Senryu and Haiku

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Haiku, Senryu, Zappai (俳句, 川柳, 雑俳)

senryu -
don't tell me this is
a haiku

In Japan we have rather simple definitions given to beginners
for three groups of poetry of the form of 5 7 5, details see below :

haiku, senryuu and zappai.
But they are sometimes not easily transferred to be understood by non-Japanese poets (as time has shown).

Well, the HAI    of haiku is the comic, playful, amusing, funny, joking, humorous, teasing, kokkei, okashimi, tawamure ... .
Japanese haiku, a "short comic poem" .

Traditional Japanese haiku are about the many changes during the seasons (not simply about nature ! but about the seasonal changes of nature), the changes in the life of plants and animals, heaven and earth, but also the changes in the daily life of humans within the society, like festivals and food.

Since writing "haiku without kigo" is now accepted by many editors and moderators, the definition and classification of HAIKU outside of Japan becomes rather difficult and has lead to many individual interpretations.

This new freedom has also lead to the use (misuse?) of the term HAIKU for a variety of short verses of all kinds (scifihaiku (sci-fi haiku), psyku, sighku, pottyku, jokeku ... ).
You have to check with your haiku teacher, moderator or editor for a classification of your short poem.

I tend to make this distinction lately

traditional (classical) Japanese haiku
modern Japanese haiku (gendai haiku 現代俳句)
non-Japanese language haiku (mostly in English)
English-language haiku (ELH)

As for sub-groups of the last one ...
(psyku, sighku, pottyku, jokeku, loveku, cyberku, BAD HAIKU and on and on)

it is for the respective foreigners to decide how to call their short-form poetry, not for the Japanese, I guess, and I would NOT suggest to use Japanese words to form new subgroups of haiku that do not exist in Japan.
(The Japanese might smile .. very ... politely .. at the result .. grin ..)

Sometimes I suggest to use GOULASCH-Haiku (or even haiku-goulasch) for the mixed bag of short form poetry that is found in many haiku forums and magazines.

That has nothing to to with the QUALITY of the short poems, please get this right!

Just for the record
The Gendai Haiku Database of Japan as of April 2007 lists
12684 haiku with kigo and
150 "haiku without a season word 無季の俳句".

And yes,
HAIKU is a small town in Hawaii.

Some may argue:
Since most haiku in English and other languages are now written without a season word, kigo can not be used as a useful criterion to distinguish between haiku and senryu.
The classification aspect then gets more and more personal and depends on the interpretation of each editor or moderator.

For more about "Haiku without Kigo" see below.

. Trying to define HAIKU .


for zappai, see below.

Senryu or haiku ?

I do not want to indulge much in this subject, Robert Wilson is much better at this.

But from my studies of the Japanese saijiki, the simple mantra
. haiku is about nature
senryu is about the human

does NOT hold (for Japanese poetry).

Traditional Japanese haiku are about the many changes during the seasons (not simply about nature ! but about the seasonal changes of nature), the changes in the life of plants and animals, heaven and earth, but also the changes in the daily life of humans within the society, like festivals and food.

Kigo are like a weather report and the biology textbook
- that is NOT true either for Japanese kigo. Kigo carry a lot of meaning, mood and cultural background.
weather report haiku
We also have
haikai 俳諧 "humorous haiku".
Nelson Dictionary
Haiku is not only about nature pure, but also about people and what they do during the changeing seasons. Just think of the many kigo related to the daily life of the farmers, growing rice and other crops in Japan!

Quite a lot of the Japanese kigo are in the . haiku categories . of

Just look at the many observances for the New Year, for O-Bon festivities and others during the year, a complete SAIJIKI in itself !

Japanese Ceremonies during the Year

Since the many festivals and traditions are hard to explain in English and their corresponding haiku are difficult to translate without giving lengthy explanations, they are usually excluded from saijiki translations ... but they EXIST in Japanese haiku manuals.

A lot of the seasonal food appears in Japanese haiku as kigo, but little is translated, since, again, it would need lengthy explanations of the traditional dishes involved.

Haiku developed from the court poetry and later the haikai movement of the old capital of Edo, whereas senryu have their origin with the rich merchants of Osaka, who always enjoyed a good joke and made fun of politics.

Japanese kigo carry a lot of cultural associations, many dating back to ancient China. The fireflies mean much more that a biological fact, they are a cultural fact in Japanese literature. Since this does not exist in say, American culture, it is easy to misunderstand.

Just think of the word CHRISTMAS.
You can smell it, feel it, taste it, have pleasent memories with it ... so much more that just a word.
This is the way KIGO are loved and perceived by Japanese.


The NATURE categories of Japanese haiku

(this might help to to avoid a general discussion about "nature" and "human nature" etc.)

jikoo 時候 Season, climate, time 
tenmon 天文 Heaven, natural phenomena, astronomy, celestial
chiri 地理 Earth, geography, terrestrial
doobutsu 動物 Animals, Zoology
shokubutsu 植物 Plants, Biology

. Zappai - Miscellaneous Haiku by Matsuo Basho .

. Introducing senryu from the Edo period .

