Go to Renku Home.
A RENKU BIBLIOGRAPHY
with comments by William J. Higginson
Note: A number of articles on writing renku in English appear in various
issues of Frogpond, the journal of the Haiku
Society of America. Most of the books listed below are focussed on
Japanese linked poetry, a bit academic in tone, and not easy reading. But
who said renku was easy? The beginning student would do well to look particularly
at the books by Blyth, Higginson (including the article in Finch and Varnes),
Mayhew, Sato, and Ueda, which are perhaps the
easiest to read. The next step would include the works by Carter and Ramirez-Christensen.
Miner's books can be useful, but involve his awkward way of repeating stanzas,
so that one cannot easily understand the movement of the whole poem. (I
heartily recommend getting the books you're interested in from a library,
first, as those from academic presses in particular tend to be expensive.
Work the inter-library loan system!)
For your convenience, you may go directly to books by author:
R. H. Blyth
Steven D. Carter
William J. Higginson
Nippon Gakujutsu Shinkôkai
Blyth, R. H. Haiku,
Vol. I, Eastern Culture. Tokyo: Hokuseido Press, 1949. The
chapter entitled "Renku" includes a complete, annotated translation of
"The Kite's Feathers" (aka "First Winter Shower")--an important renku by
Bashô and friends.
Carter, Steven D. Three
Poets at Yuyama. Berkeley: Institute of East Asian Studies, 1983.
This is the most outstanding example of a 100-stanza classical renga, by
Sôgi (1421-1502) and his two most prominent disciples, Shôhaku
(1443-1527) and Sôchô (1448-1532), in a decent translation
with extensive annotations that particularly well illustrate the method
of linking by literary allusion, one of the major features of classical
renga that diminishes in importance in renku.
----------. The Road to Komatsubara:
A Classical Reading of the Renga Hyakuin. Cambridge, Massachusetts:
Council on East Asian Studies, 1987. An intriguing study and translation
not only of a major 100-stanza renga by Sôgi, but also of a rulebook
for writing renga completed in 1501 (including and updating material from
two earlier centuries) by Sôgi's disciple Shôhaku. The rulebook
takes up the allowable frequency of repetition of hundreds of items. (These
rules are designed for 100-stanza classical renga, and do not necessarily
agree with the practices of Bashô or modern Japanese renku masters.)
----------, editor and translator. Traditional
Japanese Poetry: An Anthology. Stanford: Stanford University Press,
1991. A major academic anthology that covers the whole range of Japanese
traditional poetries, including linked poetry, in fine translations.
Drake, Christopher. Copying Bird Calls: A Hundred Linked Haikai by Nishiyama Sôin (1605-1682). Hollywood, CA: highmoonoon, 2000. An annotated translation of a hyakuin (100-stanza) solo linked poem by a pre-Bashô haikai master, a pioneer of the commoner-style haikai that arose in the early Tokugawa period (1600-1867).
----------. Haikai on Love: A Hundred-Verse Linked Sequence by Matsuki Tantan (1674-1761). Hollywood, CA: highmoonoon, 2000. An annotated translation of a hyakuin solo linked poem by a haikai poet active after Bashô, at a time when the satiric senryu was on the rise. The piece represents a tour de force in the commoner-style haikai of the Tokugawa period (1600-1867), in that Tantan deliberately flouts many linked-poetry conventions that had survived into haikai, mainly by concentrating on the topic "love" throughout the entire sequence..
J., with Penny Harter. The Haiku Handbook:
How to Write, Share, and Teach Haiku. New York: McGraw-Hill, 1985;
Tokyo: Kodansha International, 1989. The section on linked poetry includes
a 36-stanza renku in English.
Higginson, William J. The Haiku Seasons:
Poetry of the Natural World. Tokyo: Kodansha International, 1996.
Discusses the nature content of traditional Japanese poetry from the Manyôshû
to work by living poets. The chapter on linked poetry has annotated examples
in translation and a chart showing the organization of the seasons in typical
36-stanza renku composed at different times of the year.
----------. Haiku World: An International
Poetry Almanac. Tokyo: Kodansha International, 1996. This is the
first English-language book in the style of the Japanese saijiki, or poetry
almanac. Over 600 seasonal and nonseasonal topics are presented, with 1,000
poems by 650 contemporary poets from 50 countries. For renku writing, it
includes important annotations as to the parts of seasons to which various
season words apply.
----------. "Bashô-Style Linked Poems"
in Classics in the Classroom: Using Great Literature to Teach Writing.
Edited by Christopher Edgar and Ron Padgett. New York: Teachers & Writers
Collaborative, 1999. Article on teaching linked poetry in an elementary
school Title I reading program, withs examples. Available
on this Web site.
----------. "To Clean the Mind: Haiku, Linked
Poems, and the Seasons" in The Teachers & Writers Guide to Teaching
Nature Writing. Edited by Christopher Edgar. New York: Teachers
& Writers Collaborative, in press. Article on leading a public workshop
on haiku and renku, with an emphasis on nature and the seasons. Includes
examples and reproducible handouts.
Higginson, William J. and Penny Harter. "Japanese-Style
Linked Poems" in An Exaltation of Forms: Contemporary Poets Celebrate
the Diversity of Their Art. Edited by Annie Finch and Katherine
Varnes. Ann Arbor: University of Michigan Press, 2002. An article on writing
a 12-stanza renku, with examples.
