A Few Words on Linked Poetry

Linked poems or verse come from the classical Japanese tradition called “renga,” or “renku”. The modern version, “renshi,” was created and popularized by Japanese poet Makoto Ooka. Whether followed by the kanji for song (ga), verse (ku), or poetry (shi), the expression is always preceded by the character “ren” which can be translated as link, connect, join, and group. While specifically pertaining to the thing produced, it also pertains to the process. For it is not only the linking of verses but the connecting of poets, that is important. The solitary poet of the West is contrasted with the community of poets of renshi. A competition of sorts—each poet wonders what the next poet will be able to do with the last line she has tossed her comrade—it is also a collaborative act.

Jean Toyama

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