Now for some quotes, just for the record.
They do not all represent my own opinion about this complex subject.

zareku 戯れ句 playful, comic verse


History of Senryu
(this is not to be taken tooo seriously)

1746 - It was written by TAKEDA IZUMO together with his three friends MIYOSHI SHORAKU (1693- 1773 ?), NAMIKI SENRYU (1693- 1749), and KOIZUMO, and first performed in 1746, ten years before TAKEDA IZUMO'S death.

1765 - In 1765, Senryu's disciples published a collection of superior verses called Yanagidaru (willow barrel). What makes this collection significant is that it is the oldest extant collection of tsukeku without the maeku.

1803 - 19 Other evidence is found in the informal book of criticism Chushingura Okame Hydban (A Bystander Looks at Chushin- gura), written by Jippensha Ikku in 1803. Ikku states that Miyoshi Shoraku wrote the second act and Senryu the fourth

1835 - One could call shoku a positive name for the negative bareku, literally, break-etiquette-... In 1835, the editor of the famously dirty collection of senryu,used it to describe the ku he and his bawdy buddies found or made ...

Aug 1945 - The end of the war in August 1945, therefore, came as a relief for most senryu writers. Their reaction was immediate. Nearly twenty senryu groups were founded, or resumed activities, between August and December of that year.

1974 - The Haiku Anthology, first published in 1974, is a landmark work in modern haiku, honoring a genre of poetry that celebrates simplicity, emotion, and imagery--in which only a few words convey worlds of mystery and meaning.

and more in this link
source : Timeline results for history of senryu

MORE : "History of Senryu" on Timeline


Haifu-Yanagidaru 『誹風柳多留』
a collection of maeku-dsuke (前句付), which are now commonly called ko-senryu (古川柳; old senryu). It is not one book but a series of 165 volumes published from the middle to the end of the Edo period.
The first 24 volumes are particularly important, with KARAI Senryu (柄井川柳; 1718-1790), whose name is now used as the name of the genre of senryu, as its anthologist.
source : www.deepkyoto.com/

. . . . .

 狂歌 kyoka, a comic waka, eccentric waka

famous Kyoka poets Taiya Teiryuu 鯛屋貞柳, Teiryu Taiya, active in Kamigata (Kyoto and Osaka area) during the Kyoho era.
Getsudooken 月洞軒 Getsudoken

kyooku 狂句 comic verse (of the haiku type)
kyooshi 狂詩 comic Chinese poem
kyoobun 狂文 comic prose
kyoogen 狂言 comic piece for the Noh theater

. kogarashi no mi wa Chikusai ni nitaru kana .
kyooku 狂句 by Matsuo Basho 松尾芭蕉


© Susumu Takiguchi

The Importance of Sense of Humour in Haiku

The word "haiku" had been in existence at least two hundred years before Shiki. What Shiki effectively did was to give this word a special role, that of replacing the word "hokku" (opening stanza) in order to sever it from the rest of renga ("haikai-no-renga" to be exact) and to make it a genre of modern "literature" in its own right.

The first haikai document to record the word "haiku" is thought by general consent to be Hattori Sadakiyo's "Obaeshu" which was published in Kambun 3 (1663). Originally, "haiku" was abbreviated from "haikai-no-ku" and was used as a general term to mean any ku (stanza), whether it was "hokku", or other "tsukeku", in the haikai-no-renga. In the Meiji era, it took some time before "haiku" was established and well circulated. "A History of Japanese Literature" by Sanji Mikami and Sukisaburo Takatsu (1890), for example, gave the word "haiku" a proper status as a technical literary term and consciously used it to signify an independent form of poetry previously represented by "hokku".

In order to understand the word "haiku" accurately, we must sort out another commonly used but equally commonly misunderstood word, "haikai", from which was derived haiku as we know it. "Haikai" is a much wider and more complex term covering not only hokku (or haiku) but also more loosely many of the literary works related to hokku such as renga (or "renku"), haibun and hairon (haiku theory, or essay), though the narrowest definition of the word would be the haikai-no-renga.

"Haikai-ka" (or Comic Verses) of the Kokinshu.

The confusion or misconception about the word "hai-kai" in the West has naturally added to the lack of true understanding of haiku itself.


Other characteristics of Japanese senryu include:

kusuguri= Literally meaning 'tickling', this characteristic tickles the sense of humour, desire, imagination, curiosity or expectations of people (either the readers or people in the senryu, or both). It panders to what they desire, e. g. their desire to have sexual matters told to them. It is similar to 'tease' as in strip-tease.

chakashi= This is to make fun of, poke fun at or take the Mickey out of sb, or to pull sb's leg. 'Tease' is probably its English equivalent.

hineri= The best English word to explain this is 'twist'.

mojiri= This is also a haikai term with which we will not concern ourselves here. In senryu, it means to replace certain words, meaning or phrases of proverbs, quotes or poems with funny words or phrases. It is therefore a form of parody. [an old pond/frogs jump in/without a sound]

kojitsuke= Perhaps not an established senryu term but certainly its characteristic. It is for senryu to try to make sense where it cannot be really made sense, or to try to explain things on implausible grounds.

mitate= "visual transposition". Taking one thing to mean something else.
This is also a haikai term with which we will not concern ourselves here. In senryu it is parody: depicting something by presenting something else.

modoki= To imitate influential figures, celebrities or actors in a funny way -- to mock them.

share= joke, witticism, often play on words.

