da shampoo-poetry

A Note on Renshi

Renshi is a form of modern, linked verse that developed
out of the centuries old tradition of renga in Japan.  In
renshi, one poet writes several lines, then passes it to
another poet.  The second poet then draws upon a theme,
image, word, or idea present in the first poet’s verse to
write their own.  Once done, he or she passes it to the next
person, who adds another new verse, this time drawing
inspiration only from the verse that came immediately
In each case, the poet is careful not to stick too closely
to the previous verse while trying to develop the sequence
in a new, unique direction.  As the progress of the poetic
sequence is passed back and forth between poets, the
direction grows organically in fascinating and often
surprising directions.  In order to produce an interesting
sequence, it is an especially good idea to bring together
poets of different backgrounds and styles, as we have
done in this particular sequence.
From the reader’s perspective, the pleasure of renshi
has to do in mulling over the connections between
individual verses and the various forms of play between
the voices of the different poets.  Rather than looking for a
single, unified plot, theme, or voice that ties all the verses
together, the poets encourage you to think of this
sequence of poems as a jazz composition or an Indian
jugalbandi, in which one poet comes forward, performs a
solo for a moment in harmony with the other work, then
steps back, ceding center stage to a new, fresh voice.

[Jeffrey Angles]



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