Senryu ~

 [ Notes by Narayanan Raghunathan ]

 First, we will try to roughly give a tentative indicative definition and proceed.  

 "A humorous or satiric poem dealing with human affairs, usually written in the same form as haiku. Derived from the name of a popular selector of maekuzuke."  

 William J Higginson : The Haiku Handbook, Published by Kodansha International Ltd. 17-14 Otowa 1-chromeBunkyo-ku, Tokyo112-8652

 "SenryÅ« (川柳, literally 'river willow') is a Japanese form of short poetry similar to haiku in construction: three lines with 17 or fewer syllables in total"

"The form is named after Edo era haiku poet Senryū Karai (柄井川柳, 1765-1838), whose collection Ifūyanagidaru (誹風柳多留) launched the genre (and hence his name) into the public consciousness. A typical example from the collection:

泥棒を dorobō wo
捕えてみれば toraete mireba
我が子なり wagako nari

The robber,
if I catch,
my own son

This senryu that can also be translated "Catching him / you see the robber / is your son" is not so much a personal experience of the author as an example of a type of situation (provided by a short comment called a maeku or fore-verse, which usually prefaces a number of examples=senryu) and/or a brief=witty rendition of an incident, from history or the arts (plays, songs, tales, poetry, etc.). In this case, there was a historical incident of legendary proportion"

Quoted from


Human Beings and human emotions, ironies,  idiocyncrasies, the intrinsic humour of life implicit and explicit in everyday affairs of life at home, office, work, travel,  sports, science, music etc. find their unique expression in this genre called senryu.

There are three possibilities to consider the relationship between haiku and senryu

1] Regard  Senryu as a sub-genre [sub-set] of Haiku. Here the common properties[ like brevity and related to transitory things and line length, the fact that human beings are part of nature, etc.]  of the two genres may be listed as arguments.

2] Regard Haiku and Senryu as totally   independent mutually exclusive genres [ Non intersecting sets ignoring the common aspects] 

3] Regard Haiku and Senryu as independently grown[ing] but with regions where the classification fuse mutually enhancing each other That is treat them as two sets with about 10-20 %  mutually intersecting area. Senryu now may be seen as  a type of Japanese short poetry growing parallely with Haiku with an everyday human activity element brought into prominence ~ independent: but still there are areas where this classification fails, one may have doubts. 

The actual classification of Haiku as "Senryu" or "non-Senryu" is still being debated in scholarly circles!  "Not again !" is the mood. The arguments are old in new attire. Anyway it is best to treat Haiku and senryu as two genres that simultaneously developed and that they share some common features sometimes. But we could talk about Pure Haiku Or Pure Senryu or mutually overlapping . [Geometrically two intersecting circles with about 10-20 % mutually inclusive area  in visual notation. ]

 The "kigo (key season word)" is not generally present in Senryu. But it may be present ~ Haiku may have people and humour too. So it will be necessary to consider  every individual case and decide whether to call it Senryu or Haiku or both.  

The Special Human Moment and its vast implications with a tinge of gentle irony are Senryu�s  general characteristics ~ There are many hard Senryu written too, which include those that make personal judgments, opinions on various affairs of the world and people. These Senryu do not deal with a special moment but with large space-times. 

For more details technical and historical refer to the following links

"George Swede of Toronto, Ontario, who co-founded Haiku Canada in 1977 and active in the international haiku community, provides the clearest and most logical answer I have found. After studying haiku types, he came to the conclusion that English-language haiku consist of "three content categories": Nature haiku, Human haiku (senryu), and Human plus nature haiku (hybrids). Examples follow each of George's astute findings:"

Senryu: Where Does the Name Come From?

Karai Hachiemon (1718-1790), a government official in the Asakusa area of Edo (now Tokyo), used the pen name of "Senryu" ("river willow"), and the short verse honors his contribution by bearing his name. Karai Senryu was instrumental in popularizing the senryu of his day, and the verses he chose were further screened by Goryoken Arubeshi (the editor's pen name meaning "Please excuse my screening"). These were published as 23 volumes of Haifu Yanagidaru during Hachiemon's lifetime. Though Haifu Yanagidaru continued to be published until volume 167, senryu graudaully declined in quality and came to be called kyoku (crazy verse). Later, Sakai Kuraki (1869-1945) and Inoue Kenkabo (1870-1934) revived senryu as a literary art, and other serious senryu writers have carried on their efforts even today.

source: Yasuhiro Kawamura, First Leaves web site.

Senryu: Definitions & Pronunciation
Provided by Ray Rasmussen

Senryu Links
Provided by Ray Rasmussen


A Proposal to the Internet Community

Paul H. Henry




Haiku, Senryu, Tanka links


A brief Survey of Senryu by Women

Hiroaki Sato


"(SENRYU) (KEY) , a Japanese poem structurally similar to the haiku but primarily concerned with human nature. It is usually humorous or satiric. Used loosely, the term means a poem similar to the haiku that does not meet the criteria for haiku."

The Columbia Encyclopedia, Sixth Edition.  2001-05.

Please refer to this essay by Susumu Takiguchi ~

Senryu ~ Examples ~

Narayanan Raghunathan


young Lakshmi stands
real close to her mother measures
who is really taller ~

grandpa points his cane
to the moon explains day night
and sky, to little Ganga  ~

all children rejoice ~
Lakshmi's first moped solo ~
Kaantha says bye-bye ~

"shame periappa ~ please
go away ~ I am dressing
up my Barbie ~ "

Periappa ~ The Elder Father [Father's elder brother] in   Tamizh]
[Dedicated to Ganga] ~

electric razor buzzes on
baby face ~ Arjun out of Hardy
boys to puppy love ~

her wonder might
lifts a big chair all alone
Kaantha all delight ~
[Dedicated to Arjun for he saw this one] ~

Grandma conjures
from empty air Krishna
tales for Kaantha ~
Note ~ Lord Krishna's divine childhood pranks are part of  the great Indian Domestic and Folk Oral Tradition ~[See  Bhaagavatham for more details ~


Hard Senryu ~

saddam reaches bush
iraq burns in last fire
the whole world burns  

more bomb droppings
than bird droppings in baghdad
birds have migrated

alas! oil greedy fools
if all our rivers turned into
oil, what will we drink?

vip champ ad ~ 
muscular man all nude 
but for underwear

world wars erupt 
for possessing a few drops
more of crude-oil

our idol is holy
your idols are unholy
we will kill you

we will talk world peace
encourage many wars all around
to sell our weapons

we will keep atom bombs ~
all of you will sign the nuclear
non-proliferation treaty 

we believe in God 
we will truly love our neighbour
knock his head off

hiroshima nagasaki
old genetic memories clutter 
new human  memories


Please login to post comment.