Senryu for the World Haiku Review


Dajare 駄洒落 ダジャレ, だじゃれ
Share, Puns and Word Plays of the Edo Period
by Gabi Greve


Chibi remarks:

Haiku has kigo, senryu does not have kigo.
The concept of human love is a "tricky" focus for haiku and tends to lend itself to the senryu form.

I guess here too it depends on the right kigo to express the feelings of love. There are plenty of superb haiku about love !

What KIGO does to my love
Gabi Greve


If it is man within the world, it is haiku.
If it is the world within man, it is senryu.

source : Anita Virgil


Quote from Michael:
I find the differences between Japanese and Western poetry and culture facinating. While Western poetry styles are often definded by there structure, the Western take on Japanese haiku is more about it's content. Because of the cultural differences Westerners often miss the subtle kigo in translations of Japanese haiku. Since the kigo are ususally about nature Westerners think Japanese haiku are therefor only about nature.

I personally don't always write with a kigo and like the freedom of using the haiku style for various intent. Also what Westerners would call senryu differs from the Japanese's more lymric content as I understand it.

Just as many people in the West confuse nature with kigo for the distinction in haiku, I think the senryu distinction is lost on general Western culture. I think for Western sensibilities the senryu equivalent might be like the limerick, something more bawdy.

Michael Baribeau, WHCworkshop, Nov 26, 2006
(quoted with permission)


Written in the Face of Adversity:
The Senryu Tradition in America

Ce Rosenow

Although the Japanese poetic form, senryu, began more than two-and-a-half centuries ago as an often bawdy form of verse focusing on human nature, it developed into a form that accommodated many aspects of the human experience. In the early twentieth century, Japanese immigrants in the United States began using senryu to document daily human activities in response to periods of cultural upheaval. In doing so, they instigated a tradition that continues in English-language senryu to this day. Multiple traditions of English-language haikai, including not only senryu but haiku and tanka, exist in America, and varied traditions of senryu certainly have been sustained in order to address the vicissitudes of human experience. The tradition founded by Japanese immigrants, however, remains one of the most vital traditions in the American senryu of the past century.

Genroku Era Senryu
Senryu was created in eighteenth-century Japan, and it is typically defined as a poem similar to haiku in its three-line structure but different from haiku in its focus on human nature. Its general characteristics include an interest in human affairs, a humorous tone, an often critical point of view, an emphasis on human foibles, and as mentioned above, the early verses were often bawdy. The precise definition of the term, senryu, suggests its colorful origins—the word itself means “river willow,” which was slang for prostitute.
The word, senryu, became associated with the poetic form through Karai Senryu (1718–1790), the pen name of Karai Hachiemon, who in 1757 became a maekuzuke master. As a master, or judge, of this verse-writing game, he provided the maeku, or first two lines, and the contest entrants wrote the tsukeku, or following three lines. The contests judged by Karai Senryu became immensely popular, and an anthology of 756 winning verses from the contests appeared in 1765.

Senryu by Japanese Immigrants in America
Senryu Written by Japanese-Americans Imprisoned During WWII
The "Senryu" of Etheridge Knight
Early Senryu in English
Contemporary Senryu

source : litimag.oxfordjournals.org


Quote from Richard Kay
the 2004 "haiku" and "senryu" definitions of the Haiku Society of America succinctly illustrate some of the points :

Haiku: "a short poem that uses imagistic language to convey the essence of an experience of nature or the season intuitively linked to the human condition".

Senryu: "a poem, structurally similar to haiku, that highlights the foibles of human nature, usually in a humorous or satiric way".
[Note: "foibles" means a minor weakness or failing of character].


the silcence of a bird
hit by a stone

Gabi Greve, December 2006

We also have the category of
"miscellaneous", zappai 雑俳, zakku 雑句.

Heee, what is this, you ask ?
zap is the first part of the word .. zatsu 雑  .. comes from "various, variety" as in a Japanese magazine, called zasshi 雑誌.
pai .. is the connecting pronounciation of HAI 俳 , as used in haikai 俳諧 or haiku 俳句.
ku 句 .. is a phrase, expression.

If a Japanese short poem does not have a kigo, it can not be entered into a saijiki.
Some saijiki therefore have an extra section for the "miscellaneous" zappai poems.
This classification has nothing to do with the quality of the poem, only with the use or not-use of kigo.

This classification is often misunderstood outside of Japan.

Read the comments at the end of this entry:

The Distinct Brilliance of Zappai:
and the Need to Reconsider its HSA Definition
by Richard Gilbert and Shinjuku Rollingstone

Here is another quote about it

"Zappai in the HSA definition is equated with "pseudohaiku" and "doggerel verse."
Statements are also made inferring that zappai are without literary value, and it is implied that zappai are not worth memorializing as literature. "

Some call the products of these recent fads "pseudohaiku" to make clear that they are not haiku at all.

Zappai, a genre of Japanese literature with a publication history reaching back, as haikai, to at least the 14th century, is an important literary term, pre-existing in Japanese literature and culture that has been introduced as an English-language term in order apparently to lend credence to what is an English-language literary issue.

