#call for poetry: “Renga” lines

Photo by Mihai Surdu on Unsplash

It seems readers and writers who have submitted to the evolving fws Renga Issue may have misunderstood how the Renga form works, since they are saying things like, “I’ll submit closer to the dealine.” And since I am ready and happily anticipating reading your submissions sooner than later, here is my attempt to clarify the current call for submissions

​It is Conversation

The nature of the Renga is that of a conversation in which one poet starts the poem and others add to it, in this case, echoing theme and even lines or phrases from previously written lines. It is an evolving, living, dialogue between poets, each responding to and enlarging what has been written, perhaps even making left turns in context and tone along the way.

Traditionally, the form is somewhat different than what we are attempting to do here. Here are a few simple definitions:

Renga:  a form of Japanese poetry with linked verses in which one poet writes lines in a poem and then hands it off to the next. 

Short Renga:  one poet writes the first three lines (triplet) then hands it off to the next who writes a response in two lines (couplet).           

Renga Chain:  a “sequence of short Rengas composed by two or more authors.  The first triplet sets the subject; the succeeding couplet and all ensuing triplets and couplets amplify, gloss, or comment upon the first triplet.

~Lewis Turco, The Book of Forms

Fws’s version is closest to the “Renga Chain,” though contributors are not limited to triplet or couplet lines and may contribute as many lines as seem appropriate but within about 5-10 or so lines.

What is Experimental-Lit?

Well. It’s an experiment! Something I dreamed up. I’ve taught classes in and collaborated in the writing of the Renga and frankly, am fascinated with the form. Following prompts is a super-fun exercise for writers. I love to do it & in this case, the already published poems/lines in the seed poems serve as prompts for the next lines. There is no limit to the directions this piece could take.

Today, to give you an example of what might happen, I’ve written and added a few lines to the evolving work. It now becomes one of the aforementioned “seed poems” and part of the Renga we are writing together. You can read my lines here. But b sure to read the couple of seed poems before my lines so you get the feeling for where my lines have originated.

In case you need more examples, check out Crossing State Lines, An American Renga (Farrar, Straus, and Giroux, 2011), written by fifty-four U.S. poets who contributed to the same poem. Wow! It’s really powerful. Here are a few lines by Edward Hirsch to whet your appetite:

The trees lined up along the roads
that veined out in different directions
sometimes divided sometimes united

The fall air bordered on winter

How many state lines did we cross
as we drove across a side country
sometimes divided sometime united
Every state is a state of mind
Every love is a drive
toward a more perfect union

And the next lines by Cleopatra Mathis begin:

And in Vermont--up a twisting hill
the Barrel Man's sign:  twenty-five-foot
collage of barrels hooked and joined...
Photo by Kyle Glenn on Unsplash

Now is the time…

Please do not wait until the “soft deadline” to submit. This. Is. Ongoing. fws will publish your selected work as soon as we read it and love it!

Now is the time. Read the seed poems. Respond. Write. Submit. Help us make this happen with your worthy words!





  1. Dear d., Thanks for this! This is much clearer for me. Even though I have two friends who do Rengas together, my understanding was rudimentary. This will be such fun and I’m looking forward to joining the process in the next couple of days.  Sandi Stromberg


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