The Art of Haiku and Senryū.

Haiku is a form of Japanese poetry that stresses that the author be frugal and very selective in word choice. Traditionally western Haiku and Senryū consist of 3 lines of poetry made of syllabic counts of 5, 7, and 5. Traditional Japanese Haiku requires the use of a Kireji and a Kigo to be considered true to the form. Kireji is a form of verbalized punctuation and since I don’t know Japanese I can’t really give you an example and there is no equivalent in other languages. Kigo refers to a seasonal word which is meant to symbolize the season that provides the setting for the poem.

Ears out my window

Summer is now upon me

Listening to rain.

That’s a typical, classic, western Haiku.

When most people think of a Haiku they just think about the syllables 5, 7, and 5, which in most instances is perfectly fine and provides an excellent palate for a clever mind.

In Senryū, as I wrote about, the syllable and line counts are the same here as they are in a Haiku. While Haiku tend to focus on nature, the earth, or the weather Senryū tend to focus on the eccentricities and habits of humans and human relations. Senryū tend to be sarcastic, dark and generally come from the “inner voice” of the author. Kireji and Kigo are NOT requirements of the Senryū form so have at it!

How artful and polite to wrap such matters into a poem?

Someone I work with

Grapefruit juice on cereal

Adds to his weirdness.

That’s a typical western Senryū. Pretty cool if you ask me. So, most people who think they’re writing Haiku are actually creating Senryū which are my favorite kind of poem. I really dig finding just the right word to express specifically what I’m trying to say. Sometimes it takes a while to come to me and it’s serious mental work…you should try it some time.




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