Since there has been scant public mention of zappai, or substantive discussion relating to potential problems of its use in English, it is unclear how this term has suddenly found its way into two important English-language haiku-genre definitions. A closer look at the literature of zappai as it exists in Japanese literary history and contemporary literary culture seems warranted.

Read more about it here:
source : www.iyume.com

Zappai in Japan is just that, a miscellanous verse in three lines, neither haiku nor senryu, like my verse quoted above.
It is not a judgement of quality
and certainly not a "pseudo-haiku".

Koan haiku, as I call them, are a sub-group of zappai, with a koan in the background to understand the meaning.

The definition of a .. real .. haiku will go on as long as there are haiku poets ! For me, in the Japanese tradition, I sometimes feel like speaking up for the definition of it ... but then, who cares ?


As you write your poetry, you should nevertheless not worry too much about the classification. Study your saijiki diligently in the free time and memorize as much of the "haiku vocabulary" as you can, to have the appropriate kigo ready when the muse hits you.

It is up to the editors and moderators to classify a poem to fit their system when presenting short-form poetry inspried by traditional Japanese haiku.

As a poet:
Just be attentive in your every-day moments HERE AND NOW and let the poem formulate itself naturally!
Try to state things as they are, without too many emotionally colored adjectives, judgements and personifications.

Which leads to the concept of [ . MU . ] .

My thoughts about ZEN and HAIKU


I do not quite understand why English-language poets feel senryu is sort of inferior or "doggerel" ...
The little town next to mine, Kume-Nan has a big signpost at the entry to the town saying
"Town of Senryu 川柳の町" and they have regular meetings enjoying their poetry, a senryu park with memorial stones and the lot.
And Kume-Nan is not the only town like this, they all take pride in having a "senryu population",
just as Matsuyama enjoys being called a "Haiku Town".

senryu town -
the villagers rejoice
in pride

川柳公園は久米南町, 川柳の小径
Senryu Park in Kumenan


THF The Haiku Foundation BLOG

a haiku, a senryu or something else ...
The central question is this:
do these considerations help or hinder the understanding and/or enjoyment of a poem?
In what ways?
two related questions:
how important is it for newer students to learn the distinctions and to practice them?
How important was this for you?

Read the discussion HERE
source : thehaikufoundation.org / 3rd Sailing, Peter Yovu


Oonishi Yasuyo 大西泰世 - 大西やすよ Onishi Yasuyo
Yasuyo Ohnishi

born 1949 in Himeji, Hyogo
She has been teaching senryu at NHK in Kansai.
She has written many books about senryu.
Her HP


Well, here is the Japanese generalization
used to teach the basics to a beginner of the genre

(there are exceptions and all that ... o)

................. Japanese haiku
(can be registered in a Japanese saijiki)

The simple definition of
three short lines, 5 7 5
one season word (kigo) and
a cut marker (kireji)

write from personal experience ...
Any subject is fine, nature or human nature, the change in the season is important.

..........................Japanese senryu

three short lines, 5 7 5
no season word
no cut marker

use humour, ugachi and a few other things. Humour is rather a cultural thing and what seems funny to a Japanese might not be so for someone from another culture. Senryu originate from the humor of the merchants of Osaka as opposed to the samurai of Edo. Mostly social criticism.

.................... Japanese zappai

three short lines, 5 7 5
anything that does not fit the above
any subject is welcome


Commenting on a poem

Take this for example (I make it up for this purpose)

winter night -
the neighbours quarrel

If you ask me to comment on this, I will fisrt ask back
Did you want to write a haiku or a senryu?

if your answer is

I do not care, call it what you like !

then this is the end of my commenting.

if you say HAIKU
I might have this to say:

Go for a better kigo to fit the situation. In winter most windows are closed and you might not hear the neighbours.

sultry night -
the neigbhours quarrel

if you say SENRYU
I might have this to say:

forget about the season and tell us more about the human condition.

thin walls -
the neigbhours quarrel


trailor park -
the neigbhours quarrel

So there is a difference in the response!


Spring 2012

Trying again!

Senryu should be clearly separated from Haiku - in any language.

Hanging on to the Japanese tradition, I suggest as an example for
English Language Senryu

senryu should not use a cut marker or even a cut
senryu should not include season words and avoid nature words
senryu should include humor, satire etc.

"serious senryu" - still looking for the Japanese equivalent of this technical term.
Poems quoted as "serious senryu" might be better suited for the category ZAPPAI.
The subtle Japanese humour is certainly different from the English one.

Further discussion is welcome.
More as it comes up.


HOKKU and HAIKU 発句と俳句


An independent verse form with a 5-7-5 syllabic rhythm. A modern term, it was popularized by the great but short-lived poet Masaoka Shiki (1867-1902) who wanted to establish the haiku as a verse form that stands by itself, separate from the linked verses of a renga.

Like its progenitor hokku, it is supposed to contain a season word (kigo). When the West first learned about Basho and other pre-modern poets, the term haiku was anachronistically applied to their hokku. Properly speaking, haiku refers only to poems written since Shiki."

"hokku. 'Opening stanza'.
First stanza of a renga, thus with 5-7-5 rhythm. This stanza was considered the most important and was usually offered by a master poet at a linked verse gathering. A season word was required. Eventually poets wrote hokku as semi-dependent verse: as potential starting verses for a renga sequence, to accompany prose in travel journals and haibun, or to be admired on their own."

