ArtRage Renga Writing Workshop Fosters Collaboration and Solidarity Among AAPI Students


Seated in tables of four, approximately 20 Asian-American and Pacific Islander (AAPI) students gathered at the Graves Tent this past Saturday for a writing workshop taught by writer-in-residence R. Zamora Linmark as a part of ArtRage, a poetry initiative by AAPI students and faculty in response to both the recent and historic anti-AAPI hate crimes in the U.S. Students found solidarity through the workshop, according to attendee Amelia Cheng ’21. 

“I think just having a space to gather and find solidarity through creative means is really fulfilling in this time of turmoil and processing a lot of shared anger and trauma. Having the space [allowed me] to not only find an outlet but also find inspiration by existing among my AAPI peers,” said Cheng.

Amy Jiang ’21, one of the coordinators of ArtRage, organized the workshop along with other AAPI students and faculty to maximize Linmark’s impact on the Andover community. Jiang stressed that Linmark’s passion for teaching allowed the students to reckon more deeply with their feelings through poetry. 

“I was brainstorming ideas with [Mr. Linmark] and M. Martin about events that we could do and ways that he could impact our community on campus, especially the Asian community… This idea of ArtRage is really trying to get your feelings deeper, which is what Mr. Linmark loves to teach,” said Jiang. 

Currently teaching the courses English-505CF and English-505CP on creative writing, Linmark commented on his bountiful experience with facilitating group work through the ancient Japanese poetic form of renga in his classes. Renga consists of haikus and couplets, which historically itinerant monks and poets exchanged with each other to write about and read about nature.

“What is the equivalent to group work in poetry? Well, renga… So I said, maybe I can get a bunch of [AAPI] students from [Andover] to do something with [renga], except that in this case, it’s not a meditation on nature, but a response to the violence on Asian-Americans,” said Linmark.

The interactive workshop fostered teamwork among the groups of four, as each student wrote their individual haikus and couplets before piecing them together as a cohesive poem. Through the collaborative process, attendee Sarah Pan ’24 found connections between the writing of hers and her peers.

“Seeing what I wrote reflected in other people really gives me this feeling of solidarity, but also in a creative way that could really put everything together and make a finished product that can really convey all of our feelings,” said Pan. 

Traditionally, the three-lined haiku was composed of 5-7-5 syllables, while the couplet was composed of seven syllables per line. The ArtRage project, however, allowed students to bend the syllable rule in hopes of encouraging more free expression, which attendee Aidan Burt ’21 enjoyed. 

“You don’t have to worry about the exact number of syllables and I think that when it comes to creative expression, not limiting yourself to a template or a certain standard way of doing things can actually help create more evocative language,” said Burt. 

With the name ArtRage being a pun on the word “outrage”, Linmark hoped to encourage students to enrich their frustration and disappointments by incorporating artistic elements. He was impressed by the students’ ability to confront the complex anti-AAPI history with such brevity that the poetic form offered. 

“That’s the challenge about poetry. Giving it language, fueling it with imagery and with sounds and rhythm and music, so that it doesn’t just stay angry. It’s elevated to a poetic level or artistic level… What I find very rewarding as a teacher is the students’ determination to address this problem, the history of this problem, in such few words and with strong images, that reverberate even after you read it,” said Linmark.