Senryu, Haiku’s Comic Cousin

Kimiko Hahn, in an article on senryu, describes this poetic form as haiku’s comic cousin . Although both forms of poetry share the same unrhymed, three-line, seventeen-syllable format, the subject matter and mood of the forms differ. Haiku focuses on nature while senryu explores human nature. Unlike the seriousness of haiku, senryu has a humorous tone that takes a tongue-in-cheek look at humans. It has been described as satirical at times.

Hahn quotes the scholar Makoto Ueda’s who succinctly describes the senryu poet as one who “keenly studies various aspects of the human condition and reports his findings in a humorous way.” It has been noted that much of modern western haiku is really senryu in that the focus is mostly on human behavior.

Some examples of senryu that made me smile, all from  are:

I am told I look young

That is how I know

I am not young anymore

I would like to switch

To remote work

But I don’t have a job

I go by car

To the gym

To ride a bicycle

I take great pleasure in composing senryu as well as haiku. When I am in zen mode the words of a haiku flow, when I sense the humor in our foibles then I am ready to poke fun, in seventeen syllables in three unrhymed lines, at the eccentricities that make us different and interesting. Shakespeare’s “brevity is the soul of wit” is what comes to mind as I write senryu.

This senryu was composed on a visit with a physician.

Cura te ipsum

Doc says to lose weight

for my health and well-being.

Then his button pops.

The more condensed version, which I prefer, of Cura te ipsum:

Doc says lose weight

for better health.

His button pops.

 Have fun with senryu!