David Landis Barnhill "Basho's Haiku"
(page 280)

More about the last, ageku 挙句  ...
Renku, renga, haikai, linked verse 連句, 連歌、俳諧


TANKA, short Japanese poems 短歌

For me, tanka are much more similar to European poetry than haiku is. They are resonating in the non-Japanese poet's heart much easier than haiku, I sometimes feel. They are a true way of expressing yourself, which is so important for the European poet.
For tanka, you can express your feelings and yourself directly, using all kinds of decorative adjectives and comparisons and personifications of nature.

For haiku it is much better to take yourself back and let nature or the situation speak as it is ... which is not easy to do.
The human EGO is just SOOOOOOO big and loves to talk in voluptious and judgemental adjectives.

For me to compose a haiku is first and foremost an exercise in loosing the big ego, letting go of preconceptions, every-day cultural concepts, judgements and the ultimate logical European mind.
And there is still a long way to go ... :o)

Gabi Grve, December 2006

My thoughs on the human EGO
and how it hinders haiku


"Haiku without Kigo"

How about this symbolic thought:

Instead of aruging

Our parents wore trousers and shirts, but who cares,
we are now going naked (without kigo!)

you might argue

Our parents wore a certain kind of cloths that do not really fit in our times, so let us try and design new ones that fit our climate and culture
(start our local saijiki with regional kigo!).

Anyway, for me, the importance of kigo for haiku is beyond doubt.

And as a writer with a Japanese background I see it my duty to bring you information on the subject, since there are not sooo many haiku poets who can understand enough Japanese and care to do that online these days.
If you feel that American Haiku is now an independent genre, then please ignore my ramblings. I am taking the side of traditional Japanese haiku, as you know.

Gabi Greve, September 2007

Reference LINKS

Modern Senryu, by Al Pizzarelli
When I first began a serious study of haiku poetry under the tutelage of Professor Harold G. Henderson in 1970, one prerequisite was an understanding and appreciation of its related forms, i.e. the renga, haibun, tanka and senryu. Of all these forms, it was the senryu which had most captured my interest. In 1972, the following poem of mine was published in the Haiku Society of America Minutes:

the fat lady
bends over the tomatoes
a full moon

Upon reading this poem, Henderson pointed out that this poem was, in fact, a senryu since its thrust and emphasis was the woman’s behind in addition to the juxtaposition of the lady’s roundness and the full moon.

As I later studied the senryu genre, I learned that it was “a product of the merchant/townsmen culture of the 18th century, which celebrated the self-absorption disallowed elsewhere in Japanese society. It also provided new material for the poets to explore that the Haiku (with its emphasis on Nature rather than Man) excluded.” This came shortly after the quality of the Haiku and haikai deteriorated shortly after Basho.

Here are a few examples of this fine old senryu:
Read it all HERE !

The Serious Side of Senryu
Alan Pizzarelli, SH 2006

What is Senryu? ... by Robert Wilson

a BLOG by Alan Pizzarelli

. . . . .

La définition du haiku
par Alexey Andreyev
8. L'humour dans le haiku
source : www.tempslibres.org

Haiku and Senryu: Difference Is Clear
Ashraful Musaddeq
source : ezinearticles.com

. . . . .

Debate on
Is Western Haiku a Second Rate Art?
Debate in January to March 2001
Denis Garrison
... 16. Humour, again, is something else.
If more serious haiku had a touch of humour they would make better reading, I think. I cannot see a reason in the West to keep senryu as a separate area. Humour and satire could very well be included as haiku sub-areas.
source : whrarchives.wordpress.com

. . . . .

Senryu – Editors choice
Susumu Takiguchi, WHR 2005

In a nutshell, the experiment is to drop all definitions and conventions of senryu which have been in use outside Japan, and to start again from scratch with only Japanese senryu as a guidance—but not as the be-all-and- end-all. In other words, the aim is not to learn Japanese senryu or to write senryu like them. The aim is to create a new form of works with the help of Japanese senryu and hope that will be a new and true form senryu.

source : whrarchives.wordpress.com


What we should not forget :
Whatever the definition,
a good poem is a good poem !

Senryu about Ghosts -
Ge Ge Ge no Kitaro ゲゲゲの鬼太郎 and his monster friends

. Shigeru Mizuki (水木 しげる, Mizuki Shigeru) .


. . . . . BACK TO

DEFINITIONS ... Trying to define HAIKU ...

My Haiku Theory Archives  



Michael Baribeau said...

Great job collecting all this together Gabi! Looks like there are a lot of 'schools' of thought on senryu just like there are different 'schools' of haiku in Japan.

Anonymous said...

quote from here


how the term “miscellaneous” was used with respect to hokku before Shiki?

It was used as a derogatory term. Bashô’s hokku were never miscellaneous.
If a Japanese short form poem was presented as a hokku, but without a kigo, it was treated with contempt as a pseudo-hokku. Of course, some of Bashô’s kigo were unusual and a search was made to find the allusions.

In 1803, more than a hundred years after Bashô’s death, Bakin produced his Haikai Saijiki containing 2600 entries.

