When is #Haiku not Haiku?

When is #Haiku not Haiku?

When it is a Senryū.

We interrupt our rather irregular Thursday Haiku programming to bring you something completely different.

As a lay-poet as far as these things go, like so many of my brethren of the world, I was taught about haiku as an esteemed and revered short form of poetry with simple requirements. Those must-haves being 17 morae (commonly described as syllables, but even that isn’t exactly right), usually in the standard three-line, 5-7-5 configuration.

But not all 5-7-5 poetry is haiku and not all are created equal.

Behold:

Senryū is a Japanese form of short poetry similar to haiku in construction: three lines with 17 or fewer total morae (or “on”, often translated as syllables, but see the article on onji for distinctions). Senryū tend to be about human foibles while haiku tend to be about nature, and senryū are often cynical or darkly humorous while haiku are more serious.

So, it seems I’ve been misleading you, dear readers, during most of my Thursday Hauki posts. Who knew? I hope this isn’t one of those situations where I am the last to know and you all have been tolerating my poetry transgressions with a knowing nod. Perhaps we should adjust as definition dictates and move the Thursday Haiku to a Saturday Senryu when the needs arises.

Speaking of poetry, my darling daughter recently had a poem published in the 2013 Young American Poetry Digest. It’s a lovely image, if I do say so myself. And I’ll try to get past the fact that this means my daughter at age ten is published before her mom.


Seagulls soar, penguins slide
Pale blue skies; crisp, white ice; all
day long, children play

Isn’t that sweet?

There is so much more to learn about haiku and the variations of related poetry. While reading up on Senryu I learned that haiku typically has a “cutting word” and a “season word”. More on that later.

I am still learning, indeed.