Image by almariel1 (Pixabay)

The Renga Experiment

If we’re going to renga right here on Medium, we’ll need to recruit some participants and read some rules.


I’m delighted that our first player has already signed up—that’s Jackie Ann. And I’m in, as well. Will you join us?

Respond below if you’re interested. Don’t be shy! I’ll give you a day or so to think about it.

Renga Rules

If we’re going to renga right here on Medium, we’ll need some rules. This is my first draft—suggestions are welcome.

  1. This list of rules is our starting point. We can add more rules if we need them. (We can delete some if we don’t like them.)
  2. The renga will not follow the rules of certain stricter forms. to allow for meaningful international play. For example, we won’t situate certain links in certain seasons, restrict ourselves to allowable themes, or constrain the second (waki) and third (daisan) links. (Let’s save that for after we’ve developed our basic renga skills.)
  3. To keep a bit of the traditional renga challenge in there, we’ll commit to mentioning the moon at least four links, flowers in at least three links, and love in one link. The renga master specifies which links these are.
  4. Our target is 100 links, written by three, five, or seven poets, with a link published every 24 hours (or more frequently). This will make it a hyakuin.
  5. A nominated renga master writes the first haiku link, or hokku, which situates us in place and time. It should include a subtle nod to the other players and the physical or online environment. The renga master posts this on Medium with an appropriate title and a link to these rules.
  6. The renga master’s hokku post will also include, in a separate section (separated by the three dots): a list of specific goals for or topics for the renga, if any; the distribution of special themed links; the order of participation; the links each participant will be responsible for.
  7. Each participant in turn adds a link, or hiraku by posting a response to the renga master’s initiating post (not to the most recent link). These responses should be titled with the name of the hokku post and the link number, e.g. if the renga is titled Dirt in my backyard then the links will be titled Dirt in my backyard – link 2, Dirt in my backyard — link 3, and so on.
  8. Individual links alternate between haiku (3-line) and haiku-like (2-line) forms. Syllable counts are not enforced, but should generally be considered a maximum; lines should be very short, in keeping with the spirit of Japanese haiku rather than Western interpretation.
  9. Each link should be loosely tied to the previous link only (and no earlier links), preferably by reusing a single word, playing on word associations, or carrying over (or inverting) an emotion. Further repetition between links is to be avoided.
  10. At the end of each post, the player tags both the renga master and the next player, so we know it’s time for the next link. This also encourages the new player to build their link solely on the foundation of this link, without being distracted by the rest of the poem—see 8.
  11. The renga master will copy and paste each of these links into the original post on a regular basis, and republish it. The growing poem should always read top-to-bottom and any renga-planning information should always appear below it.
  12. Once 99 links are completed (including the hokku), the renga master closes the renga with a tanka link, or ageku. (This could also happen sooner, if appropriate, or later, if all players agree to continue). Depending on the number of players, some may miss the last turn. Sorry.
  13. If a player has to withdraw for any reason, they should let the renga master know in a response to the hokku story. If you can think of someone who would like to take over, please suggest their name. Otherwise, the renga master can choose to find a new participant to take over the links assigned to the departing player, or reassign each of the links to one of the current players.
  14. Once a link has been posted, please do not alter it, as this will affect the next player. We can go through a process of revision at the end of the process, making small changes that affect individual links.
  15. All contributors share copyright of the full renga. All contributors must agree before submitting the full renga for publication (on Medium or elsewhere). If participants wish to republish their individual links elsewhere, they should acknowledge it as an excerpt from the renga.

Renga Resources

Jane Reichhold’s Bare Bones School of Renga is one of the most impressive resources you can consult, if you’ve got time to read it. (You also really need to read the haiku guide to get the most out of this one.)

If you don’t have time for that, I strongly recommend these excellent and very short introductions to renga and haiku, respectively, by Larry Gross:

And Wikipedia always helps out with a few definitions:

Release Record

13 October 2016.1: Added a rule (5) for the renga master to specify additional requirements and the order of play in the hokku post. Added a rule (9) to tag the renga master and the next player at the end of each link post and reshuffled the rules so they flowed better (7 & 8). Added notes to a rule (10) explaining how the renga master should present the renga. Added a rule (13) for withdrawal or handover. Added a rule (14) for revision. Added a rule (15) for publication and ownership.

13 October 2016.2: Updated and moved the rule (3) specifying which links should be on certain themes; updated the rule (6) about the renga master’s hokku post accordingly.