Renga (1971) is a book-length chain of linked poems written in four European languages by four leading twentieth-century poets: Octavio Paz, Edoardo Sanguineti, Charles Tomlinson, and Jacques Roubaud. Because this pioneering multiauthored, multilingual, and multicultural work is based on the medieval Japanese poetic genre of "linked verse" (renga), the question arises: what is the exact nature of the relation between the modern Western poem and its Japanese model? This article argues that, far from being a merely superficial imitation of certain formal elements of the Japanese poetic practice of group composition, Renga is remarkably faithful to the spirit of the original genre, especially its underlying Zen aesthetics, philosophy, and psychology of muga (no-self). At the same time, the poem's embodiment of a "negative poetic self" does not alienate it from its own Western tradition. On the contrary, in this respect it also faithfully reflects both the Zeitgeist of the postwar period when it was written and, more generally, the post-Romantic, modernist concept of the poetic self. Much of the credit for this remarkable achievement and for the continuing seminal influence of this unique work is due to the profound cross-cultural insight of the project's leading poet, Paz.


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pp. 275-304
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