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Invitation to Renga With Me

An unofficial not challenge

By Hannah MoorePublished about a month ago Updated about a month ago 5 min read
Top Story - April 2024

Ladies and Gentlemen, I am returned.

I am envisaging a grand entrance here, a footman perhaps, announcing my arrival, or a both doors flung wide attention grab. That I actually slipped in quietly with an itsy bitsy haiku seems far more in keeping with my actual style. Either way, I am back after an absence of a couple of weeks in which I dedicated myself fully to a family holiday. I could do no different, it has been a very full trip, and a wonderful trip for it. But though I read most of a novel, I took no time to read on Vocal, and no time to write either.

With one exception.

On our penultimate night in Japan, spent in the Fuji-Hakone-Izu national park, we tumbled off the steaming bus into a dark, seemingly deserted settlement, plundered the sparse convenience store for some tofu and milk, and arrived at our lodging, a stand-alone “annex” accessed down an alley, alongside a graveyard, through a tall gate and into the darkness of a walled in garden. Inside, we warmed up in the hot-spring fed cedar wood bath, taking it in turns to pass through the too-hot water, ate some pasta we had brought with us with the tofu, and turned in for the night, watching the shadows of shrubbery through the paper walls and listening to the silence after many city nights.

The next morning, our last day in Japan, the rain had been pouring steadily for a few hours by dawn, and was forecast to go on doing so for the day. The absence of any noise beyond the rain on all sides, the dullness of the light, and the removal of the pressing rush that had characterised our trip all leant a contemplative air to the breakfast routine. I had begun to feel at once the longing for home and the sadness of the closing of a journey, and I reflected also on the time spent with my family, the gratitude I have for them, the marvel I found in my children and the sense too of their growing ever into their own lives and away from the one I create for them. I thought about the rain, the nurturance and the destruction of it, the different sounds of its falling onto different surfaces, the soft plops in the shrubbery, the gurgle of a drain, the hard taps on stone and tile, and the way rain feels different when we stand beneath it in different frames of mind – the way challenges feel different when we face them in different frames of mind, how they can both nurture and destroy too. I also thought about the laundry ahead, and how much of my book to save for the plane, and whether capybaras are susceptible to human viruses, it wasn’t all, you know, meaningful.

Then I slid open the internal shoji doors to find a writing desk set before a small, blooming cherry tree right outside the glass doors beyond, and I felt a calling. I believe it was entirely forgivable to indulge in a moment of pretentiousness and take five minutes while my son went through the hot bath I had run for myself to write a haiku for the moment. You can find that haiku, Yūgen, here.

However, and let me forewarn you now that I do not tell a story without including all the relevant details, shortly after I sat down to write I experienced a second calling. Given, as I am, to a degree of constipation whilst travelling, I do not ignore such callings when they arrive, and so I trotted off to occupy another seat in the house, this one pleasantly warmed – an innovation I had incorrectly assumed I would not enjoy – for my comfort. As one does, when one is desirous of brief diversion, I took my phone with me. And this was when I thought of you.

My intention had been to check on the correct form of a haiku. The syllable count I knew, though it transpires I did not know – something about a unit of sound which is comparable but not synonymous with a syllable. I wanted to clarify the other elements, the seasonal reference, the cutting word. But the rabbit hole I ventured down was far more exciting than the form.

Haiku, or historically hokku, appear to have originally been written as the opening stanza of a longer poem sequence called a Renga, in which alternating stanzas of the 5,7,5 syllable structure and a 7,7 structure are used. Now here is where it gets exciting. Here is where I thought of you. Renga are collaborative. Each stanza links to the growing poem, but they are composed by different authors. This could even be done live, a kind of poetry orgy which, like other collective intimate activities, may well sound more glorious that it actually is. I can already see me standing on the side lines wondering if I should try to sandwich a line in and feeling inadequate and unskilled.

But this is Vocal, we got time to think. So tell me you’re not excited? I have never been the most dedicated fan of haiku if I am honest, but new light has been cast most favourably here.

Here is what I propose.

I have written the opening stanza, I have set the scene. Who wants to make a Renga?

I’m not opening a challenge here, no suggestion that you find someone to work with and I give a gold star to the best collaboration. That might be fun, but I’m feeling connection not competition in this. If you want to join, simply check the progress, and write the next stanza on. If the last stanza was 7.5.7, yours must be 7.7, if the last was 7.7, yours is 7.5.7, and on it goes.

IF you want to join in, alert me to what you have done in the comments here, and I will add it to my opening in order of arrival – if I am behind, check the comments to see what the latest stanza is. I won’t republish my original haiku unless people join in, it would sit there like a hanging high five activating my rejection sensitivity, but IF anyone actually joins in, what I will do is republish the now Renga in its new form, and obviously I will put your name after your stanza.

And if you happen to know a whole heap more than me about Japanese poetry traditions and I’ve misunderstood it all completely – just let me have this, ok, I love the idea so much. (I mean, actually don’t, because I would also like to know, even if the reality isn’t as good as the sense I have made of it).

Come on, don’t leave me hanging.

Update: Renga is born - see here!


