I was at a lecture last week about the porous boundaries between prose and poetry. Poet and prose writer Susan Sink spoke about the practice of haikai no renga, the communal writing of linked short linked verses (haiku). The honored guest poet began with a single prompt verse (the hokku), and each poet in turn added a verse in response.
There were arcane rules (if there is a verse on love, a second in the same theme must follow and perhaps a third, but never a fourth), and runs of 36 and 100, versions played by mail, and collections that were edited after the fact (my favorite collection title: Scrap Paper Coverlet, edited by Yosa Buson, an 18th century Japanese poet). The original game favored humor, often ribald humor (think sake-fueled poetry slam), and was wildly popular but grew more staid with time.
Matsuo Bashō (furu ike ya / kawazu tobikomu / mizu no oto // The ancient pond / a frog jumps in / the sound of water) was not only the acknowledged master of the art of haiku, but a master teacher, as well. Susan shared some of Bashō's haiku including this one:
Even in KyotoI was in Kyoto last fall, and would return in a heartbeat. The verse made me realize that I still have Kyoto to hand, for my trusty waxed canvas bag surely has the dust of Kyoto on it, as well as a hearty dose of incense from Koya, a dash of Minnesota moss, and a flick of Philadelphia's grime.
hearing the cuckoo's cry
I long for Kyoto.
Thirty different translations of Bashō's famous frog haiku into English, in case you don't like the one I selected from Donald Keene.
You can read more about haiku no renga here or in Earl Miner's book Japanese Linked Poetry (the fifth chapter - I found it in Bryn Mawr's library).