A renga is a form written by multiple collaborating poets. To create a renga, one poet writes the first stanza, which is three lines long with a total of seventeen syllables. The next poet adds the second stanza, a couplet with seven syllables per line. The third stanza repeats the structure of the first and the fourth repeats the second, alternating in this pattern until the poem’s end.
Renga, meaning "linked poem," began over seven hundred years ago in Japan to encourage the collaborative composition of poems. Poets worked in pairs or small groups, taking turns composing the alternating three-line and two-line stanzas. Linked together, renga were often hundreds of lines long, though the favoured length was a 36-line form called a kasen. Several centuries after its inception, the opening stanza of renga gave rise to the much shorter haiku.
The themes for renga are usually words and images associated with seasons, nature, and love. In order for the poem to come to completion, each poet writes a new stanza that connects to the stanza preceding it.
As with Haiku, as the form has evolved, many of its regular traits—including its famous syllabic pattern—have been routinely broken, while still offering exciting and enlightening possibilities. The form is a popular method for teaching pupils to write poetry while working together.