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f/k/a archives . . . real opinions & real haiku

July 23, 2004

senryu is not a typo

Filed under: pre-06-2006 — David Giacalone @ 8:58 am

Senryu” is poetry that is structurally similar to haiku, but primarily concerned with human nature; it is often humorous or satiric.  Senryu can be particularly enjoyable for lawyers and other city folk — who are frequently far more attuned to human foibles than to nature’s essence. See the senryu webpages compiled by Ray Rasmussen for several definitions and explanations, plus examples and relevant links.

  • Author/poet Jane Reichhold of Aha Poetry has noted: “Because haiku and senryu are written much alike, often on the same subjects and usually by the same authors, great controversies have ensued over which is what.”  Anita Virgil has artfully stated the difference in her book “one potato, two potato” (Peaks Press, 1991):  “… if it is man within the world, it is haiku. If it is the world within the man, it is senryu.”
  • Some distinguished haiku publications continue to differentiate between haiku and senryu; others no longer do.   Also, check out “Haiku or Senryu? How to Tell the Difference,” by Elizabeth St. Jacques.
  • Click here, to see the Collection of winning senryu from the Haiku Society of America’s annual Gerald Brady Memorial Senryu Contest.
update: In 2005, Simply Haiku magazine added a special senryu
section, which will now appear in every edition.  It is edited by poet
Alan Pizzarelli.  In his Editor’s Introduction, he says:

“. . .  It portrays the characteristics of human beings and psychology of the human mind. Even when senryu depict living things such as animals, insects, and plant life, or when they depict inanimate objects, they are portrayed with the emphasis on their human attributes.

“The senryu can make use of poetic devices such as simile, personification, and metaphor. It can also employ puns, parody and satire. . . . Senryu are not all strictly intended to be humorous. Many senryu express the misfortunes, the hardships and woe of humanity.”

update (May 2005) : See our “is it or ain’t it haiku?” to learn more about the
haiku genre and how it differs from senryu and various forms of “quasi-haiku”.

George Swede has written some of my favorite senryu.  Here are a pair:  diner dude gray

young widow

asks for another

fortune cookie

alone at last
I wonder where
everyone is
(Brooks Books, 2000)

dad’s armchair
is 20/40
………… by dagosan [7-17-04]

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