About the Poems

The following is the introduction to Four Trails Four Seasons: Pt. Reyes Rengay by Paul Watsky and John Thompson, San Francisco: Jopa House, 1998, one of the earliest rengay books (probably the second such book).

by John Thompson


Rengay is a recent American adaptation of an ancient Japanese collaborative linked verse form called renga. Although the links in both rengay and renga consist of two- and three-line haiku, rengay differs from renga in that it is much briefer—only six verses—is theme-centered, has no [other] mandatory conventions, and is intended to be written by two poets instead of a group. During the conversation that is rengay, an image or phrase used by one poet may be steered in an entirely different direction by the other. The writers take turns playing off the preceding verse in such a way that each new link simultaneously provides continuity and a new twist. In the following sequences, I wrote the first, third, and fifth verses while Paul composed the second, fourth, and sixth verses.

Linked verse challenges the notion that writing must be a solitary act. Rengay is a social form of composition which establishes a poetic dialogue and a shared vision. Such collaborative writing enhances both process and product—the poets can enjoy their personal interchanges and also critique the partner’s work. I take an equal satisfaction in the hikes Paul guided us on and the poems we shaped from these experiences.

Paul and I have centered the rengay in this book on seeing Point Reyes through a cycle of seasons. Come walk with us.