Renku (連句 "linked verses"?), the Japanese form of popular collaborative linked verse poetry formerly known as haikai no renga (俳諧の連歌)[1], is an offshoot of the older Japanese poetic tradition of ushin renga, or orthodox collaborative linked verse. At renga gatherings participating poets would take turns providing alternating verses of 17 syllables and 14 syllables. Initially haikai no renga distinguished itself through vulgarity and coarseness of wit, before growing into a legitimate artistic tradition, and eventually giving birth to the haiku form of Japanese poetry.



Traditional renga was a group activity in which each participant displayed his wit by spontaneously composing a verse in response to the verse that came before; the more interesting the relationship between the two verses the more impressive the poet’s ability. The links between verses could range from vulgar to artistic, but as renga was taken up by skilled poets and developed into a set form, the vulgarity of its early days came to be ignored.

Haikai no renga, in response to the stale set forms that preceded it, embraced this vulgar attitude and was typified by contempt for traditional poetic and cultural ideas, and by the rough, uncultured language that it used. The haikai spirit, as it came to be called, embraced the natural humor that came from the combination of disparate elements. To that end haikai poets would often combine elements of traditional poems with new ones they created. A well-known example of this early attitude is a verse, possibly by Yamazaki Sōkan (1464-1552), from his Inutsukubashū (犬筑波集, "Mongrel Renga Collection").

He was given the following prompt:

kasumi no koromo suso wa nurekeri
The robe of haze is wet at its hem

to which he responded:

saohime no haru tachi nagara shito o shite
Princess Sao of spring pissed as she started[2]

This poem clearly derives its humor from shock value. Taking an ostensibly traditional and poetic prompt and injecting vulgar humor while maintaining the connection of the damp hems and the spring mists was exactly the sort of thing that early haikai poets were known for.

A comparable, though less evolved, tradition of 'linked verse' (lién jù, written with the same characters as 'renku') evolved in Chin-dynasty China,[3] and it has been argued that this Chinese form influenced Japanese renga during its formative period.[4]

Outside Japan

During the last decades, the practice of renku has spread beyond Japan. With the growth of the internet and of electronic communications, international renku collaborations have grown in popularity, chiefly in English. However, renku have also been published in French[5], Croatian[6], German[7], Afrikaans[8], Romanian[9], Russian[10] and Esperanto[11]. Sometimes, renku are composed simultaneously in two or more languages.[12].

Formats used in renku

Here follows a list of the formats most commonly used in writing renku[13]

Name of formatNumber
of stanzas
Number of kaishi
(writing sheets)
of sides
OriginatorDate of origin
Kasen (poetic geniuses)3624unknown1518[14]
Han-kasen (half-kasen)1812unknown17th century
Shisan (four times three)1224Kaoru Kubota1970's
Jūnichō (twelve tones)1211Shunjin Okamoto1989[15]
Nijūin (twenty tones)2024Meiga Higashi1980's
Triparshva[16] (three sides)2213Norman Darlington2005
Rokku[17] (six verses)variablevariablevariableHaku Asanuma2000


  1. ^ Finch, Annie & Varnes, Kathrine. An Exaltation of Forms, University of Michigan Press, 2002, ISBN 0472067257, p.228
  2. ^ Sato, Hiroaki. One Hundred Frogs: from renga to haiku to English, Weatherhill 1983, ISBN 0-8348-0176-0 p.53
  3. ^ Reckert, Stephen, Beyond Chrysanthemums: Perspectives on Poetry East and West, Oxford University Press, 1993, ISBN 0198151659, p.43
  4. ^ Sato, 1983, p.11
  5. ^ Gong, Revue Francophone de Haiku, n.13, 2006, ISSN 1763-8445, pp.30,31,36.
  6. ^ Pokriven Vjetrom in Simply Haiku v3n3 2005.
  7. ^ Quintett für Neonlicht in Chrysanthemum 2, 2007.
  8. ^ Vuursteen 28:4, 2008, p.122
  9. ^ Albatros, Revista Societăţii de Haiku din Constanţa România, nr. 8/9, 2007, ISSN 1221-4841, pp.45-52.
  10. ^ Пьёт из сосульки in Lishanu 1, 2005
  11. ^ Tempo, April 2006, p.10
  12. ^ Example of a renku composed simultaneously in English: Springtime in Edo and Japanese: 江戸の春, in Simply Haiku v4n4 2006
  13. ^ Carley, John E. Common types of renku sequence. [1]
  14. ^ Drake, Christopher. Basho's "Cricket Chapter " As English Literature in Journal of Atomi Gakuen Women's College 跡見学園女子大学紀要 14, 1981 p217
  15. ^ Higginson, William J. Shorter Renku in Renku Home
  16. ^ Darlington, Norman. Triparshva, A trilateral pattern for renku, in Simply Haiku vol. 3, no. 2, 2005
  17. ^ Yachimoto, Eiko. October Rain, the first English-language Rokku Renku, a Tomegaki, in Simply Haiku vol. 6, no. 3, 2008

See also

  • Renga - the earlier collaborative poetry from which renku evolved
  • Kigo - a season word or phrase used in many renku verses
  • Matsuo Bashō - the 17th century Japanese poet who brought renku to a pinnacle of artistic achievement
  • Winter Days - a 2003 animated film, based on one of the renku in the collection of the same name by the 17th-century Japanese poet Bashō
  • Haikai - the genre which encompasses renku and related forms such as haiku, senryū, haiga and haibun
  • List of Japanese poetry anthologies

External links



Haikai no renga, usually now called renku by the Japanese, is a style of linked poem that reached its height in the work of Bashô (surname Matsuo, 1644-1694) and his disciples. The tradition began almost a thousand years ago (some would say longer ago than that), and is very much alive today in Japanese, English, and other languages. Additional features will be added to this site every so often, so check back with us from time to time. Here are links to our current pages:

The Tokyo Declaration for Global Renku
This concise statement sums up the beliefs of the presenters and organizers of the Global Renku Symposium held at Kokushikan University, Tokyo, 7 October 2000.

