haiku and senryū: what is the difference?

how are haiku and senryū similar?

Both haiku and senryū are written with 17 or less syllables, often in a 5/7/5 syllable pattern written in three lines, are unmetered, and do not rhyme.

They both evolved from a form of Japanese poetry called renga. A renga had an opening stanza known as a hokku, which later became a stand-alone poem known as a haiku.

how are they different?

A haiku will traditionally have a kireji, or cutting word (which, in English, is equivalent to a verbal caesura or the use of punctuation to stop the flow of the line), as well as a kigo, or season word.

Senryū are written without kireji or kigo. They are typically about human nature instead of the natural world. They also differ in tone: where haiku is earnest, senryū is humorous, irreverent, ironic, satiric, or vulgar.

no line in the sand

You may find a lot of poems claiming to be haiku seem more like senryū. Ônishi Yasuyo, a prominent figure in modern haiku, has said, “If someone asks me how senryū differ from haiku, I tell the enquirer that the only distinction that can be made is by author’s name.”

examples of haiku

of Edo’s rain

how many mouthful did you drink

cuckoo?

Kobayashi Issa

The taste

Of rain

–Why kneel?

Jack Kerouac

Haikus are easy

but sometimes they don’t make sense

refrigerator

Rolf Nelson

examples of senryū

When I catch

the robber,

my own son

Karai Hachiemon

sea breeze

the tangerines and I

sweeten

Shizu Fukayama

The one who loves more

slants the umbrella over the other.

Mutamagawa

Unable to compose a single piece on plum flowers she comes home

Sakai Sobaijo

Cupid often runs out of arrows and is lost

Itô Masajo

The moment it blooms with fulls force it’s cut

Inoue Nobuko

In secrecy I touch something I shouldn’t be touching

Mikes Shizuko

resources

anne’s haiku hub

what type of haiku poet are you?

haiku glossary

references

A Brief Survey of Senryû by Women,” by Hiroaki Sato

A History of Haiku, Volume One, R.H. Blyth (1963)

*Senryu by Shizu Fukayama sourced from Todoufuken Senryu: shiokaze ha mikan to watashi amaku suru Marusen Senryu (Japanese Edition), collection by Senryu Toukou Marusen marusenryu.com and translated from the Japanese by anne morrigan (with the help of translation apps).

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