Bill Waters ~~ Haiku

Haiku + Tanka, Haibun, Rengay, Shahai, & More

When is a haiku not a haiku? (part 1)

When it’s a senryu! Although haiku and senryu are closely related, distinguishing between them can be tricky.

In an earlier blog entry, I posted the following poem: cricket lullaby — / cicada soprano / makes her shrill debut. I’ve always thought of it as a haiku, but might it actually be a senryu? Well…that depends on who you ask.

Over the years, I’ve come across a number of simple formulas that would supposedly help a reader tell haiku from senryu. Here are three of them:

  • If it’s serious, it’s haiku. If it’s funny, it’s senryu.
  • If it has no people in it, it’s haiku. If it has people in it, it’s senryu.
  • If it’s about nature, it’s haiku. If it’s about human nature, it’s senryu.

By these tests, “cicada soprano” is senryu (funny), haiku (has no people in it), and both (about nature, but implicitly about human nature too)!

The problem is…

The problem is that the formulas, though well-meaning, frame aspects of haiku and senryu as direct opposites, when in practice those aspects overlap. Either poetic form may display humor (playfully, in haiku; ironically, in senryu); either may have people in them (as a part of nature, in haiku; as apart from nature, in senryu); and either may reference human nature (in a secondary or implied capacity, in haiku; front-and-center, in senryu).

If good fences make good neighbors, then haiku and senryu are difficult neighbors indeed, since the boundaries between the two forms — so concrete when viewed from a distance — are blurry when looked at up close.

Plan B: agree to disagree

Yes, distinguishing between haiku and senryu can be tricky, and even experts on the subject are not in universal agreement about specific distinctions between the two forms. For myself, I’ve chosen to use as a touchstone a broad definition put forward by Michael Dylan Welch, a renowned figure in Japanese short-form poetry, who boils it down to mainly a matter of tone and intent.

[I]t is usually tone that differentiates haiku and senryu. Haiku tend to celebrate their subjects (even if dark), whereas senryu tend to have a ‘victim,’ and may or may not be humourous. Haiku typically treat their subjects reverently, whereas senryu do so irreverently. Haiku try to make a feeling, and senryu try to make a point. And if haiku is a finger pointing to the moon, senryu is a finger poking you in the ribs. (http://bit.ly/1rEjAim)

“Cicada soprano”, therefore, is, by this definition, a senryu. I’m totally convinced of it…I think.

For more discussion of senryu, please see part two of this post: https://billwatershaiku.wordpress.com/2014/09/26/when-is-a-haiku-not-a-haiku-part-2/.

*   *   *

Single Post Navigation

One thought on “When is a haiku not a haiku? (part 1)

  1. Pingback: When is a haiku not a haiku? (part 2) | Bill Waters ~~ Haiku

Leave a reply?

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

THE PRODIGY OF IDEAS

We all have the mission to save this world where we live

Foggy Days And Fairy Dust

~ because even bad days have sparkle and magic ~

Phil McAloon's paintings

Improved living through the application of oil and acrylic

Red Around the World

Your friendly guide to national parks, road trips, and all things outdoors

after pink

Haiku + Tanka, Haibun, Rengay, Shahai, & More

lyncrain

“To live is the rarest thing in the world. Most people exist, that is all.”

National Parks With T

A tour of Public Lands & National Parks in the USA

Anna Maris

instagram: @haikupoeten

Haiku Commentary

Digging deep into the small things

Short Story Magic Tricks

breaking down why great fiction is great

Ontheland

Caring About Our World Reflecting About Life

tom clausen

poems and photos

unbolt me

the literary asylum

Bending moments

This WordPress.com site is the cat’s pajamas

The Poetry Department . . . aka The Boynton Blog

community creativity from Whatcom County, Washington...and beyond

The Cool Women Poets

Women Poets' Critique and Performance Group

Beyond Breakers

Poetry by Dean Schabner

Maternal Mitochondria

An artistic collaboration with Miriam Sagan & Isabel Winson-Sagan

Marilyn Fleming

Poetry, Haiku, Tanka, Haibun, Sequences, Art

dylan tweney

if you're bored, you're not paying attention

the zen space

a space for zen words

The Dragonspire

Home of Author Louise Brady. Writer - Fangirl - INTP - Slytherin - Dragonlord - Fanfiction Enthusiast - TV lover - Shipper of Ships Which Never Sail - Gamer - Historian

sydney lancaster: eye & hand

art & words by sydney lancaster

Makino Studios

Haiku + Tanka, Haibun, Rengay, Shahai, & More

Frank J. Tassone

haikai poetry matters

wild ink

musings about nature, art, books and writing . . .

Michael Rehling

Home of "Haiku Mike"

THOTPURGE

Incomplete Thots...

failed haiku - a journal of English Senryu

Co Editors: Bryan Rickert and Kelly Sauvage with Founder and Contributing Editor Mike Rehling

Miriam's Well: Poetry, Land Art, and Beyond

Santa Fe Literary Scene, Poetry, Land Art, New Mexico

Nature Chronicles

of the Pacific Northwest: Interactions with the wild things--Live life outdoors!

Haiku-doodle

a haiku journal by margaret dornaus

objects for thinking

visuals by Johannes S. H. Bjerg

A Poet in Time

One Poet's Writing Practice

pauldavidmena

Just another WordPress.com site

dt.haase ⌖

Haiku + Tanka, Haibun, Rengay, Shahai, & More

Haiku Art Site

Ellen Grace Olinger

haiku andy

Home of the 1,001 Haiku Postcards + More

Haikutec's Weblog

Japan Times award-winning poet for haiku & renga

Crows & Daisies

Haiku + Tanka, Haibun, Rengay, Shahai, & More

Red Dragonfly

haiku. poetry.

%d bloggers like this: