AHA Books Online
In these Participation Renga you will find links from:
HOW TO DO ITTo join in participation renga, read the whole poem, especially the last line or lines in italic. Read the "rules" as stated under the title. Pick the link in BOLD italic you find best, worthy, interesting and write your responding link. Check the hokku poet's rules once more to make sure yours fits.
Send the title of the renga, the link and author to which your link with your initials responds. Subscribers may send in up to 10 links total. You cannot respond to your own links.
To start a participation renga, submit a hokku; (the first link (stanza) of a renga). The hokku usually contains the title of the renga. Your submission should indicate a title; the theme or premise (if any); the format (3-line links, 2-line links, etc.); and the total number of links that will complete the renga (not over 12, please). When you start a renga, think of it as YOUR renga and keep working with the new links as they arrive. Too often a renga is started but not "cared for" later.
Lynx does not edit hokku or links in this section. However, links that clearly neglect the hokku poet's guidelines will not be published.
Once a renga is established, Lynx publishes all branches of that renga, as long as poets keep feeding them links. Lynx drops any hokku or branch that no one feeds. The previous links are printed in one line just to save space.
Send your links to us
by email with the words "participation renga" as subject line.
The idea for Participation Renga came from Jim Wilson, known in 1986, as Tundra Wind, who was living in Monte Rio on the Russian River. As a Zen Master with Korean linage, and musician with admiration for John Cage, Jim learned of the Japanese poetry form of renga before learning of haiku, as almost everyone else had done. He was fascinated by the idea of non-linear writing and excited by the idea of how what one wrote was dependent upon the poetry of the previous lines that came from someone else.
Living in a rather remote, but scenic, part of northern California, Jim wished to practice this kind of writing with others – with strangers. Jim was already the member of several APAs, which stands for Amateur Press Association. These were large and small groups of persons who bonded together to share their writing on a non-selective basis. Each member paid a small fee, just to cover printing and mailing costs, and submitted work on a regular basis. The written submission, being it poetry, or in Jim’s case, science fiction and personal journals, was copied, collated and then mailed to each participant.
From this Jim got the idea of writing up several hokku, he had in the meantime done his reading on the form, copying them on colored papers and placing them in light cardboard folders. These he sent to any and everyone he could interest in the idea. Unknown to him, just miles down the road, were two women who were already writing renga together and separately.
Terri Lee Grell and I had already met after Terri by chance bought a copy of my long, little chapbook, Duet for One Mirror (22 pages: 1984) in a local bookstore. Each of us reached out pulling in our friends so that a unique group formed including Celeste Fannin, who later illustrated so many issues, Ken Leibman who went on to be the editor of Frogpond, the journal for the Haiku Society of America, Eric Folsom the editor of the influential Factsheet Five in Canada, Larry Gross the publisher of Whup! and educator known for his work with the Korean poetry form, the sijo, with the resulting magazine - Sijo West, done with Elizabeth St Jacques .
Jim’s distance from the current haiku scene was a certain advantage for him. Instead of following their methods and instructions, he was free to recreate a very new kind of renga – and he did from the very beginning. Gone were all the century-old Japanese rules, and subject matter. Jim gave each renga new rules. Some were to be only one-liners ("Redwood Shadows"), others were all three-liners and some had the traditional mix of two and three lines. For the first issue, Jim and his partner, Bob Jessup, responded to the initial hokku (along with some made up initials to swell the ranks). This policy of identifying the links only by initials stayed in place during all of Jim’s years of editorship.
Probably the greatest innovation that Jim brought to renga writing was his concept of the renga "blooming" or "withering." Each time someone wrote a link the renga was expanded. If two persons responded to the same link, that renga was then duplicated. Now there would be two versions of the renga running simultaneously with it possible for two or more participants to continue on these versions or expand them into as many branches as there were responses. The potential for a staggering number of renga going on all at once might have daunted or stopped a lesser person, but Jim believed in the righteousness of following one’s dream. He also had the idea that any link that got no response would eliminate that branch of the renga. Thus, as long as people were adding links, the renga would bloom and multiply. If no one was interested or inspired to respond to a link, that branch would be dropped. In some cases, renga that were fairly developed, would hit a point where no one responded to any of the branches and the renga was discontinued before it was finished.