In Memoriam Shinkû Fukuda
Master Shinkû Fukuda was a modest, unassuming giant among Japanese renku masters who were interested in spreading renku outside of Japan. This page is dedicated to his memory.


Sample Renku

NEW: Net Kasen Renku: Summer Haze. By William J. Higginson, Paul Terrance Conneally, and Peggy Willis Lyles. Composed over five months in 2000, this experimental 2-D renku demonstrates a new possibility in renku construction. Take a look and see what you think. (You'll probably want to look at this one with your browser set to full-screen.)

The Click of Mahjong Tiles: A Kasen Renku. By Carole MacRury, Gerald England, Norman Darlington, Hortensia Anderson, Eryu/Fûseki Susan Shand, John E. Carley, John W. Sexton, and William J. Higginson (leader). Composed online during February through May 2005 by members of the Haiku Talk e-list, "The Click of Mahjong Tiles" involved poets across the British Isles and North America. At the top of the page is a link to an annotated version, which gives background and includes comments identifying the seasonal and other topical aspects of each verse as well as the types of linking from one stanza to the next—a first for an online renku, so far as we know.

Typhoon Over: A Half-Kasen Renku. By Penny Harter, Tarô Miyashita (leader), Masa Yamada, Teina Asaka, and Mikiko Koga. This is one of a number of international renku completed at the World Haikai Fusion 2004 renkukai, held during the Master Bashô Festival, 10-12 October 2004, in Iga Ueno, Bashô's home town. At the top of the page there are links to the Japanese version and to an English annotated version. In this case, "international renku" means renku involving participants from two or more countries and writing in more than one language.

The Road to Basra: A Kasen Renku. This poem, the first full renku to appear on this site, involves ten participants from three countries in a thematic 36-stanza renku on the American and British war against Iraq conducted in the spring of 2003. (We had hoped for a more peaceful solution.) At the bottom of the page there is a link to a fully annotated version.

Resources for Renku Writers

The 500 Essential Season Words by Kenkichi Yamamoto, translated by Kris Young Kondo and William J. Higginson. A revised version of the season word guide used by Japanese and North American renku poets writing together during Renku North America in 1992. Includes English, romanized Japanese, and seasonal information.

The Traditional Seasons of Japanese Poetry by William J. Higginson is a table of the seasons as observed in haiku and linked poetry.

Link and Shift: A Practical Guide to Renku Composition by Tadashi Shôkan Kondô and William J. Higginson. The most thorough discussion of linking stanzas and creating variety by shifting stanza content in renku to appear in English. Includes translations of topics lists used by Japanese renku groups (see table of contents in the article).

Shorter Renku by William J. Higginson and Tadashi Kondô. This essay presents the basics of two shorter types of renku, the twenty-stanza nijûin and the twelve-stanza jûnicho.

Background and Teaching

A Personal Introduction to Renku: William J. Higginson's introduction to renku in Japan, and his suggestions for understanding the overall flow of a renku.

Bashô-Style Linked Poems for Kids by William J. Higginson. An article that demonstrates teaching the main aspects of Bashô-style renku to elementary school students, rich with examples.

"Renga" and "Renku" by William J. Higginson discusses the meanings of these two words in Japanese and English.

What Is "Linked Poetry"? by William J. Higginson gives a brief overview of three types of Japanese-style "linked poetry" that have become popular worldwide: renga, renku, and renshi.

A Renku Bibliography with comments by William J. Higginson.

Authors' Biographies: Biographical notes on the authors of works included on this web site.

Dear friends
This is What you have gifted to me after my holiday when i was away. So much gratitude!

We will get this section activated soon
Narayanan Raghunathan Thu, Jun 18th 2009, 01:09  
I look forward to this feature being open. I'm the renku and other linked forms editor for Notes from the Gean.

Check out the results of the magazine's first live event in Aberdeen, Scotland at:

Our Special Feature includes a renku and photographs of myself and Editor in Chief Colin Stewart Jones.

Special Feature:

Also we'd love submissions of haiku; renku; haibun; and articles etc...

Please take a look at our editors' pages for details on how to submit:

all my very best,

Alan Summers Sun, Nov 6th 2011, 08:32  
Dear Alan

Thank you so much for visiting our site and give us this valuable information.

We are opening and improving our site soon.

Your presence as an advisor and participant would be highly appreciated.

Yes! Surely I will submit more Haiku to geantree.

Narayanan Raghunathan Sun, Nov 6th 2011, 08:45  
Dear Narayanan,

The deadline for the December issue is November 7th.

But submissions can be sent for the 2012 issue can be sent in at any time:

Look forward to seeing more renku, and other linked forms too! ;-)

all my best,

Alan Summers Sun, Nov 6th 2011, 09:06  
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