Renga – The Ancestor of Haiku

Since September, my World Literature class has been working its way through the ages of literature, starting at around 3000 BC with The Epic of Gilgamesh.  It is now December and we find ourselves reading the poetry of 16th and 17th century Japanese poets Moritake and Matsuo Basho.

Since we research every author we read, we have discovered that the Haiku form of poetry is actually a shortened version of the Renga form.

Renga is a cooperative form of poetry writing – one person writes a stanza of 3 lines with syllable counts of 5, 7 and 5, and then a different poet replies with a 2-line stanza of 7 and 7 syllables.  Historically, this would then be repeated, sometimes reaching hundreds of lines in length.

As homework, I assigned my class the task of writing a haiku.  When I was grading them, it suddenly hit me that I should be responding in renga form.

I was so delighted with the results that I just had to share them here:

by Erin Schmidt

Buzzing mosquito
Have you met my two hands?
Death can be sudden

My final meal; suddenly
Hands appear.  Ah, life was sweet.

Southern California Fires of December, 2017
by Michael Capparelli

The snowflake descends
Inhaled, it infects my lungs
Not snow, it is ash

L.A. fires burn but this is
Not what’s meant by “White Christmas”


The Test
by Erin Schmidt

Tears stream down their face
A test they have not studied for
Still they hope they’ll pass

Teacher smiles, vindicated
They should have listened in class!

Winter Time In California
by Darynne Sato

Songs of snow falling
I look out of the window
The sun is shining

Woes of Californians
Never get Snow Days off school

Green Tea
By Lizzy Diaz

Green tea is the best
It eases my mind from stress
Green tea is my life

The British know – there’s no cure
Like a proper cup of tea

by Elijah Olmos

World Literature
Every Tuesday and Thursday
Eternal torture

(Student added the marginal note: “Sarcastic, of course”)

Sarcastic student’s poem
Requires a grade of F… psyche!

Extra Credit
by Lizzy Diaz

I need to write this
So I can get my grade up
Please help me through this

Dear, your wish is my command
Here’s 5 points extra credit

by Lizzy Diaz

Mrs S is cool
She lets me turn in late work
Unlike Mrs R

Mrs R, the expert teacher
Perhaps I should grade harder

by Lizzy Diaz

French fries are so good
But they go right to my thighs
Then I want to cry

So sad that potato with
Oil and heat should make you cry

by Jed Shank

Cold winter is here
I feel something on my back
Pain from father’s fist

Lazy no-good son sits by fire
I must rouse him back to life

Soldier of Death
by Jed Shank

A shimmering blade
Honor, courage, loyalty
Now covered in blood

The glory of war requires
No shrinking from dealing death

Growing Up
by Jed Shank

A leaf falls from tree
Seeking out new adventure
Shattered on the dirt

They told me that I must fly
“Nothing ventured, nothing gained.”

by Jed Shank

Embraced in warm arms
A dimming sense of relief
Never not alone

How soon they outgrow and leave
The circle of a mother’s arms

by Jed Shank

Folding brother’s clothes
Not sure whose clothes are whose
Now they are all mine

He may scold and cry but he
Can’t argue with possession

by Daniel Reilly

When winds do whisper
When words are carving rivers
The pages will turn

Canyons cut through stone by verse
Pen is mightier than sword

by Sandis Wightman

I don’t like poems
I don’t like reading poems
Or writing poems

Student complains of writing
But I have to read them all

Marital Bliss
by Michael Capparelli

She talks on and on
Her words destroy my small ears
My wife calls to me

My husband gazes into space
He must be both deaf and dumb

by Shay Wilderman

So roses are red
Violets are blue, yet
Pine trees are festive

Festive, yes, and it would be hard
To decorate a flower



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