It was only with the use of computers that all of this was made possible. The cut and paste feature permitted one to add the previous parts of the poem to the new links and to control (somewhat – errors did abound) the ordering of the poems.
In each packet, rubber-stamped with the logo "APA-Renga," Jim and Bob sent out the sheets containing the renga, instruction on how to participate, letters, and later, even short articles on renga writing. Publication was scheduled for every six weeks with the first deadline being August 11, 1986.
The way one joined APA-Renga was to open an account by paying in $5.00. Jim then kept track of how much it cost him for production, envelopes, and postage and subtracted this from the account. Contributors were charged for publication costs only. If a participant failed to contribute, but got the magazine, and extra $1.00 per issue was subtracted. In each issue was Jim’s hand-written note of the status of the account.
Contributors had several privileges. They could start a renga, set up any rules or goals, and write the beginning verse or hokku. They could add on to any or all of the renga in the issue. This rule was soon modified to allow only 12 adding links after Celeste Fannin overwhelmed the system by writing responses to every renga and every version. In addition, contributors could send in "two pages or less of comments, observations, gossip, tips, hints, prognostications, reviews, editorials, notices, advertisements, etc." Soon completed renga, either solo or in collaboration, were being added.
By the second issue, there were nine active renga. After issue six Terri and Jim had gotten together, and figured out a way to cut production costs (all those colored individual, full-paged sheets of paper were getting expensive to print and mail) and decided on the slender 4 x 14 inch format, which fit the width of the printed renga. Jim missed the colored papers, but the new format was intriguing and easier to read and use. At this time, the rule came up that one could not reply to one’s own links and has continued ever since.
In 1989, Jim’s partner Bob Jessup became ill with AIDs, and Jim’s last issue was five months late. At this point he handed the magazine over to Terri, who had in the meantime moved to Washington to settle on the Toutle River, on the flank of Mt. St. Helens. There she worked for the local newspaper. Thus, when she took over APA-Renga she first changed the name to Lynx (as a pun on the linking in the participation renga). It was her idea to print the zine on newsprint and enlarge it. As a poet herself, Terri widened the audience by including all genres of poetry and writing. With her ability for marketing the subscriber list began to lengthen. Still, there was only a small group who maintained an interest in and continued to contribute to the participation renga. Many poets felt their personal voice was violated if they wrote with others and that their work might be compromised by exposing it with less talented authors. Others knew better and hung in there with the activity. At one point the participation got so slim, Terri polled the readers about whether to continue the participation renga in Lynx.
They were a lot of work. It was a huge job managing all the versions of a renga, figuring out to which one the new work was linking, and which ones were discontinued. And they took up a lot of paper space as the renga got longer and longer. It required a lot of work to be invested for only 5 – 8 persons.
In 1992, after seven issues, planned for three times a year, Terri quit her newspaper job and her last issue was printed on a copy machine on 11 x 17 inch sheets. Eight of the 24 pages were given to the participation renga. The next issue was scheduled for August but never appeared.
In the summer of 1993, Terri called me saying she had decided to go for her MA in psychology and asked if we would adopt Lynx. Feeling I could never make the zine as big and impressive as Terri had, Werner, my husband, and I agreed to at least keep the renga going. Part of the enormity of the job with Lynx, was the huge influx of stories, articles and free-verse poetry. Deciding that inclusion of these other genres was leading interest away from the participation renga, and since my interest in tanka had grown, we decided to steer the Lynx back toward the haiku scene. Since we already had a copy-printer for AHA Books, we bought a comb binder, and redesigned the magazine with lynx-brown covers and crème pages in a 4 x 11 inch format. Werner came up with the distinctive Lynx logo. That first issue was illustrated by Marlene Mountain, and had twenty pages of participation renga out the total sixty.
