga, which varies from 36 to 100 to 1000 stanzas. (To read examples of renga, visit this site. Although the poems published here feature a group of poets who each take turns to write a stanza, the concept is essentially the same.)
In the spirit of this Ancient Japanese practice, I’ve come up with a renga game, a version of one I used to play in college, to share with you. Here are the rules:
- There are two players: the one who writes the hokku (the kyaku), and the one who responds with a wakiku (the sabaki).
- The kyaku sends a hokku to the sabaki on a postcard (physical, not electronic), with a designated number of stanzas on the card (any even-number from 12 to 36).
- The sabaki responds by sending a wakiku back on a postcard.
- The cycle then continues (i.e. the kyaku responds with another hokku, etc.) until the designated number of stanzas is reached.
Finally, if you and partner complete a round of renga, you can submit your poem (be sure to write out every stanza as you send and receive it, as well as your name for the stanzas you’ve written) on this website through the Contact page, and I will feature it on my Haiku page.
Writing renga is an excellent way not only to develop your Japanese poem-writing skills, but to share and collaborate with fellow poets. Enjoy the game, and I hope to read your renga soon!