A great disturbance in ategorising kigo came in the beginning of the Meiji Period when in January 1, 1873 the Japanese adopted the Solar Calendar. Now New Year was no longer at the beginning of Spring, but in the depths of Winter. The Tanabata Festival was no longer associated with autumn winds but was in the heat of July.

To my knowledge, Shiki was the first person to suggest that a kigo was not necessary. Later, he revised his opinion. Shiki’s disciples were unable to control what happened after his death.

I quote from The Season of 'No-Season' in Contemporary Haiku: The Modern Haiku Association Muki Saijiki

Richard Gilbert, Yuki Ito, Tomoko Murase, Ayaka Nishikawa and TomokoTakaki

Faculty of Letters, Kumamoto University, March 2006 Publication: Simply Haiku Journal 4.2 (Summer 2006)

[beginning of quotation]
Haiku diverged in two opposite directions after the death of Shiki Masaoka (1867-1902), the founder of modern haiku. While one main school espouses fixed styles of verse—the use of kigo and 17-on form—the other main school respects freedom concerning both the form and use of kigo.

The former school, known as Hototogisu, has been a strong cultural influence and both the poems and perspective of this school are recognized as orthodox haiku; some of these classic styles are taught in primary schools throughout Japan. . .
[The latter school] The Muki Saijiki has been created in order to introduce contemporary haiku with muki-kigo. . .

The Muki Saijiki compiles keywords of natural phenomena, geography, humanity, daily life, culture, plants and animals, as 'non-season' season words, and thus exemplifies the contemporary haiku world.
[end of quotation]

.. the Japanese have the same problem that we English language haiku poets have about the authenticity of the kigo.

Of course, you must not confuse the use of “miscellaneous” with respect to haiku with the use of “miscellaneous” with respect to Linked Poetry.

Here, the hokku must have a kigo. However, the hiraku, the other stanzas, need not have a kigo. These stanzas are categorised as Spring, Summer, Autumn, Winter, and Miscellaneous. In fact, 60% of the stanzas of a 100 stanza classical ushin no renga may be classified as miscellaneous.

Hugh Bygott

Anonymous said...

quote from here

William J. Higginson
In his book, "The Haiku Seasons," he says this about "seasonless independent hokku:"

"In the seventeenth century it was not unusual for poets to make seasonless independent hokku, but such poems were generally thought to be of little worth. Few were published, though some provision was made occasionally."

However, I would be more accepting of this opinion if a Japanese source was cited for it, preferably from the seventeenth or
eighteenth century.

And I am left wondering: if such poems were generally thought to be of little worth (by whom, I wonder), then why would poets be writing so many of them that the writing of them "was not unusual?"

And it is my understanding that at least for the major poets pre-Shiki, it was in fact unusual to write a seasonless hokku. Whoever
wrote the Wikipedia article on kigo notes that Basho wrote, by today's standards, about 10 hokku without a kigo out of about 1000,
and Issa wrote 109 hokku without a kigo out of about 20,000.

Although not mentioned in the article, I believe I've read elsewhere that Buson wrote some, but relatively few, seasonless hokku in relation to his total oeuvre.

So I'm left wondering: was the writing of "seasonless independent "hokku" not unusual, or was writing them a rare exception, but an exception that Basho, knowledgable as he was, occasionlly indulged in nevertheless, as did others.

.. translation by David Landis
Barnhill, who has translated 724 of Basho's hokku.

He categorizes eight of the 724 as seasonless hokku (including the Sogi hokku). Here are the remaining seven:

tsuki hana no kore ya makoto no arujitachi

these three
of the moon and flowers:
masters of the truth

Note: "In the haibun "Praise for a Painting of Three Sages," which was written on a portrait... painted by Basho's disciple Morikawa Kyoriku (1656-1715)."

monohoshi ya fukuro no uchi no tsuki to hana

On a Portrait of Hotei

so desirable--
inside his satchel,
moon and blossoms

musashino ya sawaru mono naki kimi ga kasa

Musashino fields--
no hindrances now,
your bamboo hat

kachi naraha tsue-tsuki-zaka o rakuba kana

if only I had walked
Walking-stick Hill:
falling from my horse

[In "Knapsack Notebook" (Oi no Kobumi)]

asa yosa o taga matsu shima zo katagokoro

morning and evening,
as if someone waits for me at Matsushima:
my unfulfilled love

(Higginson translates it as:

morning and evening
someone waits at Matsushima!
one-sided love

and notes that "it was published in Basho's day in the brief 'zo'
section of a seasonal collection.")

tsuki hana mo nakute sake nomu hitori kana

On a Painting of someone drinking sake

no moon, no blossoms,
just drinking sake
all alone

tsuki ka hana ka toedo shisui no ibiki kana

moon? blossoms?
to such questions,
just four sleepers snoring

Note: "Written on a painting of four Buddhist monks sleeping."


Anonymous said...


Haibun Definitions

Contemporary haibun is a combination of prose and haiku poetry, sometimes described as 'a narrative of epiphany'. Like English haiku, English haibun is evolving as it becomes more widely practiced in the English speaking world.

