Renga poetry at campfireA renga is a very old form of poetry that originated in Japan as a party game. They are image-filled and written in alternating stanzas of three and two lines. They have been written by anywhere from two to two hundred authors with up to 1,000 stanzas. How ambitious!

Often rengas begin with a stanza about the natural world, the seasons, or a sense of place. They do not have a single theme, but each stanza, in some subtle or obvious way, relates to the preceding stanza but not the one before that. The links can be made with a connecting image or a word that has several meanings. Rengas are stingy on words but massive in “painting a picture in your mind.” Much to Maria’s chagrin, proper grammar is out the window.

Your CELCers wrote two rengas the other day – one with instruction and guidance from the workshop leader and one independently (in the bed of a pickup truck). The adults were quite impressed with the way they took hold of the form and made it their own. As you read the poems, be aware of the connections that were made from stanza to stanza while maintaining an ever-changing theme. You may want to try one at your next party!

The autumn haze

trickle of water

in the ditch

Ditched at mall

annoying friends

Chop wood

with ax;


Sun seems closer

sweating buckets

Yokes heavy with

maple sap

sticky, icky, gooey

Breakfast –

I love scrambled

Hannah’s heart completes us



Beautifully written Jody, Jared, Jenna, Henry, Evan, and Hannah!

by Rob Cole-Whiffen