Community Renga

This weekend, at the beautiful Bookshop/Coffee Bar/ Cake Head opening you might have seen me and Kari in that little alley between Carriage House Wines and the Masonic Temple. The two of us were managing a few different projects, one of which was the Community Renga.

In this picture, just past  Kari and Brad is me being a Renga Master. A renga is typically  a 36 stanza poem that’s done with a group of people, exquisette corpse style (only one line above could be seen). The renga has very specific rules: line syllable length, words that have to be mentioned, and even tone.

Some history: Renga means collaborative poem. The first stanza, called the hokku, became the basis for modern Haiku poetry. The essence of the poem is the idea of change, so there are tone cues that are given throughout. The opening of the poem uses very formal language. One way to think of it is you’ve just arrived at a party and it’s a little awkward, people have on their best faces, they’re making introductions. Then, after a few stanzas, the participants are cued to loosen up a bit, it’s that point at the party where you’re a bit more comfortable, have had a beer, see some familiar faces. Then, the third section, things get wild. It’s all out drunk on language, opinionated, fiery, hanging from chandeliers, saying things that you might want to send an email to apologize for the next day. And then, at the poem’s conclusion, everyone is still drunk, but are saying their goodbyes, a little sentimental, because it’s so sad to leave the party.

Certain lines have to have certain images. In a traditional renga, that would mean the moon or cherry blossoms. In the Hub City Renga the words were: Hub Bub, grain, freight trains, mills, and magnolia. I put the word next to the appropriate line. Each line had the specified syllable length. (5,7,5,7,7). Our renga only had 35 lines.

Did I mention I was the Renga Master?

Another rule: the poem is always begun by the wisest, most respected poet in the room. Betsy said, “Have John do it.”

Without further ado: The Community Renga– written by the Spartanburg Community.

We are gathered here

to taste some new confections,

for books and java,

to shake Spartanburg by both

hands, say our thanks, trade our stories.

Sojourners traveled here

by train, by plane, by buggy

And lo! There’s Hub-Bub

shining jewel near Morgan Square

Its setting, Sparkle City

Rising from old mills

People start to gather ‘round

A new bookstore here

Coffees, hot cupcakes are great

Right next to Cantrell’s Old Store

Copper grain welcomes

people from all over town.

Sepia shapenotes

In my head and so are you

as you look at the city.

Kevin’s eyes are shut

Kevin’s green window chicken

pink is like balloon

freight trains blue birds smells like cats

be careful, cats are quite devious

They get in trouble.

That’s my middle name, ya know

Indignant, angry

Wide like a magnolia

wonderful blossom white

empty bottles bloom

and flower and fade and fall

sweet silence descends

meaningless moonlight in eyes

to float us to what coos new.

Thanks to everyone who participated! And thanks to George for the photos.



Filed under Artists-in-Residence, Corinne Manning (10-11)

3 responses to “Community Renga

  1. Corinne

    I can’t seem to get the stanzas broken up correctly. You’ll just have to use your imagination, three lines, then two lines. It ends on a couplet. Word press, you make me tired.

  2. Erin Templeton

    Hey–the poem turned out really well!

  3. Great to see you’ve done a community renga!

    I’ve had my proposals for 1000 verse renga successfully accepted, and it’s incredibly life affirming when writers and the public in general get together.

    I hope you had a great a time as I’ve had! 😉

    Alan, With Words

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