We are embarking on a literary project of historic proportions, one that expresses the profound sense of gratitude we have for a modern political leader who is measured, thoughtful, humane, and literary-minded. While some of us have not agreed with every decision he has made over the past eight years, the exemplary way in which he has carried out his duty represents the very best of who we are—a nation bonded by a high regard for freedom and the arts as a carrier of our most treasured values. As one poet wrote, "I am so grateful for this opportunity to honor the best president to have served during my lifetime."
"Renga for Obama" is modeled on a traditional Japanese poetic form. Poets, working in pairs, will compose a tan-renga (short renga) of two stanzas: first, a traditional haiku of three lines of 5-7-5 syllables, followed by a couplet, called a waki, of two lines of seven syllables each (7-7), which is intended as a response to the haiku. A new tan-renga (or pair of stanzas) will be added every day for the first 100 days—or maybe more!—each pair of poets adding to the renga chain. While President Barack Obama occasions our meditation, we hope that the renga will range freely over any number of topics. We only want to emphasize that this poem is intended in a spirit of celebration.
"Renga for Obama" is a collaborative work curated and edited by Major Jackson and published by Harvard Review.