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By Kevin Cameron, 30 November 2003

Renga, translated as “linked verse”, is a form of poetic game born in 15th century Japan. Usually composed by teams of three, each poet would take turns composing verses following traditional syllabic rules of 5-7-5; 7-7. (This structure was later made famous to us by renga’s offspring, haiku. In fact, one of the most prolific renga artists, Basho Matsuo, is well known as one of the most important figures in traditional haiku poetry.)

While similar to FAM’s Chain-Haikuing, renga follows a set of strictly (or loosely, depending on the poets) followed rules. Rules that were often followed include:

Below is a poor, but simple, example of renga verse which loosely illustrates some of these rules.

(person 1;
Syllables: 5-7-5;
Theme: travel

Standing here outside
A Super 8 motel.
Blue neon. Bzz. bzatt.

(Person 2;
Syllables: 7-7;
Theme: loneliness, transience;
Plays on: Blue neon lights (bug zapper)

Unlike lucky mosquito’s life
long are these days without you

(Person 3;
Syllables: 7-5-7;
Theme: Seasons
Plays on: mosquito (insect)

long these winter nights, silent
no cicada cries
heard above cold chit-chatter


Since I have no idea what words and expressions should be limited in this modern day, we can skip those rules.

Back in the day, the choice of themes for each stanza was more strictly dictated. I have found though that it is quite fun to allow more free flow of themes, so long as they are part of a prescribed theme list. Although the common themes of

may seem a bit used up, they never really go out of style, and if they were good enough for the 15th century Japanese, they’re good enough for us, right? Let’s add one more modern theme though for fun. Whoever is the first to deviate from the themes above, let us know what your theme is, and that will be added to the list.

Your Contributions

what moon can not beam,
what stars can not rise, that I
am not taken home?

Best get a cab after this
merry (pre-)Christmas booze-up.

And never forget:
April is a cruel month
(Raining cabs and dogs)

No zerscht dürs Januarloch
Moudi biist, ’s’isch chaut u nass!

Rain… Think I’ll step in
a puddle like Dr. Foster
and never return

Or watch crowdfaces stuck
to the Metro’s black bough
like leaves, and remain.

Poems are all about people,
The thoughts, with all their pride,
The truths they will not speak,
And the feelings they keep inside.
A poem will tell others in words,
Their souls they no longer hide.

The loved ones that left us here.
Tuch us thrugh their souls so dear.
To let us know they are always near.
With their love we have no fear.

Does anyone read
This autumn page, where dead words
Clog the flooded brain?

A porcupine favored us
pricked its silly lines empty

road kill gave me a flat tire
but no place to stop
next rest stop 30 miles

stuck in back seat with box of
cracked crayons and no paper

tried to draw raked leaf piles
couldn’t get it right
guess there just meant for jumping

down the leaves fall so slow
not fast like our lives tend to


ako ay may lobo
lumipad sa langit
di ko na nakita
pumutok na pala

SAyang ang rera ko
pinangbili ng lobo
kung pagkain sana
nabusog pa ako

Kung ako’y mag-aasawa
Ang pipiliin ko
Ang pipiliin ko…
Ayanak ng sorbetero!

Sipsip sya, sipsip din ako.
Ssipsipan kami
hanggang maghating gabi!

mali ung nasa itaas U

Kung ako’y mag-aasawa
Ang pipiliin ko
Ang pipiliin ko…
Ay anak ng sorbetero!

Sipsip sya, sipsip din ako.
Sipsipan kami
Sipsipan kami…
hanggang maghating gabi!

Kung ako’y mag-aasawa
Ang pipiliin ko
Ang pipiliin ko…
Ay anak ng bumbero!

Bomba sya, bomba din ako.
Bombahan kami
Bombahan kami…
hanggang maghating gabi!

Kung ako’y mag-aasawa
Ang pipiliin ko
Ang pipiliin ko…
Ay anak ng panadero!

Lamas sya, lamas din ako.
Lamasan kami
Lamasan kami…
hanggang maghating gabi!

I’m afraid my Tagalog is a little rusty, so I’ll refer back to 5 September…:

plummeting downwards
it’s taking your breath away
the cloud cover parts


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