Maeda, Cana, translator.
Raincoat. New York: Mushinsha-Grossman, 1973. A unique and refreshing
translation of the four renku from the Bashô-school anthology
with a stanza-by-stanza commentary from the point of view of the poets.
An excellent training-ground for linking.
Mayhew, Lenore, translator.
Raincoat: Linked Poetry of the Bashô School with Haiku Selections.
Rutland, Vt. and Tokyo: Charles E. Tuttle Co., 1985. This is the most readable
translation of all four renku and selected haiku from the Bashô-school
Sarumino. No annotations.
Miner, Earl. Japanese
Linked Poetry: An Account with Translations of Renga and Haikai Sequences.
Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1979. This is "the standard academic
treatment" of linked poetry, recommended only for advanced students.
Miner, Earl, and Hiroko Odagiri, translators.
Monkey's Straw Raincoat and Other Poetry of the Bashô School.
Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1981. This is the only complete
in English, including all the haiku and a haibun, with some earlier and
later renku added; the layout makes the renku difficult to read.
Gakujutsu Shinkôkai, translators. Haikai and Haiku.
Tokyo: N.G.S., 1958. Includes a translation of the same renku presented
in Blyth, above, with notes and a season-word index.
Padgett, Ron, editor.
Teachers & Writers Handbook of Poetic Forms. New York: Teachers
& Writers Collaborative, 1987. The article on renga includes several
examples of students writing. This book should be in every language arts
and English classroom, and is very accessible to students grades five through
Esperanza. Heart's Flower: The Life and Poetry of Shinkei.
Stanford: Stanford University Press, 1994. This outstanding academic work
details the life of Bishop Shinkei, one of Sôgi's teachers, who is
otherwise virtually unknown in English. The poetry section includes many
of his hokku, as well as two 100-stanza renga (fully annotated) and 100
of his tanka. To read Shinkei is to find a true precursor of Bashô.
Reichhold, Jane. Narrow
Road to Renga. Gualala, Calif.: Aha Books, 1989. The first collection
of linked poems by non-Japanese poets that I know of. It shows the range
of interest in linked poetry in North America before the 1990s, when more
information on Japanese practice began to become available to English-speakers.
Sato, Hiroaki. One
Hundred Frogs: From Renga to Haiku to English. New York and Tokyo:
Weatherhill, 1983. An outstanding discussion of Japanese linked poems,
with translations, including a kasen that exists in manuscript with Bashô's
edits and annotations; includes some haiku and linked poems by American
poets. Also does include over 100 translations of Bashô's most famous
poem. (Do not be confused by a later book with a similar title that does
not include the material on linked poetry.)
----------. Bashô's Narrow Road:
Spring & Autumn Passages. Berkeley, Ca.: Stone Bridge Press,
1996. The poet's travel diary Oku no hosomichi and a linked poem;
the haiku and linked poem stanzas are presented in single lines of prose,
as in the previous work.
Sato, Hiroaki and Burton Watson,
editors and translators. From the Country of Eight Islands: An Anthology
of Japanese Poetry. Garden City: Doubleday, 1981; various other
editions. Undoubtedly, the most comprehensive anthology of Japanese poetry
available. And more than a quarter of the text is given over to "The Age
of Renga", with parts or all of several linked poems, all in Sato's one-line-stanza
format. Includes minimal notes on items of Japanese culture that would
otherwise be unintelligible to most readers.
Shirane, Haruo. Traces
of Dreams: Landscape, Cultural Memory, and the Poetry of Bashô.
Stanford, Ca.: Stanford University Press, 1998. Outstanding academic treatment
of Bashô's poetics; includes an annotated translation of a Bashô
Ueda, Makoto. Literary
and Art Theories in Japan. Cleveland: Press of Western Reserve
University, 1967. Includes valuable chapters on linked poetry and Bashô's
----------. Matsuo Bashô.
New York: Twayne Publishers, 1970; Tokyo and New York: Kodansha International,
1982. This is the standard literary biography in English, with many good
translations; includes two fully annotated renku.
----------. Bashô and His Interpreters:
Selected Hokku with Commentary. Stanford: Stanford University Press,
1991. Excellent translations of almost 300 of Bashô's haiku, with
many poets' and scholars' comments on the poems. Arranged chronologically,
interspersed with a narrative of the poet's life. Special value for renku lies
in the brief notes as to the contexts in which the poems were written,
which include some renku sessions. Also, the comments on the hokku give a well-rounded
view of haikai aesthetics.
----------. The Path of Flowering Thorn: The Life and Poetry of Yosa Buson. Stanford: Stanford University Press,
1998. An excellent literary biography. Includes three annotated translations of kasen renku by Buson and members of his school.
----------. Dew on the Grass: The Life and Poetry of Kobayashi Issa . Leiden: Brill, 2004. An excellent literary biography. Includes an annotated translation of a kasen by Issa and his students.
The author's interview on Amazon.com.
You may also be interested in the author's bibliography of books
Teachers should know about Teachers &
To comment on this site, suggest additions, or share your experience
of writing renku, you are welcome to e-mail Bill Higginson at:
wordfield-at-att-dot-net, replacing "-at-" with "@" and "-dot-" with a period.
Copyright © 2000, 2002, 2006 by William J. Higginson. All rights reserved.
Page last updated 24 October 2002.
Return to top.
Go to Renku Home.