“Snow Blind,” senryu vs haiku

Photo by Margerretta on Pexels.com
luminous sunshine
snow reflections sparkle...
I'm blind as a bat

© Colleen M. Chesebro

While haiku are often stark and disciplined, senryu poems are often witty or funny. The senryu is a three-line (5-7-5, 3-5-3, 2-3-2 syllable) Japanese poetic form that focuses on human nature, including an ironic or darkly comedic edge. Some are witty, some are cynical, and some are satirical. Senryu do not require a kigo or kireji (pivot) like haiku.

In the senryu above, I describe an episode of snow blindness. Senryu do not need to feature nature like a haiku does. However, be careful your haiku doesn’t turn into a senryu with the addition of a witty or funny pivot at the end.

Here’s another example:

I hate hypocrites
and phonies, the worst culprits—
constant complainers

© Colleen M. Chesebro
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43 thoughts on ““Snow Blind,” senryu vs haiku”

    1. Serious with a bit of snark usually works. Many folks write senryu not knowing the difference. They try to pass it off as haiku… Irony works with a more serious tone. The Japanese haiku masters created senryu as a way of poking fun at the seriousness of haiku. They really are fun to write. I don’t believe in “failed haiku.” They are either haiku or senryu, but others hold differing opinions. Of course, right? LOL!

      1. Thank you for the additional explanation, Colleen. I like to understand the characteristics of forms to be able to choose which one is best-suited to expressing what I have to say.

  1. Gwen M. Plano

    I’m not sure I quite understand, but your examples are very helpful. And, the photos are extraordinary.

    1. So Gwen, think of senryu as a humorous poem. It deals with the human response, while haiku should be about nature, usually describing a scene in nature. Even though I’m talking about the sunshine and how it makes me snow blind, it’s my response (being snow blind) that makes the situation funny. 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. Focus 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. <3

      1. Gwen M. Plano

        Your explanation is so helpful, Colleen. Thank you very much! I think I understand now. 😊

        1. Senryu is all about the human, and haiku is more serious and about nature. That is the easiest way to remember the differences. I hope that helps. If we write more senryu, the differences will become more obvious. <3

    1. David, I’m not aware of a Japanese form similar to both haiku and senryu starting with a “z.” Just because I don’t know it, doesn’t mean it doesn’t exist. 😀 There are many made-up syllabic forms. I try to share the original forms and the intentions of the Japanese poetry masters as our reference for creating syllabic poetry. Once we learn these forms, we can create all kinds of syllabic combinations. Senryu stems from haikai-no-renga, but the senryu portion came from the middle stanzas, because that is where the humor portion of the han-kasen or kasen occurred. This is from the Haiku Handbook, by William J. Higginson and Penny Harter. That book is so full of information! I hope that helps explain it. <3

        1. How interesting. So, the modern poets prefer writing this blended form instead of the original haiku or senryu. I found an article that explains more, but this sentence caught my attention: “Gurga does add: “While zappai were recognized as a form of poetic entertainment, they were not recognized as being as high an art as either haiku or senryu.” Here is the link: https://allpoetry.com/column/7517923-What-is-Zappai—-a-column—by-jthserra. I really dislike the term, failed haiku, so I understand why folks want to write a more modern form. But, I don’t want to confuse our poets. I want to write the pure forms: haiku or senryu for the challenges. Thanks for teaching us something new, David. <3

          1. I’m such a purest… I see this as a senryu. When the subject is a human (poet-warrior) (which is full of wit!) it is a senryu. The last line cinches it for me: “pens mightier words.” I’ve not worked with the zappai. <3

          2. okie dokie – I’m not trying to push the zappai, per se, but this particular poem feels kinda “surreal” to me… sort of like a scene out of a comic book… so I wasn’t sure.

            thanks, Colleen <3

          3. You’re welcome. I enjoy your thoughts on the different forms. There are many discussions about the syllabic forms nowadays. I just like to follow the old ways of writing the forms. Not everyone does. And comic books are humorous and always filled with irony. They deal with the human condition… so, the senryu still fits. LOL! I’m glad we can share together. <3

  2. I understand the distinction, but in practice boundaries are often not so clear. Of course you know I like those between spaces. (K)

    1. Haiku are about nature and senryu are about the human condition. Modern poets blur the edges creating a blend of haiku and senryu. Senryu are easy… if you feel the need to add humor, wit or irony to your poem, it’s a senryu. If a human is involved, it’s usually a senryu. ❤️

    1. The differences between haiku and senryu are difficult to grasp, especially if you’ve been writing senryu thinking it’s haiku. Modern poets have blended the two together. I prefer the original forms created by the Japanese poetry masters. I hope this helps. <3

  3. Great pictures, and I love your poems! I’m slowly learning these forms. It will take some practice before I truly feel comfortable knowing the difference in my own writing. Thanks, Colleen! 🙂

      1. Thanks Sis. I do enjoy writing the senyru for sure. Don’t discount me out! Right now I’m dealing with apprehension and getting things ready to go away. Need a break to clear my head and get some new direction so I’ll be more productive come the spring. <3

  4. Pingback: #TankaTuesday #Poetry Stars No. 256 | #SpecificForm: haiku – Word Craft: Prose & Poetry

  5. Evocative pieces Colleen. Loved them. I just sent you an email. I was wondering where the feature appears. On this site, or on wordcraft? 🙏🏾

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