Haiku or Senryu?

Haiku or Senryu_

A few months ago I wrote, what I thought, was my first Haiku.

One commenter on the post pointed out the poem was not a Haiku in the traditional sense.

It appeared I had stumbled upon the Senryu.

So what is the difference?

There is much debate within poetry and academia as to the difference between Haiku and Senryu.

The Haiku Society of America defines the haiku as “a short poem that uses imagistic language to convey the essence of an experience of nature or the season intuitively linked to the human condition.”

They define Senryu as “a poem, structurally similar to haiku, that highlights the foibles of human nature, usually in a humorous or satiric way.”

That’s that sorted; add a bit of satire or humour to a Haiku and you have a Senryu.

If only it was that simple. I have spent hours reading various essays, articles and websites debating the difference between the two forms and I am more confused than when I started.

Writing to the structure and framework of, for example a sonnet or a quatrain, is a great way to practice and develop the skill of poetry writing, but should it matter how we label or categorise the finished result?

At the end of the day it is all poetry.

I’m off to tackle the Haikai, Renku, Haibun and Hokku ………aaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaargh.

What are your thoughts on this. I’d love you to join the conversation.

32 Comments

Haiku or senyru? Ran into the same thing when I began writing haiku ( how was I, a newbie to poetry supposed to know this difference?). There were those quibblers who set me straight quite promptly. Most did so gently but a couple were persnickety. I suspect they are perpetually persnickety about everything;) Does it really matter whether a poem is labelled correctly as to form? No, not at all. It’s poetry, all good, no matter what form.

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    I have encountered a number of quibblers and it was what gave the seed for this blog post. I am in agreement that all poetry is poetry and the labels are what people apply afterwards. Thank you for your insightful comments and for taking time out to visit and read the post.

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      You’re very welcome for the insightful comments:) Thank you for the follow! It has been awhile since I’ve posted. For quite awhile I had no computer access at home and transportation to a public access site was difficult thus the disruption in regular posts. Although I have had a tablet now for about a year, I wasn’t sure if I’d renew the blog. There are a number of introvert-themed blogs

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      Carol, it is good to connect and nice to get views from another perspective. I look forward to reading more of your posts. Thanks again for dropping by and taking time to comment.

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YES! YES! It’s poetry no matter what form! And I think the emotions packed in each lines matter more than the form.

I mean trying new forms is awesome. It is both challenging and fulfilling. But a poem written in a lovely form but lacks meaning, is still poetically disappointing. (for me) 😀

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Personally, I think there is just altogether too much labeling that goes on these days, across the board. No matter how we write something, what form we try to follow, how we try to encase our heart’s words, someone is going to pick it apart and have a problem with it.
I think follow whatever form suits what you’re trying to express and phooey on the titles. Who’s to say that you can’t create/invent your own form of poetry?
Have a blessed day!

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I have to admit a bit of ignorance here, I didn’t realise just how many types of Poems there were until I started following so many Poets on WordPress! I didn’t realise there were so many styles, names, categories, labels… I have to say, as well, that I don’t really care! Haha. I found it daunting at first, in fact it put me off attempting any poems of myself (I didn’t want to risk not fitting a “style”) but I’ve since started going by the “I don’t know Art, but I know what I like mantra” and I think if a poem has enough emotion, flows well, and portrays an idea… Then, for me at least, it works 🙂

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Never knew there was a difference. I label every 5-7-5 as a haiku satire or not. Besides, the Japanese form of haiku doesn’t translate anyway. Labels don’t work for my poetry. 🙂

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    Brian, thank you for your thoughts. I am currently reading The Haiku Anthology and in the foreword they state “I have not separated the senryu from the haiku. I like the variety you get presenting them together, and I think the reader gets more pleasure encountering them unexpectedly.” Like you say, it is good to work without the labels. Thanks for visiting and taking time out to read and comment.

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It is a really interesting discussion, in a way. I’ve done a bit of research on the Haiku form myself, and I do like the idea of having a juxtaposition in it as well. It seems to be in some definitions of the form, but lacking in the one you quote. Other than that, I also have read that the principle of 5-7-5 syllables is already a westernisation of the Japanese original, where the syllables are different to those we know.
Anyway, I like using my own preferred set of requirements to write my Haiku, an eclectic mix of the ones I like best from the definitions I’ve found. I like the constraints, because they help me putting my ideas into the right words. Whether it is Haiku, Sonnet or whichever other form, the practice of writing to a set of constraints is good training for concise and precise communication. Might help in other fields as well.

More importantly, however, poetry is a living thing. What was once a Haiku, can evolve into something different, or into a new version of itself. It’s us, the poets, who determine the labels and which forms are the most interesting to use. It’s us who make, and it’s others, the ones studying poetry as a phenomenon, to describe and categorise and give their own meaning.

To be complete, when I write Haiku, I try to use the following constraints (which are my personal definition, and I do not judge others on it)
– three lines;
– 5-7-5 syllables;
– reference to nature or season;
– a juxtaposition when possible.

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    Arjan, thank you for your very informative and valued response. I agree with you in I like writing in the constraint of the 5-7-5 framework. All the Haiku / Senryu I write are all potential prompts for expanded poems. I like the format because it takes the poem to its most basic and simplest form. As you say it is good exercise for concise communication. Thanks again for visiting the blog and joining the conversation.

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And I’m still baffled at the concept of the 2. Phew!

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In these days of demanding inclusion, why must we separate the classes when it comes to poetry. Whatever form it takes, it is, after all, simply a word picture. Why spoil it with a label?

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    I totally agree Grandpa. I would even take it further to the argument what is poetry, what is prose? As long as the reader and writer get something from it, does it really matter? Thank you for taking time out to read the post and comment.

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