Simply Haiku: A Quarterly Journal of Japanese Short Form Poetry
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Summer 2005, vol 3 no 2
  Hyakuin: a 100 verse summer renga schema
  This hyakuin schema was devised according to the pattern used by Sogi in his "Solo Sequence of 1492" as presented in Steven D. Carter's The Road to Komatsubara.

It is important to have a picture in one's mind of the four sheets of paper on which a renga was written in ancient Japan. Each of these four sheets had two sides and the number of links per side was divided up as:

sheet 1 side one 8 links
side two 14 links

sheet 2 side one 14 links
side two 14 links

sheet 3 side one 14 links
side two 14 links

sheet 4 side one 14 links
side two 8 links

The first link should have a mention of the season at the time the renga is begun and should be a compliment to the partner or express something of the reason for the work.

It is very important to understand the jo ha kyû process. This is a progression borrowed from the musical composition. For renga it means:

Jo = calm prelude, smooth, simple, not surprising. No mentions of love, lamentation, religion or travel.

Ha = experimental, vitality, using a variety of techniques and personages.

Kyû = outstanding verses, one piled upon another, swift, concluding, a “grand finish”, as in music. Use of travel verses makes the kyû move faster.

Any use of moon implies the verse is in autumn unless the author indicates “spring moon” or “winter moon”.

Most vital to renga that one verse not be followed by a verse with repeated or associated links. A link with “snow” should not have “icehouse” in the following one. It is in the leaps between the verses that lies the beauty of the renga. The link must be close enough for the reader to follow but far away enough to avoid a repeat.

No link, except the last one, can refer to the hokku or beginning link.

Try to avoid repeating nouns and verbs on any page. Use a thesaurus if you must. Some words should only be used once in a whole renga: woman, insect, demon.

To give the renga variety, and especially if one is writing a solo renga, the use of “masks” is vital. This means writing the verse as if spoken by someone else: an old man or woman, a nun, a young girl or boy.

Occasionally use the links to have a dialogue with your partners, using the “you“ form so the whole thing is not descriptive.

It is also possible to use quotes from signs or proverbs or songs or from literature to spice up the work and to serve as linkage. By mentioning a song or poem, the other partners are reminded of something else.

The love verses never admit to the joys of love in traditional renga. Instead love is desire, waiting, unfulfilled, or wasting away. Thus, sex never enters the picture.

To the Japanese the concept of ji = background verses, and mon = design verses is very important. This means that the renga have surrounding outstanding or design verses--calm, ordinary, rather blah verses--so the great link becomes more outstanding. Only on the last page should each stanza be more brilliant than the previous one. If one cannot make a design verse by great wit, opulence or a surprising thought, it is possible to introduce horror, fearsome images, or shock value.

As you become more expert in renga writing consider doing what the Japanese call torinashizuke or "recasting” – this means writing the two-line by using the third line in the link above as if it is the first line. An example would be:

in the dark
a farmer guards his rice-crop
eyes wide open

[eyes wide open]
she comes out of the house
as if running from the devil

For me, the very most important part of doing a renga is to have fun and enjoy learning to know and work with someone else. Therefore it is important to understand in the beginning which of all these “rules” you want to use or not. In our democratic society, one partner should not be placed over the other by reminding him or her of rules, missed cues, mistakes during the writing.

Don't get into arguments of whether a spider is spring or autumn.

When the renga is done each partner should go over their own work making any changes or corrections. These should not interfere with the sense or link of the partner's stanza unless it is agreed upon. After everyone has had a chance to revise, if there are places that need correction, only then should these problems be addressed in a polite and caring manner.

Jane Reichold


1. summer
2. summer
3. autumn Moon
4. autumn
5. autumn
6. misc.
7. winter
8. winter


9. travel
10. travel
11. lamentations
12. love
13. love
14. love
15. spring Flowers
16. spring
17. spring
18. autumn Moon
19. autumn
20. autumn
21. autumn
22. winter


23. lamentations
24. lamentations
25. misc.
26. misc.
27. spring Flowers
28. spring
29. spring love
30. love
31. love
32. love
33. misc.
34. travel
35. autumn travel
36. autumn Moon


37. autumn
38. love
39. love
40. lamentations
41. lamentations
42. misc.
43. misc.
44. misc.
45. misc.
46. misc.
47. travel
48. travel
49. love
50. love


51. love
52. religion
53. religion
54. autumn Moon
55. autumn
56. autumn
57. travel
58. love
59. love
60. spring Flower
61. spring
62. spring
63. travel
64. lamentations


65. autumn Moon
66. autumn
67. autumn
68. lamentations
69. lamentations
70. misc.
71. spring Flower
72. spring
73. spring
74. travel
75. travel
76. travel
77. love
78. love


79. love
80. misc.
81. autumn Moon
82. autumn travel
83. autumn
84. travel and love
85. love
86. winter
87. winter
88. misc.
89. misc.
90. misc.
91. autumn
92. autumn Moon


93. autumn
94. misc.
95. spring Flower
96. spring
97. spring religion
98. spring religion
99. misc.
100. misc.

Related items in this issue of Simply Haiku:
~ Hyakuin: Camellia HousePaul Conneally, Anne-Marie Culhane, Alec Finlay, Linda France,
   Morven Gregor, Jackie Hardy, Alex Hodby, Gerry Loose, Beth Rowson

~ Notes: The 24-hour Hyakuin Renga – Alec Finlay

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