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It all starts here!
Larry's haiku and that of some other poets
The Four Elements Renga
A renga format created by yours truly. Something different!

NOTE: In renga's final draft, the number and type of each verse are not usually indicated, but we did it in the sample for your information. Notice how the author sequence changes in verse #11. This allows for a change of pace and for the same person to open and close the renga.

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A RENGA is a group of HAIKU-LIKE verses linked in any one of several special ways. It is usually written by two or more poets who take turns writing the verses.

In classical RENGA, 3-line and 2-line verses are alternated, beginning with a 3-line verse (a hokku, usually approximating 5-7-5 syllables) resembling haiku and indicating a season. A second poet composes the following verse (2 lines approximating 7-7), linking it by one of several methods (not too obviously, please) with the first. The next verse (of 3 lines), composed by the first poet (in a 2-person renga) or by another (in renga written by more than 2 poets), links with the second but not with the first.

Traditionally, each verse employs a season word, most especially the ones requiring reference to autumn, moon, flower, etc. Season words are words usually associated with one season more than another (blossom = spring; snow = winter; baseball = summer, harvest = autumn, etc.) Verses do not refer to moon or flower except when they are specifically called for.

Beginning capitals and ending punctuation are usually avoided. These patterns continue throughout the renga, each verse linking somehow with the verse preceding it, but with no others. Each verse may launch us in a new direction, providing the next poet with a new puzzle to solve. Once a significant noun, verb, adjective or adverb occurs, it is usually not used in another verse (tho a witty switch of meaning or context might be acceptable in adjacent links). This technique keeps a renga continually twisting and turning, challenging both poet and reader.

The result is a constantly changing mosaic which discourages development of a logical, sequential narrative. The pleasures derived from continual surprise, striking imagery and delightfully sudden (and often witty) insights can be captivating. That is one of the chief delights of renga.


Writers of renga in English frequently approach the traditional patterns in non-traditional ways. Some write Solo Rengas, composed entirely by one poet. Others adopt only a few or none of the guidelines outlined above. We aare in an age of experimentation in renga, just as we are in haiku and other borrowed patterns.

Below is a 20-verse renga in which each verse is a single line. Soon, we'll provide a more traditional renga for you to compare it to. In the meantime, enjoy two fine renga poets at work.

Showing Up

a 20-Link Renga of one-liners
by Elizabeth St. Jacques (esj) and Marcyn Del Clements (mdc)
Written online December 8, 1998 to May 9, 1999

snowmelt trail along our narrow hall the Christmas pine (esj) 2-WINTER:
madrigal singers their perfect pitches (mdc) 3-NONSEASONAL:
early morning only the soft sound of baby blowing bubbles (esj) 4-NONSEASONAL:
back no longer stiff and tight a nice hot shower! (mdc) 5-SPRING:
the young couple's haste through a cloud of confetti stars (esj) 6-LOVE:
thirty eight years together he's her fishing pal (mdc) 7-LOVE:
gently weaving smooth blue yarn through the hole in his sock (esj) 8-NONSEASONAL:
her tattoo a sunburst flower (mdc) 9-SUMMER:
summer sun disappears explosion at the steel plant (esj) 10-NONSEASONAL:
blind eyes uplifted the light on her silver hair (mdc) 11-NONSEASONAL:
the octogenarian's Ph.D. her first book of poetry (mdc) 12-AUTUMN:
steady beat of rain in the pumpkin field (esj) 13-LOVE:
a coyote calls he snuggles closer to her in bed (mdc) 14-LOVE:
playing without incident the skunk family (esj) 15-MOON:
Jupiter & Venus within seventeen arc minutes then the moon (mdc) 16-NONSEASONAL:
finally the tipsy clown shows up (esj) 17-NONSEASONAL:
the mare rubs her head against my hand silky tips of her ears (mdc) 18-NONSEASONAL:
slipping my bare feet into fur-lined moccasins (esj) 19-FLOWER (WINTER):
winter drifts through dark pine woods the red snowflower (mdc) 20-WINTER:
children watching cold night skies for his eight reindeer (esj)
---the end---

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