Haibun is the Japanese name for 17th Centurey poet-monk Basho Matsuo's poetic-prose travel journals which were studded with haiku. The best known are The Narrow Road to the Deep North and The Hut of the Phantom Dwelling.

Bruce Ross in an essay entitled "North American Versions of Haiku", in Modern Haiku, Winter-Spring 1997, states that haibun has "syntax that is dominated by images" and cites Makoto Ueda's four characteristics of haibun:

1) a brevity and conciseness of haiku
2) a deliberately ambiguous use of certain particles and verb forms in places where the conjunction 'and' would be used in English
3) a dependence on imagery
4) the writer's detachment

Ken Jones, in a book review posted in Blythe Spirit suggested the following:

A haiku collection can be reviewed within a broad consensus of discourse. But in the more eclectic haibun tradition there are no such recognised markers. Reviewers and editors therefore need to set out some criteria so that their readers are aware of the standards to which they are working. Here I have used four sets of criteria. They are based on Basho’s view of haibun as haikai no bunsho - ‘writing in the style of haiku’.

First, I would expect direct, concrete, economical imagery, infused with life and energy and eschewing abstraction and intellection. The editors refer to ‘sensibility and revelation rather than narrative and disclosure’.

Second, I would expect haibun prose to be light handed, elusive, open-ended, playful and even ironic, ‘in the style of haiku’. And at a deeper, existential, level should we not expect something of that ambiguity and mystery found in the best haiku? Presumably this is the ‘narrative of an epiphany’ which the present editors claim to have sought.

Third, just as haiku are literature in miniature, with their own internal and external disciplines, so should we expect haibun also to have the complexity, subtlety and unfolding of literary artifacts. Corresponding to the feeling of the ‘haiku moment’ is the emotional experience which itself appears to write, energise and organise the haibun for its writer.

Finally, at least as a bonus, we might hope to find something of Haruo Shirane’s ‘vertical axis’ of myth, literature, history - and life in the postmodern...

From: Ken Jones, A Review of Up Against the Window: American Haibun and Haiga, Volume 1, ed Jim Kacian and Bruce Ross, Blythe Spirit, Vol 11 No 2, June 2001

Paul Conneally, Haibun Director of the World Haiku Club, defines current English haibun as: "Prose that has many of the characteristics associated with haiku—present tense (and shifts of tense though predominant voice 'present'), imagistic, shortened or interesting syntax, joining words such as 'and' limited maybe, a sense of 'being there', descriptions of places people met and above all 'brevity'.

The haiku ... should link to the prose but is not a direct carry on from the prose telling some of what has already been said - no - it should lead us on - let our mind want for more, start traveling."

George Marsh suggests that the prose in a haibun has "a bracing Buddhist flavour," and cites as its special feature "the contrast between the haiku and the prose." He goes on to say: "Illustrators define the relationship between their drawings and the texts that they illustrate, deprecating the mere 'illustration,' which repeats what the story has already given the reader.

They use terms like 'interpretation' and 'complement' to indicate that in translating the themes into another artistic medium they have to re-imagine them and offer something new, a different kind of vision. The relationship between the prose and the haiku in haibun is like this. It may be tangential, implicit. The prose deals with complexity and the haiku reveals the thing in itself, stripped of complexity, palpable in its suchness, like an epiphany in James Joyce's sense of the word and with a comparable function in the haibun form.

The problem, as David Cobb has pointed out, is finding the haiku that will be good enough to transform the theme. A haibun cannot afford any sentence that does not contribute to the effect at the ending, and builds to its last words. [from an introduction to Haiku Spirit].

The Haiku Society of America [HSA] has posted the following definition of haibun: "A haibun is a terse, relatively short prose poem in the haikai style, usually including both lightly humorous and more serious elements. A haibun usually ends with a haiku. Most haibun range from well under 100 words to 200 or 300.

Some longer haibun may contain a few haiku interspersed between sections of prose. In haibun the connections between the prose and any included haiku may not be immediately obvious, or the haiku may deepen the tone, or take the work in a new direction, recasting the meaning of the foregoing prose, much as a stanza in a linked-verse poem revises the meaning of the previous verse.

Japanese haibun apparently developed from brief prefatory notes occasionally written to introduce individual haiku, but soon grew into a distinct genre. The word "haibun" is sometimes applied to longer works, such as the memoirs, diaries, or travel writings of haiku poets, though technically they are parts of the separate and much older genres of journal and travel literature (nikki and kikôbun). [From the HSA Definitions Web site]

Anonymous said...

Haikai as a Pyramid: Zappai, Senryu, and Haiku
Lee Gurga

Broadly speaking, we can view all of haikai as a pyramid composed of three basic elements: zappai, senryu, and haiku.

We are all familiar with the terms senryu and haiku, but what is "zappai"? In Japanese poetry, zappai includes all types of seventeen syllable poems that do not have the proper formal or technical characteristics of haiku - the cutting word, season word, rules for the use of postpositional particles and specific verb endings.

It was a popular form of entertainment in the Edo period that includes many kinds of linking games, including the one from which senryu developed. If we look at all of what is presented today as "haiku," a large number of so-called haiku are, like zappai, imaginative or imaginary, wit-based poems that are written or shared for the entertainment of the reader and writer.

