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Haiku or Senryū? March 15, 2011

Posted by nrhatch in Humor, Nature, Poetry, Word Play.

Haiku or Senryū?

Nature or human humor?

I’ll let you decide.

No rules.  Just write!

What about you?  Can you distinguish the delineating line between Haiku and Senryū to reach a definitive diagnosis?  

Is the defining line moving?  If not, why do I feel so dizzy? 

Related posts:  Write a Haiku About Something That Drives You Nuts * Timing is Everything (The Laughing Housewife) * Senryu * Haiku or Senryu?Senryū * A Haiku (Creating Magic) * Pseu’s Blog * Books Photographs And Artwork


1. Tilly Bud - March 15, 2011

People tend to use the generic term ‘haiku’ for any three-line poem. I don’t know that much about them, but I do know that haiku is concerned with nature; and senryu with the nature of man.

I like what you did.

nrhatch - March 15, 2011

Thanks, Tilly Bud. Your post inspired me. 😀

2. Carol Ann Hoel - March 15, 2011

I didn’t know that about Haiku and have not heard of Senryu. I write verse, but I wouldn’t call myself a poet. My writing conveys a message, and it seems to flow better in verse. Blessings to you…

nrhatch - March 15, 2011

Carol Ann, I’m with you.

I love playing with words ~ in prose and verse. But serious poet, I am not. 🙂

3. CMSmith - March 15, 2011

I’m clueless.

nrhatch - March 15, 2011

One of the articles stated that they were about to share the “clearest definition” yet . . . and proceed to muddy the waters still further. 😀

4. Lisa Kramer - March 15, 2011

I’m stumped. Which is why my poetry tends to free verse if anything.

nrhatch - March 15, 2011

I enjoy the Haiku/Senryu (5-7-5) format . . . even if purists would scoff at my efforts. 😎

5. Maggie - March 15, 2011

I read a haiku book once that said haiku don’t have to be 5-7-5. I’ve probably written a few senryu before… they’re just haiku in disguise.

nrhatch - March 15, 2011

For every rule I’ve read about Haiku, there is an exception.

I expect that something gets lost in the translation.

6. Julie - March 15, 2011

My daughter learned the difference in first grade last year, although I cannot remember the difference. Maybe I’ll ask her – lol!

nrhatch - March 15, 2011

You should ask her . . . see if she remembers.

In a nutshell, Senryu focus on human foibles and Haiku on nature. But, as man/human nature is part of nature, the line in the sand is not entirely clear.

If I manage to convey what I want to convey in 3 lines of 5-7-5 syllables, I’m satisfied. Others can apply whatever label they desire to my words.

7. Rosa - March 15, 2011

Wow! You just blew my mind! I don’t write poetry of any kind and have not even heard of senryu before…

nrhatch - March 15, 2011

The Haiku masters publish Senryu and Haiku.

And, in many poetry contests, it is left to the editors to apply the correct label (after the appropriate litmus test is applied). 😀

8. Greg Camp - March 15, 2011

I’ve always felt that Japanese poetic forms don’t work well in English, thanks to the differences in the two languages. It’s always come off having a comic effect, no matter how serious the intent. That may be because I hear Yoda saying the lines.

Of course, translation of poetry from one language to another is always difficult, since poetry depends on the sounds and forms of the words in addition to their function in a sentence.

nrhatch - March 15, 2011

I agree that translating poetry from one language to another generally disturbs the cadence and flow.

But I love English “Haiku.” I don’t enjoy reading poetry . . . so short poetry that conveys a thought in 3 lines suits me better than long-winded Odes to Grecian Urns. 😎

9. Paula Tohline Calhoun - March 15, 2011

Just for that I cancelling my Ode to a Grecian Urn. On second thoughtm I won’t cancel it – I’ll go ahead and write it and dedicate it to you!

BTW, Senryu has 3 syllables. . .

nrhatch - March 15, 2011

The pronunciation of Senryu, like its definition, is subject to interpretation:

Pronunciation Note: In Japanese, the word “senryu” sounds like the English phrase “send you” with a Spanish flipped-r in place of the d.

For those unfamiliar with this sound, a three-syllable word, “sen-ri-you” may be substituted in English, with the medial “i” sound as diminished as possible.

