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Definitions Définitions

A renku is a collective poetry composition, a collaborative linked verse.

Renku, and its parent genre Renga, go back nearly a thousand years as a tradition in Japanese poetry, reaching its zenith with Matsuo Basho in the 17th century.

It is a sequence of linked verses (usually 36 in Basho’s time), composed by a group of poets writing alternately long and short verses (of 17 and 14 syllables respectively, when written in Japanese). Traditionally the poets would follow certain codes and rules: each verse might have a set theme, or season; certain stanzas should mention the moon or flowers, or different aspects of human nature and philosophy. Such rules have more or less been generally adopted or adapted in the practice of renku in the West.

While for many, haiku is considered as “the poetry of the truth” (i.e. written from a real experience), renku has more to do with fiction and story-telling, with the possible exception of the first verse (hokku) which is technically a haiku. The participants are required to invent events, evoke emotions and moments, and the use of the first person does not necessarily imply the poet but rather the part played within the narration. Renku fully tolerates fiction and imagination.

When completed, a renku should offer a mosaic of images and emotions expressing a broad range of themes, subjects and moods that are independently addressed or treated by each verse.

Click here to consult the full guidelines to compose a renku

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