Iio Sōgi (1421-1502), better known simply as "Sōgi," was greatest master of the renga style of Japanese linked-verse poetry.
Born to a humble family in Omi province, Sōgi took up Zen Buddhism as a young man, and became a monk at the Shokokuji temple in Kyoto. In his spare time he took up poetry as a hobby, and received training from some of the best poets of the age.
By his mid-30's, Sōgi had surpassed all his teachers in ability, and his poems were so elegant that he was able to quit monkery and support himself as a professional wandering poet.
Sōgi spent the next 40 years wandering Japan, alternating between stints in Kyoto and long sojourns to the provinces. His reputation grew and grew, and far from the typical image of a wandering monk he was treated like a rock star everywhere he went, feted by admiring nobles in the capital and by awestruck provincial lords on his journeys further afield.
By every measure, he was the greatest and most famous poet of his age, and his legacy has not dimmed with time. Sōgi himself compiled many collections of his own "greatest hits" of poetry, and in his own estimation these were mostly artful renditions of stylized aristocratic poetry forms, but his modern reputation rests more heavily on some of the simpler verses he jotted down in quieter moments of contemplation.
Over his lifetime, Sōgi produced over 90 works of poetry, essays, diaries, edited anthologies, poetry manuals, and poetry criticism. Today his two most famous works are "Three Poets at Minase" (Minase sangin hyakuin, 1488) and "Three Poets at Yuyama" (Yuyama sangin hyakuin, 1491). In both cases, Sōgi oversaw a group of three poets alternating in turn to provide stanzas for a 100-stanza renga poem. Both poems abound with sprightly imagery, artful turns of phrase, and clever linkages to the previous line.
Sōgi is also remembered for a diary he wrote on a 1480 journey to Kyushu (Tsukushi michi no ki - “A Diary on the Road to Kyushu”), and a memoir he wrote just prior to his death in 1502, "Sōgi Alone."