Renga: Time and Shadow by Else-Maria Tennessen and Douglass Rankin

Time and Shadow

The green-tailed towhee
comes to feed on garden seed
he won’t stay long. DR

Bloom and grass fade
Hunter’s moon. ET

The departure
of one
is the departure of many. DR

Your skull with gray hair
startles my younger heart. ET

A to-do list
falls from the book
twenty years old. MS

Buy black beans, soap, and bread,
that’s the year I fell in love. DR

Warm candle light
French onion soup—
Dakota blizzard. ET

Snow-muffled silence…so deep
Stoke the fire, move close. DR

On the wintry bank
A white hare
I only see his shadow. ET

Snowy owl—wing beat, heart beat
Night falls, leaving no trace. DR

Pages turn
The clock ticks
A story unfolds. ET

Dark falling on the city
Two silhouettes on the shade. DR

A pink sunrise
over the Christos mountains
steaming hot coffee ET

Quiet start of a new day
Only “now” is guaranteed. DR

As the moon rises
Jack rabbits take flight
Over the dusky road. ET

Anything is possible
floating in the land of dreams. DR

Dawn on snow
An early spring breeze
Snowdrops in bloom. ET

Honey bee legs—full of pollen
return to the hive…again… DR

Half Kasen Renku
Else-Maria Tennessen and Douglass Rankin, with Miriam Sagan

How To Write American Renga

Renga is a wonderful Japanese collaborative poetic form. It can take a lifetime of study to understand. But there are ways to plunge in and have immediate fun with it.

Try This:

The basic form of the renga (also called renku) is like a chain written in links or stanzas. Each link is written by a different person. Three is an ideal number to write renga, although it can be done by two, four, etc.
It has 36 links. A half renga, which might be your goal, has 18. You can aim to complete either 18 or 36.

The form is as follows:

5 or less syllables
7 or less
5 or less (identical to haiku form)

7 or less
7 or less

5 or less
7 or less
5 or less

etc.

The FIRST PERSON writes the first link, called the HOKKU. This stanza is essentially a haiku without people and with a season. HAIKU came out of renga–it was originally just a bunch of left over opening verses!

The first link is then passed to the SECOND PERSON, who adds a two line link. This process of passing goes on until the 36 links are done.

SOME BASIC RULES OF RENGA:

YOU CANNOT MOVE BACKWARD IN TIME. If the renga starts in mid-summer it may move forward to fall but not backward to spring.

YOU CANNOT REPEAT ANYTHING! If a dog appears, or a mountain, that is it for dogs or mountains.

THE RENGA CANNOT GET ROWDY, SEXY, OR PERSONAL until about link 12.
Originally renga was written at drinking parties–so presumably that is why it started serene and got wilder in the middle. Should end on a quieter
note as well. It often ends with the season spring.

When just two people are writing it is usual to sometimes double up–one person writes two links so s/he isn’t always stuck writing the couplet or the haiku.

Renga can be written in small groups of any size, or by two people. They can be done in person, by e-mail, or regular mail. You can write a solo one too. To write a solo renga, follow the form but maybe write just a few links a day.

PUT YOUR INITIALS NEXT TO EACH LINK YOU WRITE

HAVE SOMEONE, OR EVERYONE, KEEP A CLEAR REVISED COPY OF THE WORK AS IT GOES