Linked Verse Courtesies:
Seven Proposed Rules of Conduct

First published in Frogpond (need to confirm the issue), 2007. Thanks to Garry Gay, Paul MacNeil, Gene Murtha, John Carley, and William J. Higginson for reading earlier drafts of this piece and suggesting revisions and refinements. I am grateful for their input, but do not wish to assume or imply that they endorse these views, which I hope will be useful for all poets who create linked verse or other collaborations together, including haiga. 

Many haiku poets write linked or collaborative poetry, such as renku, rengay, and tan-renga. But not all are aware of the responsibilities inherent in participating in these pursuits. What are the ethics of how poets should treat their contributions to linked verse or other collaborative writing? Inappropriate uses of your own contributions, or the verses of others, even if by accident, could invalidate a collaboration or its individual pieces for a contest or for publication, or it could violate the trust of one’s collaborators, especially if the content of the work might be in any way personal. Because each poet has the right to control where his or her work goes, that right becomes a team process as soon as one enters into the writing of collaborative or linked verse. In Japan, the notions of “ownership” of collaborative writing such as linked verse also differ from Western perspectives. We in the West are not writing in Japan, of course, but it is still entirely “Western” to respect the group effort in our poetic collaborations. To help poets who might not have thought through these issues, especially if they are new to collaborative writing, the following are seven proposed courtesies or rules of conduct for the consideration of anyone who writes renku, rengay, or tan-renga with a collaborator.