In honor of #NationalPoetryMonth and to provide a sense of community in these times, the Ohio Center for the Book is launching a collaborative online poetry project via Twitter for the month of April: #OHrenga2020.
We’ve also expanded #OHrenga2020 to our Facebook page @OhioCenterForTheBook as well for those on that platform. Check it out there and join us!
We encourage poets – aspiring, professional, amateur, young, old – to participate by replying to our first stanza post pinned to our Twitter account at @cplocfb and to use hashtag #OHrenga2020. Everyone is welcome to participate, but we would especially like to read contributions from Ohio residents – current and former.
We’ll keep the “rules” loose and simple. Read on for details!
Contributors are encouraged to use the general structure of a renga, a form of collaborative Japanese poetry practiced as far back as the 12th century (See below for links to learn more). The Academy of American Poets defines the creation of a renga this way:
To create a renga, one poet writes the first stanza, which is three lines long with a total of seventeen syllables. The next poet adds the second stanza, a couplet with seven syllables per line. The third stanza repeats the structure of the first and the fourth repeats the second, alternating in this pattern until the poem’s end.
So, to the extent possible, we’re encouraging the following form for the number of syllables in each stanza from contributors:
- 1st stanza (provided) with 3 lines: 5 syllables – 7 syllables – 5 syllables (Yes, that is the same as a haiku!)
- 2nd stanza with 2 lines: 7 syllables – 7 syllables
- Honesty, if you try and keep your lines to two and overall syllables to 14, we are fine with that! 🙂 We won’t be grading! We wanted to provide some structure to make it a challenge, but we also want a fun challenge!
- 3rd stanza with 3 lines again: 5 syllables – 7 syllables – 5 syllables
- Same as above! If you try and write three lines and keep it to around 17 syllables, we are fine with that, too!
- 4th stanza with 2 lines again: 7 syllables – 7 syllables
- …and so on and so on, alternating them until we get to April 30!
We realize you won’t always get your stanza posted before someone else beats you to it! That’s fine! Either post your stanza anyway or simply wait until the next stanza-form comes up! You’re also welcome to post multiple stanzas throughout the month. Just remember to give other people a chance to contribute as well.
The first stanza is pinned on Twitter at @cplocfb. We’ve used an historical poem which is purported to be the winner of the first-known haiku contest in English held in 1899 by the British journal The Academy and written by R.M. Hansard:
The west wind whispered,
And touched the eyelids of spring:
Her eyes, Primroses.
We felt this was:
- an evocative starting point
- fits with the 5-7-5 syllables of the start of a renga
- and lends a hopeful tone to begin with
At the end of the month, we will be copying and pasting all the stanzas into one renga-ish poem and sharing it with everyone online!
Good luck, and we’re looking forward to seeing where this goes.
To learn more about renga, check out these links:
- Wikipedia article on Renga
- A webpage about The Minase Sangin Hyakuin by Sogi, Shohaku, and Socho – one of the most famous renga
- Minase Sangin – An Introduction to Renga by Akiko Tsukamoto from Simply Haiku: An E-Journal of Haiku and Related Forms
- A History of Japanese Literature, Chapter IV (1899)
The Ohio Center for the Book is headquartered at Cleveland Public Library and has a large and growing circulating collection of works by Ohio authors. Plan to visit us when you’re in Cleveland once we’re all back to work. Stay safe and healthy everyone.