A Different Distance


A Different Distance

A Renga
“As a time capsule for the pandemic, A Different Distance captures how healing it can be to hold each other close in times of distress.”—NPR MORNING EDITION
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An Indie Next Selection for December 2021
A Ms. Magazine Recommended Read for Fall 2021

In March 2020, France declared a full lockdown to prevent the spread of the coronavirus. Shortly thereafter, poets and friends Marilyn Hacker and Karthika Naïr—living mere miles from each other but separated by circumstance, and inspired by this extraordinary time—began a correspondence in verse.  

Renga, an ancient Japanese form of collaborative poetry, is comprised of alternating tanka beginning with the themes of tōki and tōza: this season, this session. Here, from the “plague spring,” through a year in which seasons are marked by the waxing and waning of the virus, Hacker and Naïr’s renga charts the “differents and sames” of a now-shared experience. Their poems witness a time of suspension in which some things, somehow, press on relentlessly. Between “ten thousand, yes, minutes of Bones,” there’s cancer and chemotherapy and the aches of an aging body. There is grief for the loss of friends nearby and concern for loved ones in the United States, Lebanon, and India. And there is a deep sense of shared humanity, where we all are “mere atoms of water, / each captained by protons of hydrogen, hurtling earthward.”

At turns poignant and playful, the seasons and sessions of A Different Distance display the compassionate, collective wisdom of two women witnessing a singular moment in history. 

renga; tanka; linked verse; form poetry; collaborative poetry; correspondence; Paris; covid; coronavirus; quarantine; lockdown; cancer
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8.5 × 5.5 × 0.5 in
6.7 oz

Marilyn Hacker is the author of fourteen books of poems, including Blazons and A Stranger’s Mirror (longlisted for the 2015 National Book Award), a collaborative book, Diaspo/ Renga, written with Deema K.


Karthika Naïr is the coauthor of A Different Distance. She is a poet, fabulist and librettist whose books include The Honey Hunter, illustrated by Joëlle Jolivet. Until the Lions: Echoes from the Mahabharata, her reimagining of the foundational

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