renga are poems composed of linked verses, written communally
THE RENGA PLATFORM
The Renga Platform is a Japanese-style wooden platform, used for writing of haiku and renga by a group of people - poets, and those who have no previous experience of writing. It is suited to the outdoors in clement weather, and can also be used indoors.
Haiku and renga are traditional Japanese verse forms that hold a deep appreciation of the natural world. They have become popular in The West, and are now part of the School curriculum.
The renga platform is made from Douglas Fir and is 2.4mx2.4mx2.4m. It holds six to eight people comfortably, with room for further people to sit on the veranda, stools, cushions or blankets.
The renga form that we have adapted is a simplified version of the Japanese "nijuuin" renga - 20 verses long. A detailed 48 page guide to writing renga, Verse Chain, has recently been published by Alec Finlay and Martin Lucas (Morning Star / BALTIC, 2003, ISBN 1 904477 01 1. £10.00 ). This is available to participants at a discount price of £8.00 from Alec Finlay.
To date 20 renga events have taken place at venue around the U.K., primarily in Scotland and the North East (in association with BALTIC). The renga platform is both beautiful and functional, and each person who has taken part has seemed to discover in it a quality of attentiveness, quiet and ease, perfect for sharing in the composition of a linked-verse. The platform offers a contemplative space, a temporary dwelling, and a shared space, in which to compose and read poetry together.
A Renga day lasts from 10 or 11 am until 5 or 6pm. There is a lunch break for an hour or so, and, if there is time, also a short guided walk.
A completed poem consists of twenty verses. At each round all of the participants are invited to write and read aloud their verse offering. The master poet is always an experienced haiku writer and poetry workshop leader. They are responsible for selecting the verse that best continues the poem. People can enter and leave the event throughout the day, and they are free to watch, until they feel ready to join in.
A renga always begins with a seasonal verse responding to the day of its composition; and then passes through all of the other seasons.
The Hadrian's Wall project is focused on two annual ten day periods dedicated to renga - a travelling festival, following the Wall from sea to sea. Morvern Gregor photographed each event, responding to the seasonal themes, locale, and flora and fauna.