Readers may have noticed that even though I teach the old “haikai” kind of hokku, I nonetheless have very little to say about the practice of linked verse (renga). That is because it has never interested me. In fact there are very, very few whom it does still interest.
My personal opinion — and it is only that — is that hokku today are better written individually or in the context of a journal than in the old style of linked verse. One might better work in a hokku series, joining a number of related hokku together. It is much simpler, and for Westerners, I think, much more rewarding and appropriate.
There are ways of writing linked verse in English, though I advocate none that are complicated. That enables one to still compose “group” verse, as the old writers of hokku enjoyed doing, but nonetheless I do not think that Westerners find such group verse particularly appropriate to their psychology. We enjoy it about as little as we enjoy group authorship of a novel. So my conclusion from all this is that if you like writing hokku with others in a linked verse form, feel free to do so; and if you do not, then you may write hokku in the context of a daily journal, or a travel journal, or as a series of related verses, or as individual verses. That liberality enables us to keep up the wider practice of haikai, though it is by no means the complex and time-consuming matter it was in the time of Bashō. But keep in mind that teaching complex linked verse to merchants and tradesmen, etc., was how Bashō made his living. One would be hard put to make a living at such an occupation today! My feeling is that it is probably just as well, because it avoids commercializing hokku — and not commercializing is more appropriate to the spiritual nature of the kind of hokku I teach.
My advice to the individual writer is to keep the traditions of the old hokku that are important to the preservation of its character, but when it comes to its context — the wider practice of haikai — fit that to your lifestyle and personal preferences. If you are a social person, you may wish it to be a group activity; if you are more a solitary, you will prefer a more “one-person” context and practice.
It is worth keeping in mind that the old and complex linked verse has virtually died out. Almost no one reads it today. But people all over the world still read the hokku of Onitsura and Bashō and all the other related writers up to the end of the 19th century.
Onitsura once wrote of what is temporary in verse and what is ageless. Hokku has something in it that is ageless. That does not mean it will appeal to everyone. In fact hokku today appeals only to those who realize the importance of Nature in our lives — that we HAVE no lives without Nature, of which we are a part. But human cultures rise and fall. Nature remains, however we may abuse it to our own detriment.