D’s Poetry : Haiku 44 : Senryu

D’s Poetry is a living archive of all poetry penned by me, Divvya Nirula. Join me on this journey today as we discuss another form of Japanese poetry – namely, Senryu.

He was never born,
His death was fiction covered,
Maya our spectre.

Divvya Nirula

The poetic structure of Senryu is very close to that of Haiku. Like Haiku, it also features 17 syllables, in a 5-7-5 format that is divided over 3 lines.

However, one of the main distinctions between these two forms of poetry is the absence of the cutting word, or kireji. And also the absence of the season word, or kigo. The essence of Haiku poetry is that it is rooted in nature and the natural seasons. Thus, the presence of a kigo is crucial to the structure of this form of verse. Further, the Haiku itself is ‘cut’ into 2 distinct parts, by the kireji. Senryu, on the other hand, does not feature a kigo or kireji.

Instead of focusing on nature, Senryu highlights human nature. This type is verse is unrhymed and often features dark or cynical humour. This is why it is also known as satirical haiku.

The satirical form of poetry writing became popular in Japan after the publication of Haifūyanagidaru. This collection of poems was penned by Karai Senryu, after whom the genre is named. The celebrated poet, whose real name was Karai Hachiemon, lived in the Edo period. He was a prolific writer and poetry judge.

Senryu for You!

Let us consider a few examples of this poetic genre.

Now the wintry wind—
but then let your buds blossom,
river willow.

Karai Senryu, translated by David Bowles

I would like to switch
To remote work
But I don’t have a job

Mr. Kobata (winner of Silver Senryu Contest 2020)

I go by car
To the gym
To ride a bicycle

Unknown, winner of Salaryman Senryu Concours Contest

You are invited along on this journey of discovery and writing. For more poetry and verse by Divvya Nirula, please visit the archive for D’s Poetry.