A Path of Desire: Tan Renga

First published in the “Briefly Reviewed” section of Frogpond 39:3, Autumn 2016, pages 121–122.

A Path of Desire: Tan Renga by Peter Newton and Kathe L. Palka (2015, Red Moon Press, Winchester, Virginia). 62 pages, 5¼×7¾ inches, perfectbound. ISBN 978-1-936848-46-1. $12.00 from Red Moon Press.

It used to be that tan-renga never appeared in our haiku journals. In 1998, however, Frogpond published a collection of twelve tan-renga I had written with attendees at the 1996 Asilomar haiku retreat in California. Tan-renga have been a regular component of various haiku journals since then. And now we have this book, which may be the first tan-renga collection in English. Tan-renga is a primal form—in English, a three-line verse by one poet is capped with a two-liner by a second poet, linking and shifting to create a unified poem. Its structure lies at the heart of renga and renku, creates a kind of tanka, and partakes of the social aspects of haikai and earlier literature. As the authors say in their introduction, their partnership began as an experiment and opened into an exploration of the collaborative spirit. The book contains 75 tan-renga, some in nine titled sets (although it’s hard to know where some sets end). Here’s an example: “down the shore / another wave / of foreclosures // mastering / the surrender pose.” Recommended.