About the Creator

Hannah Moore

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Comments (31)

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  • Novel Allen16 days ago

    Better late than never, I haven't Renga-ed. But I love the stories and the Japanese journey. I hope to go there. The Renga sounds like fun. My brain is too lazy to read it all right now, but hearty congrats.

  • Belle20 days ago

    Congratulations on top story!

  • Anna about a month ago

    Congrats on Top Story!🥳🥳🥳

  • Dana Crandellabout a month ago

    I may have to join in on this, but I want to share an interesting coincidence, either way. 2 days ago, I completed an article for a client about, of all things, haiku, and received payment and some nice feedback today. I rarely write on any subject without first doing some research no matter how well I think I know it, and I ended up going down the same rabbit hole. I had to include much more detail, of course; history, evolution, etc. and the article exended to include senryu along with traditional haiku, and included a couple of my own as examples. I just thought you might enjoy the coincidence. Welcome back, well done, and congratulations!

  • Babs Iversonabout a month ago

    Fabulous!!!❤️ Congratulations on Top Story too!💕❤️

  • Dharrsheena Raja Segarranabout a month ago

    Back to say congratulations on your Top Story! 🎉💖🎊🎉💖🎊

  • Cathy holmesabout a month ago

    I did a 5,7,5 to go after D.K.'s. https://vocal.media/poets/cherry-blossom-smiles

  • Sonia Heidi Unruhabout a month ago

    Here is my link in the chain -- I'm not sure if it fits sequentially in the current rhythm, but it can wait for its proper spot. Thank you for this challenging un-challenge! https://vocal.media/poets/traveler-s-choice

  • Cathy holmesabout a month ago

    Oh, this is fascinating. Let's see if I can come up with anything. Welcome back and congrats on the TS.

  • Jay Kantorabout a month ago

    Hi-H ~ Arigato ~ Did you happen to notice the 'Comments' within the huge step-stand-up book at the end of the Hiroshima Peace Museum tour. - Fragrant Cherry Blossoms to you - j.in.l.a.

  • Alexander McEvoyabout a month ago

    This is a fascinating challenge, Hannah Can't wait to see how it all shakes out :)

  • Christy Munsonabout a month ago

    Congratulations on Top Story! Well deserved.

  • Joe O’Connorabout a month ago

    Love the idea for a collab rather than a challenge Hannah, and this was an entertaining and informative read🤗 Nothing to do with the concept of Renga or Haiku, but I really liked this line- “the way rain feels different when we stand beneath it in different frames of mind”. It’s a very true thought!

  • Heather Hublerabout a month ago

    I was living shamelessly, vicariously through our and your family on that trip! I cannot tell you what a joy it was to not only see your adventures but hear about some of the details with your little descriptions and blurbs, thank you for that :) And I LOVE this idea, whether you have interpreted it correctly or not. Sometimes I hang back on these like that awkward girl at a school dance, but maybe I will jump in. Either way, thank you for sharing your enthusiasm and experiences :)

  • Paul Stewartabout a month ago

    Not surprised this got it - congrats on Top Story...hope this garners more interest!

  • Here is mine to follow wherever it can https://vocal.media/poets/puddle-246m0h1y

  • This is a wonderful idea and great to see some great poets taking part

  • Paul Stewartabout a month ago

    Here is my bit to follow on from Ms Deeming's https://vocal.media/poets/with-trepidation

  • Paul Stewartabout a month ago

    LOL. She is returned. And with a boom...in two different ways. This was brilliant, lol. I loved everything about this piece. Including "that" bit...total Hannah stuff. Missed you around these parts, but glad you had a lovely time. I'm away at the end of the month and probably won't be Vocaling or working or anything. Nothing as glorious as Japan...Berwick...but a holiday's a holiday. Anyway, I assume you know I am going to say yes...I will renga with you. Of course I will. It would be rude not to. I love the idea and I shall check out Teresa's words or if anyone else comes before that and reply in kind. Well done and welcome back!

  • Rachel Deemingabout a month ago

    Here's mine, continuing the theme rather than expanding it, I'm afraid: https://vocal.media/poets/blossoming-thoughts But let's see where others take it and maybe I could come back!

  • Teresa Rentonabout a month ago

    Okay, here’s mine to follow John’s, https://vocal.media/poets/aural-journey-home

  • Dharrsheena Raja Segarranabout a month ago

    Oh wow, I never knew that Haiku was actually Hokku or that it was part of a Renga. I only knew that Haiku was part of a Tanka. But Tanka doesn't require different authors like a Renga does.

  • Teresa Rentonabout a month ago

    I haven’t managed to be around for a while, but I sneaked a quick visit to find this highly entertaining and interesting piece. I loved it. I think I can manage to squeeze in a stanza. Let me find your Haiku. Do I just post it here in the comments?

  • Rachel Deemingabout a month ago

    Firstly, this was very funny. I thank you. And for introducing Renga to me whilst on the toilet. What a place for it to happen. I'm in. I'm going to Renga with you. I've Conga'd before and it seems more literary and slighty less sweaty. I see John has gone next so I'll wait for you to see that and check in later.

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