AA (1961 / Taif)

About Senryu & Haiku.

Senryu (sound: sin-re-u) .Haiku (sound: high-Ku) . Elizabeth St Jacques wrote: George Swede of Toronto, Ontario, who co-founded Haiku Canada in 1977 and active in the international haiku community, provides the clearest and most logical answer I have found. After studying haiku types, he came to the conclusion that English-language haiku consist of 'three content categories': Nature haiku, Human haiku (senryu) , and Human plus nature haiku (hybrids) . Examples follow each of George's astute findings:
'Nature haiku have no reference to humans or human artifacts and often have season words or kigo. They are what people typically assume haiku to be and comprise only around 20% of published work (in the best periodicals and anthologies) .'
from wet clay
where no seed will grow
the worm
- Elizabeth St Jacques
glaring like a snake
in the grass the snake
in the grass
- George Swede
Midsummer dusk:
after the coo of doves
a softer silence
- H.F. Noyes
Season words in the above: 'seed' refers to Spring; 'snake' indicates Summer; and 'Midsummer' speaks for itself.
George points out that his poem 'has humor, yet it is a haiku and not a senryu. In other words, humor cannot be used to distinguish between haiku and senryu because both types can have humor or not.'
You'll also note that 'like a snake' is a simile. While similes (and other poetics) are frowned upon by many editors, this one works because of the delightful humor it evokes. Less experienced poets, however, would be well advised to avoid poetics until they gain more haiku experience.
'Human haiku (more often called senryu) include only references to some aspect of human nature (physical or psychological) or to human artifacts. They possess no references to the natural world and thus have no season words. (Human haiku) comprise about 20-25% of published work.'
at the height
of the argument the old couple
pour each other tea
- George Swede
long commuter ride
a stranger discusses
his incontinence
- Francine Porad
the black hole
in her Colgate smile
- Elizabeth St Jacques
George advises you to notice there are no references 'to the natural world (excluding humans, of course) . In (his senryu) , tea is a human artifact.' Why? Because a person has transformed the tea into a refreshment.
'Human plus nature haiku (or hybrids) include content from the natural as well as the human world (and) often include kigo. They are the most frequently published kind of haiku- around 60%.'
his wife's garden:
certain he has moved
every plant twice
- Francine Porad
cold wind:
into the strawman's mouth
the quick little mouse
- Elizabeth St Jacques
in the howling wind
under the full moon
the snowman, headless
- George Swede
'Garden' and the act of transplanting indicate late Spring or early Summer; 'cold wind' and 'strawman' suggest Autumn; and 'howling wind' and 'snowman' imply Winter. George points out that 'the snowman is a human artifact' - as is 'strawman' in my haiku. Also note the humor in Francine's haiku.
Of course, when submitting work to editors, most poets don't bother to indicate haiku or senryu, but let the editors decide. Nevertheless, it's to your benefit to learn how to tell the difference between these genres, if only for competitions that demand differentiation.
Now that you know how to do that, it'll be a snap to sort out your haiku and senryu and submit them to the correct categories of poetry competitions. Happy sorting and the best of luck!
The Serious Side of Senryu (Simply Haiku: A Quarterly Journal of Japanese Short Form Poetry. Autumn 2006, vol 4 no 3 SENRYU. Edited by Alan Pizzarelli) :
Senryu is a short poetic form which focuses on people: men, women, husbands, wives, children, relatives and other relations. It portrays the characteristics of human beings and psychology of the human mind.
A common misconception about senryu, is that it is exclusively a satirical and or humorous poetic genre. That's a laugh right there, because senryu is much more than a fat lady's big behind. There's another side of senryu, a more serious side that express the misfortunes, the hardships and woe of humanity. Senryu that are serious in tone about romance, sex, family, friendship, marriage, and divorce — Senryu that express other moods and human emotions such as love, hate, anger, jealousy, sorrow, sadness, and fear — Senryu that portray the stark reality of the human condition — the facts, fashions, sports, social issues and life-styles of popular culture — Senryu that express passion and fullness of heart.
It all goes back to the earliest senryu that were composed in late 18th century Japan.
