WELCOME TO TANKA TUESDAY!
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It’s the FIFTH week of the month! Are you ready to work on a specific form?
Let’s talk HAIKU and SENRYU
Japanese poetry forms follow special rules. Just because you have seventeen syllables to play with doesn’t mean you should just write whatever you want. Take the time to learn the forms and understand why haiku is nature related and why senryu is written about the human condition.
HAIKU IN ENGLISH: Traditional Haiku in English is written in three lines with five syllables in the first line, seven syllables in the second line, and five syllables in the last line: 5/7/5, for a total of seventeen syllables written in the present tense.
- Haiku do not rhyme, nor do they contain metaphors and similes. The use of an implied metaphor is acceptable.
- The current standards for creating Haiku in English suggest a form with three lines and syllables of 3/5/3 (11 syllables). Even the more abbreviated haiku version with three lines and syllables of 2/3/2 (7 syllables) is now thought of more favorably than the traditional 5/7/5 format.
- Most haiku are written about nature, the seasons, a beautiful moment in nature, an emotional experience while in nature, or change. A haiku should share a special moment of awareness with the reader.
- There is often a seasonal word used to explain the time of year, called a kigo, which is a seasonal description, such as: Spring, Summer, Autumn, Winter, and New Year’s. There should only be one kigo per haiku. It’s up to the poet to decide if they want to include a kigo in their poem.
- Most haiku do not contain titles.
- The use of punctuation is optional in the creation of the haiku.
- Three or more haiku written together are considered a series or sequence.
SENRYU IN ENGLISH: Traditional 5/7/5, Current 3/5/3, and Current 2/3/2 syllable structure. A Senryu is written about love, humor, a personal event, and should have irony present.
- Traditional Senryu in English is written in three lines with five syllables in the first line, seven syllables in the second line, and five syllables in the last line: 5/7/5, for a total of seventeen syllables written in the present tense.
- Senryu do not rhyme, nor do they contain metaphors and similes.
- The current standards for creating Senryu in English suggest a form with three lines and syllables of 3/5/3 (11 syllables). Even the more abbreviated senryu version with three lines and syllables of 2/3/2 (7 syllables) is now thought of more favorably than the traditional 5/7/5 format.
- A senryu is written about love, human foibles relating to a personal event, and should have an element of irony present somewhere in the form.
- Senryu focus on the awkward moments in life making the human, not the world around them, the subject of their creative endeavor. Senryu poetry deals with the human condition: focusing on sexual matters, family relations, religion, politics, and anything that touches on the pain we experience through sorrow, prejudice, oppression, anger, and frustration.
- Humor and sarcasm are two of the most favorable elements in a senryu.
- Use precise, simple language and be direct and explicit in your word choice.
- Senryu are blunt and do not deal in sentimentality.
- Three or more senryu written together are a series or sequence.
What makes a good haiku? It must have juxtaposition present. Let’s take one of my poems from last week to illustrate:
nymphs tied to tree homes... souls married, inter-wreathed as one— love blossoms in spring
The way I check for juxtaposition is to see if I’ve compared and/or contrasted the elements of my poem. I talk about the nymphs tied to their trees, their souls married and inter-wreathed as one being. That is because the tree and the spirit are connected-one in the same within the tree. My pivot is the last line where I share that love blossoms in spring. (And yes, love is something you would talk about more in a senryu) Good catch!
First, I take the first line and second line and combine them:
nymphs tied to tree homes, souls married, inter-wreathed as one
Next, I take the second line and the third line and combine them:
souls married, inter-wreathed as one, love blossoms in spring
Now the meaning has changed with a more human approach to marriage and how love often blooms in spring. This technique helps the poet see if the paired entities are similar or different. The two parts of the haiku resonate with one another to produce a new meaning. The last line or pivot should make your poem memorable.
This combining of lines works with the 5-7-5 form, but not always with the shorter forms. I’ve been able to use this technique most of the time with the shorter forms. Experiment!
I’ve compared the symbiotic relationship between the dryad and the tree to love blooming in spring. But I’ve also compared souls married and inter-wreathed as one to love blooming in spring.
Did you ever wonder when to use ellipses (…)? Use ellipses when you are moving toward a point.
How about an em dash (—)? Use an em dash when you are moving away from the common point.
We use the above punctuation to create our cutting word, or kireji, which is a concept in Japanese Haiku, but not in English Haiku. Instead we use gaps, line breaks and basic punctuation to do the ‘cutting’ work. That’s why we use ellipses and the em dash.
The New Zealand Poetry Society shares the Power of Juxtaposition. #Recommended READ
One of my favorite senryu poets (he calls them “Screw You Haiku”) is Michael, from the Afterwards Blog. He understands this form so well. Check out this senryu poem HERE. He writes some pretty funny limericks, too!
Here is a senryu I wrote a few weeks ago:
still waters warming— I turn, craving your caress your snores wake the dead
You can combine the lines in this senryu the same as we did in the haiku above.
still waters warming—I turn, craving your caress
I turn, craving your caress, your snores wake the dead
This poem is filled with sexual innuendo and humor. The irony is apparent: one spouse wants to have sex while the other is snoring and still asleep. It figures… right? See how “human” this moment is?
Have fun with these forms. I can’t wait to see what you create.
For this poetry challenge, you can write a haiku and/or senryu on any subject you choose.
Here are some sites that will help you write your poetry and count syllables
This site even has a link so you can install the extension on Google Chrome.
For Synonyms and Antonyms. When your word has too many syllables, find one that works.
Find out how many syllables each word has. I use this site to compose my poems. Click on the “Workshop” tab, then cut and paste your poetry into the box. Click the Count Syllables button on the button. This site does the hard work for you.
- Write a poem using a form of your choice using haiku or senryu on any subject. Follow the rules of each form.
- Post it on your blog.
- Include a link back to the challenge in your post. (copy the Https:// address of this post into your post).
- Copy your link into the Mr. Linky below (underlined with a hyperlink).
- Please click the small checkbox on Mr. Linky about data protection.
- Read and comment on some of your fellow poets’ work.
- Like and leave a comment below if you choose to do so.
Follow the monthly schedule listed below:
On April 1st, we kick off National Poetry Month. One of my goals for this year is to write a haiku poem a day on colleenchesebro.com. I hope you will join me. Look for my April 1st post.