Paula Tohline Calhoun - March 15, 2011

I was going by listening to my Japanese-speaking son pronounce it. However, I only made the comment to be snarky – you must know that! 😀 Besides, I go with the opinion that English renditions Haiku/Senryu style do not necessarily have to be confined to the 5-7-5 model. Especially if they are being translated from the japanese to English! Trying to be restrictive in that form can be disastrous to the poet’s intentions!

Also, I play sort of loosey-goosey with those poetry “rules” anyway!

Your Haiku lampoon
Started and ended too soon
But not for Haiku.

nrhatch - March 15, 2011

I tried to decipher the number of syllables before posting, and ended up scratching my head. 🙄

Love your Haiku lampoon.

10. eof737 - March 15, 2011

I’ll take the scratching animal while I marry my haiku to my senryu. 🙂 lol!

nrhatch - March 15, 2011

Thanks, Eliz. I love the perplexed countenance on that ape. 😀

If I like the sentiments expressed, the label becomes secondary (i.e., irrelevant) to me.

11. Debra - March 15, 2011

whew…neither for me.

Both are elegant to me…but I am sure I would not get close to making poetry..a mess? Yes. Poetry no. :))

mess and yes rhyme ..that is about as far as I can go!LOL:)

good idea for a post…makes one think:)

nrhatch - March 15, 2011

Words are such FUN to play with . . . as long as we don’t take ourselves too seriously. 😀

12. kateshrewsday - March 15, 2011

A haiku distills nature in a single breath; A senryu condenses the pivotal moments of nature’s guests…

nrhatch - March 15, 2011

Wonderful description, Kate.

I joined a Haiku Diary project ~ 365 “haiku” and “senryu.” Both are appealing by distilling things to their essence, even if the lines between them blur at times.

13. Pseu - March 15, 2011

Senryu and Haiku? Good point….

Hmmm, yes, one haiku to two Senryu I guess in my bash at the topic!

nrhatch - March 15, 2011

Are cobwebs “nature” or “nurture”? 😀

Pseu - March 15, 2011

Mine are nurtured – or is it just neglect?

nrhatch - March 15, 2011

Post a photo and we’ll vote on it! 😀

14. Booksphotographsandartwork - March 15, 2011

This is very interesting. I am not a writer by any means but something about Haiku seems like a challenge so sometimes I like to give it a try. I had what I thought was a nice little Haiku last night and then I realized that I had used 5,7,5 with words and not syllables! So I had to start all over. At least it made my brain work a little.

nrhatch - March 15, 2011

A poem with 5-7-5 words might be quite as lovely as one with 5-7-5 syllables.

If you decide to share it, I’ll swing around and take a peek.

15. Booksphotographsandartwork - March 15, 2011

Oh it’s pretty much the same as the one I already posted but thanks anyway. Maybe next time I won’t rack my brain as much.

nrhatch - March 15, 2011

I’ll be around, straight away.

16. Cindy - March 15, 2011

Nope, I don’t know *scratches head*

nrhatch - March 16, 2011

The examples given to explain the distinction muddied the waters still further by bringing in new labels . . . such as the hybrid. 😀

17. Chad - March 16, 2011

I had heard that there was a certain vocabulary of nature words which bestowed haikudom, and that any other 575 poem which didn’t have one of those words was just a senryu. Of course, I also thought that haiku was a subset of senryu and not a different form altogether. I don’t remember where I heard this though, so I claim no authority.

nrhatch - March 16, 2011

I expect that you are right. There are season words and words used as analogies for season words that “must” be included for a poem to be considered Haiku . . . except when the exception to the rule applies, which I gather is fairly often. 😀

What I find amusing? We apply labels so we can discuss “objects,” but sometimes those labels becomes so self-important that we get caught up in discussing application of the label . . . and the object itself and what it hoped to offer gets buried in the dust.

18. Tammy McLeod - March 16, 2011

wouldn’t have known the difference but I’ll go with senryu since it says cynical and dark! Ha!

nrhatch - March 16, 2011

Cynical? Dark? Moi? 😀

19. William D'Andrea - March 16, 2011

How about this?
When you’ve go to go
You’ve got to go,
So don’t just stand there.
Go man go!

nrhatch - March 16, 2011

Well . . . it’s got 17 syllables. 😎

20. carldagostino - March 19, 2011

Is it 7-5-7 or 5-7-5 ?

nrhatch - March 19, 2011

I’ll never tell. 😉

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