By drawing in the haiku and renga writers, Lynx became the primary outsource for renga. Most haiku magazines found they took up too much space on their square pages, but all renga fit right in Lynx and contributed new ideas and contributors to the participation renga. Still the interest in renga was so small, despite our having subscribers in 17 different countries, so it was good we also published tanka. It wasn’t long before we had, along with participation renga, collaborative tanka.
By the year 2000, our printing machine had given out and we were having Lynx printed in Fort Bragg, and now losing about $600 per issue. We decided to put Lynx completely on-line and cease paper printing. We did this among howls of protest and some boycotting, but in the end (at least today) it has turned out to be the right move. Even though, according the hit counters, Lynx is having eight to ten times more readers, the contributions to the participation renga have remained small - about eight to ten persons.
From the beginning, it was Jim’s dream to be able to somehow collect all the completed renga done as participation renga. And once, in 198, he made a booklet of the first renga we completed called, Old Pond, based on Basho’s famous verse
which had twelve links and twenty-four versions. For this effort, Jim included all the links, even the ones which withered and did not go on so that absolutely nothing was lost.
For the twentieth anniversary of APA-Renga/Lynx I have compiled all the finished versions of the participation renga, but have had to drop the versions which did not survive. However, since putting Lynx online, all those versions, since June of 2000, can be viewed. Paper copies of all the renga are still floating around, and are in the American Haiku Archives in Sacramento, California, so they are not lost.
As you read over the completed renga you can see how names of persons you may recognize have come and gone, but in the end, the genre is done only by a very select group. Here is the list of the participants.
AB - Alice Benedict; BJ - Bob Jessup; CC - Carlos Colón; CF - Vikki Celeste Fannin; cg - Cindy Guntherman; CSK - Carol Stroh Kemp; dht - Doris H. Thurston; DPK -Deborah P. Kolidji, DR - David Rice; DWP - Darrel W. Parry; EF - Eric Folsom; ESJ - Elizabeth St Jacques; FA - Fay Aoyagi, FP - Francine Porad; FPA - Francis (Paul) Attard; GD - Gene Doty; GM - Giselle Maya; GR - George Ralph; GV - Geert Verbeke; JAJ - Jean Jorgensen; JJO - Joyce J. Owens; JC - Jeanne Cassler; JMB - John M. Bennett; JR - Jane Reichhold; JS - John Sheirer; JSJ - Joyce Sandeen Johnson; KCL - Kenneth C. Leibman; LCG - Larry C. Gross; LE - Lesley Einer; LJ - Lael Johnson; MHH - Madeline Hoffer; ML - Minna Lerman; MM - Marianne Marks; MWM - Mary Wittry-Mason; N - Nika; NA - Nasira Alma; PC - Penny Crosby; PGC - Pamela Connor; PJS - P.J. Sharpe; PS - Pat Shelley; R - Ronan; RF - Robert Flannery; SCH - Suzette Hains, SD - Simon Doubleday; SMc - Steve McComas; TB – Tom R. Bingham; TLG -Terri Lee Grell; TV - Teresa Volz; TW - Tundra (Jim Wilson) Wind; WEG - Elliot Greig; WR - Werner Reichhold; YH - Yvonne Hardenbrook; ZP - Zane Parks.
Bob Jessup, George Ralph, Kenneth C. Leibman, Nasira Alma, Pat Shelley, and Ronan are now deceased.
Before I let you get on to reading these renga, I would like to point out some of the ways in which these are a very special form of poetry.
Renga, due to its almost 1,000 year history in Japan and its many permutations with accompanying rules and roles, is a very fascinating poetry genre. Because all the action, and the poetry, occurs between the links, it is very demanding to read and understand. However, thanks to the stream of consciousness writing experiments of the early twentieth century, we are better prepared to not only understand how renga work, but to do them ourselves.