In Senryu: Japanese Satirical Verses, (Hokuseido 1949) and Japanese Life and Character in Senryu (Hokuseido Press,1960) - R.H. Blyth's superb English translations of late 18th century to 20th century Japanese senryu provide prime examples of senryu that express the more serious human moods and emotions.:
The doctor killed him,
But they express their thanks,
Most graciously.
- Anon.
In this senryu, from Japanese Life and Character in Senryu], Grief stricken family members express their thanks to the doctor. That they thank him 'most graciously', evokes an even deeper sense of sadness..
Is the age of forty
Of a beautiful woman.
- Anon.
Of this one, Blyth writes: 'For ordinary women, forty or thirty is not so different, but for a woman who has been using her beauty to get money, power, love, the beginning of old age is almost the end of existence.' The mind-set here, is one of despair.
The step-child,
All day long
With his nose running.
- Anon.
In this senryu only the child is portrayed. The step-parent is left to the reader's imagination. This not only evokes sympathetic compassion for the child but it also effectively conveys the cruelty of the step-parent who is emotionally distant to the non-biological child.
In the servants' room:
Tormenting one
Who is too pretty.
In the beautiful woman,
The wife
Finds some defect.
'Cruelty has a human heart, and Jealousy a human face.' wrote the poet William Blake. Sadness, despair, cruelty, jealousy — Senryu is all too human.
Here are others examples from Japanese Life and Character in Senryu, which range in mood and topic from money-woes to marital rows:
In this world,
Tied by parents,
And by money.
The face of her husband
Looking for a job, —
She is tired of it.
The child who fell over
Goes home
To cry.
Going to desert her child,
She gives it
All the milk she has.
Losing his job,
The siren sounds
For others to work.
Laughing loudly
To forget
My loneliness.
The reason he is a good man
Is simply because
He is a coward.
And from Senryu: Japanese Satirical Verses by R. H. Blyth, Hokuseido 1949:
Scolding to excess,
The mother also
Bursts into tears.
A negress
Feels relieved,
Giving birth to a negro.
The day she is in a bad temper
No sound
From the kitchen.
Today, a growing number of contemporary English language poets are writing senryu that convey a serious tone and that express the wider range of human emotions. Senryu that evoke feelings of pity, sorrow, sympathy, or compassion.
Here are three on the topic of illness:
nothing to hide
the eyes of a child
on chemotherapy
-M. Franklyn Teaford.
on the late-night movie
as I try to swallow oatmeal
-'Madame Curie'. Anita Virgil.
hair clumps fill the sink
in my mirror a face
from Auschwitz
-Anita Virgil
Others, such as the following selections express loneliness, envy, woe, fear, anger and sadness:
man on a crowded street
hides his loneliness
with a broken cell phone
-Bob Brill.
The old widower
still sleeping on
his side of the bed
-Jesse McGowan.
arguing downstairs —
she shuts the windows
in her dollhouse
-Carol Raisfeld.
the mannequin
i envy its curves
-Ariel Lambert.
I break apart
a Popsicle and think
of divorce
-Anita Krumins.
the pastor's daughter
her Sunday dress
the color of bruises
-Carol Raisfeld.
unable to guess why
he banters with the waiter
so cruelly
-Anita Virgil.
again he sets
a wine glass at my place
I do not wish to fill
-Anita Virgil.
years after drowning,
his shampoo still in the shower
washed clean of its label
-Chad Lee Robinson.
Senryu can portray with startling effectiveness, the drama of human suffering, tragedy, violence and war:
line of refugees
the smallest child carries
a centipede
-Ernest Berry.
Mission Accomplished —
the mine planter shows off
his prosthetic limbs
Al Pizzarelli.
facing south
the old bum speaks
to the vacant air
-Steve Dalachinsky.
Social issues such as abortion, civil rights, crime, discrimination, health, labor, poverty, prostitution and urban life are among the many topics of serious minded senryu:
shopping —
I show my daughter how
to handle a gun
Francis Masat.
algebra class
at Columbine —
solving for y
Barry George.
Senryu poetry (note I say poetry, readers) can also evoke more subtle and delicate emotional qualities:
The cracked cup
gets packed
better than the rest.
-Anita Virgil.
Some senryu can even express emotions in mere human gestures that are sensitive, charming and charged with meaning:
saying too much
the deaf girl
hides her hands
-Matthew Louviere.
The grand genre of senryu arises, when as a poetic form it expresses the full range of human emotions from comic to tragic That is the real face and voice of senryu that continues to echo through the centuries.
Slowly Drive.
love to drive slowly
In the countries sides to see
Not to teach driving
-Abdullah Alhemaidy.

by Abdullah alHemaidy

Comments (1)

Abdullah, Very informative, I am glad Poemhunter passed it to me for my review. I rate a 10