Seven Fundamentals:
A Guide to Rengay for Editors

Not previously published. Originally written in May of 2017. See also “How to Present a Rengay.”

Rengay is a six-verse form of linked thematic haiku invented in 1992 by Garry Gay. He came up with the name rengay by combining his last name with the word renga, a centuries-old tradition of Japanese linked poetry, more recently known as renku. Haiku evolved from renga in the first place, as its starting verse, known as the hokku. And yet, rengay is not renga or renku, and it’s worthwhile to understand the differences. If your publication receives a rengay submission, or if you’re judging a rengay contest, how would you assess it? If you have little experience with the rengay poetry form, how do you consider it? What do you look for as hallmarks of success, and what do you keep an eye on as possible weaknesses? The following are seven fundamental issues to think about when considering rengay for publication or for a contest.

These targets may also be useful to those who write rengay, not just editors in considering them for publication or judges deliberating contest entries. Either way, rengay sometimes appear in journals where the reader may have no clue what the theme is. This could be because the authors or editors did not know that a theme was essential, or because the writers chose such an abstract theme that it eluded readers too easily. It is not enough for the verses to work well on their own—at least one theme has to be clear, too.

One other consideration for authors and editors is how to present rengay. In many cases editors can defer to the visual presentation offered by the authors, such as indenting the two-liners, or indenting verses by particular contributors. Complete author names could be presented at the top, followed by just first names or initials to the right of each verse. However, given the established patterns for rengay, just listing the names at the top should make it clear who wrote each verse (the problem with this approach is that it presumes readers will know the pattern of verses in order to know who wrote each verse, which won’t be the case for some readers). Another option is to use different fonts or a mix of roman and italic to indicate authorship, or the verses could even be in different colours to match a colour assigned to each author’s name (these approaches can sometimes look cluttered, however). Any of these approaches could work, but the publication should at least be consistent. And yet if a rengay is submitted with an entirely original visual presentation, that creativity is worth honouring despite whatever default methods of presentation a journal usually adopts.

Rengay is a unique collaborative form of writing that remains easily publishable on a journal page because of its six-verse limitation. Journal editors and contest judges have a responsibility to present or select rengay with a sufficient understanding of the thematic and formal necessities of the rengay genre. Each rengay should present a pleasing and creative exploration of whatever theme is offered.