Already at this time there is a fairly large deposit of modern English-language renga as evidenced in Werner Reichhold’s book, Symbiotic Poetry. While most of these renga are written by previously selected group of writers, the participation renga are written by an ever-shifting group. In addition, most renga written today are done by persons trained in, or at least greatly exposed to, haiku. By drawing from this wider audience, the participation renga written here are not so rule-bound and thus, are freer and more inventive. The subject matter encompasses all emotions and all levels of writing – as a poetry of the people should do.
Working with the many versions, it was easy to see how selective writers were in choosing the stanza to which they wanted to link. Simply in the act of deciding to answer to this link, and not that one, the writer has been selective. A decision has been made that this previous link is weak, doesn’t relate to me, or my experiences, or is taking the renga in a direction I do not approve of. By being able to write responses to only12 (and later 10) of the many, many versions of the poems, the writers themselves were determining the direction of the work. This is the direct opposite of the so-called renga master, who alone determined the worth of link and could decide if a stanza was to be included in the final version or not.
Some of the participation renga were discontinued before they reached the length the hokku writer had determined. Very often these verses included subject matter or such diverse writing methods that no one wanted to associate with this group of writers. I know I often could not respond to certain renga because I simply did not like them. Other persons did value them so they were able to write add-on links because the style fitted them. Democracy at work.
As you read through the renga, remember that all of these links, except the first or the last ones, are there because someone wrote a response to them. This means that each person sending in links, had many stanzas that got no response, and thus these branches were left out of future issues of the magazine. It was not always easy to discover that the marvelous stanza you had sent in last time failed to move one single person. I am fairly sure I am not the only person opening a fresh issue of Lynx, counted the number of my links that got a response and lived, and briefly mourned for the lost ones. At least the stanza was published in one issue and the others would continue to be repeated in future issues, even into this collection.
Some of our participation renga probably should not be named as renga at all. The ones started by Jean Jorgensen, which required no writing, but only the addition of a cliché or lines from a song, should more properly called symbiotic work. Still, they were fun and gave us good lessons in linking. Even persons who might not have felt capable of writing renga, could participate in these works, so they were excellent for beginners. The rhymed Burma Shave signs "renga" would also surely slide out of the territory of real renga.
Some of the rules the hokku writers dreamed up seemed almost bizarre. I think of one in the early years where the author made a complete framework of seasons and subjects for each link. Needless to say, it did not last very long.
Writers starting a new renga were encouraged to think of it as their renga and stay with it. By deciding, again that principle of choice, about which links they liked, and responding to them, the author was able to shape and continue the renga. Some people failed to follow this suggestion, but Carlos Colón, who is not only an excellent renga writer, but also a very conscientious person, scrupulously followed the rule. In his "Openedoor" renga there is one beautiful version he and Jeanne Cassler worked on nearly alone. It is like watching professionals dance. Surely influenced by the then-current fashion of writing haiku in a continuous line of overlapping words, he brought the craze into the renga domain – something that never would have happen in other renga-writing groups.
While many of the participation renga are short (the longer they are, the harder they are to manage while multiplying and typesetting), the one started by Jim Wilson in 1986, titled "Gently Wiping Dust," is still currently available for new links. At one time the renga had shrunk to one version, and I thought it would die. But it survived, bloomed and currently has ten versions and 17 options or verses it is possible to add a link to. By having the participation renga online, it is possible now for anyone to follow even the discontinued links.
Still it seems very gratifying to have all the completed renga compiled together. Do not let your eyes glaze over by the repeated links, but read to notice how different endings change the whole character of such similar poems. There is much for modern poets in any genre to learn from renga writing. Just remember to keep your attention, not on the links, but on discovering what is happening between the links to discover the true poetry.
|Links Copyright © Designated Authors 1985 -
Page Copyright © Jane Reichhold 2005.
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