Unlike haiku, these poems often have no relation to nature. Unlike senryu, these poems make no attempt to distinguish between the imaginative and the imaginary. This includes things like spam haiku, sci-fi haiku and their ilk.

While it is appropriate to recognize these poems as part of the haikai tradition, they are not haiku except in the sense that they share with haiku the characteristic of brevity.

In the past, I have proposed the use of the term kyôku to describe these poems. Kyôku means "mad verse," and these poems certainly share madness with the most imaginative haikai of the Japanese tradition. In fact, one could go as far as to say that they represent the true legacy of the haikai that Bashô inherited, and out of which haiku developed as an independent art. But, as it turns out, kyôku itself is part of this larger imaginative tradition called zappai in Japanese.

While zappai were recognized as a form of poetic entertainment, they were not recognized as being as high an art as either haiku or senryu.

Zappai thus defined may be a handy label for the majority of what is written today in the name of "haiku." If they are not the majority, they are certainly the kind of "haiku" that command the most attention in the media. Zappai, then, form the base of our pyramid and account for most of its volume, either literally or figuratively.

Zappai, as a sort of poetic entertainment, provide the point of entry for many poets into the haikai tradition and the writing of zappai enables people to develop the skills and interest for subsequent exploration of other elements of this tradition.

While the term zappai is unfamiliar to most American students of haiku, I believe its adoption will provide us with a useful category to help us understand that while much of what is being written today under the name of haiku is not genuine haiku, it is still a legitimate part of the haikai tradition.

Those who object to the introduction of this term might simply want to use the term "pseudo-haiku" to categorize the poems I am describing here.


Anonymous said...

© Copyright William J. Higginson, 2000


( Excerpts from the Keynote Address at the Global Haiku Conference,Millikin University, 15 April 2000 )

I have mentioned the Internet previously, but let us now focus our attention on our own current and potential involvement on the World Wide Web. During the last five years, the Internet has radically altered the way a fair percentage of Americans do business and spend their free time.

Haiku, as a leisure activity, has found a substantial niche on the Internet, and is growing there by leaps and bounds. And it has become increasingly international. I know this, because for the last six months or so I have been an editor on the "Haiku and Related Forms" category of the Netscape Open Directory Project.

When I started working on it, the category had about 30 links to haiku-related sites, about half of which featured so-called "bad haiku", "computer-generated haiku", or other stuff that I considered garbage. The category now has close to 90 links [currently over 100] to valid haiku sites, plus another 30 or so sites in subcategories, one of which contains about a dozen sites featuring "zappai", to use Lee Gurga's term for spam haiku, haiku headlines, computer haiku, and the like. Some of the valid haiku sites are for teachers, some give access to bulletin boards and mailing lists of haiku discussion groups, some provide background information about haiku, both the Japanese tradition and the spread of haiku to the rest of the globe.

And some provide publication services analogous to print magazines, or access to print magazines, in such a way that poets can submit their work by e-mail, rather than the postal service. One week ago, I conducted a survey of all of the editors I know of who have the capability to receive submissions by e-mail.

Survey Results

Of eleven editors I know of who can receive English-language haiku submissions by e-mail, I received returns from eight--72%--a rather high rate of return. Of the eight respondents, three publish in print only, three publish e-zines on the World Wide Web only, and two publish both in print and e-zine formats. The list of those solicited for the survey included only publishers issuing at least twice a year, and did not include the British Haiku Society's *Blithe Spirit* or *Modern Haiku*, neither of which currently has provisions for e-mail submissions, though I expect that to change in the future.

An e-mail correspondent recently asked me, "Does posting on an Internet mailing list mean 'Publishing'?" This was one of the questions I already had in mind, and had included in my survey. In the survey I asked three related questions:

"Do you consider poems that have already appeared on electronic bulletin boards or mailing lists where they are offered for comment or criticism, and where they may have been read by the public in an archive, as on the Shiki and other e-lists, to have been published?

Do you knowingly publish such poems?

Would you prefer that authors inform you if a poem they submit has previously appeared as described above?"

Seven of the eight respondents said "Yes, appearance on a list is publication." Six of eight said "I would knowingly publish a poem previously appearing on a list"--this result included all of the e-zine publishers, and one of three print-only magazines, but one of the three print-only people said "maybe" and the other said "NO!" Six of the eight said "I want to know if a submitted poem has been on a list"; a couple were very emphatic about it; of the two who didn't care whether they were so informed or not, one was a print-only publisher, the other an e-zine only publisher.

These results vary in part because some e-zines are MAINLY edited selections of works that have already appeared on lists--primarily the Shiki List, it turns out--and do not involve much unsolicited submission at all.

The Shiki List, an e-mail mailing list to which one can subscribe and thus receive copies of all mail “posted” to the list, has been in operation since 1994. Today the Shiki Team, based in Matsuyama, Japan, operates three mailing lists, one for discussion of haiku issues, one for workshopping haiku poems written by participants, and one for tanka.

On the question of copyright on the Internet, their understanding is clearly stated in the following notice, which appears on the Web page where one subscribes to any of the lists:

"All poems appearing on the above mailing lists, their archives and home pages, either individually or as part of a multiple posting, such as the bi weekly kukai, are copyrighted and permission must be received to use any of the poems contained within this homepage in whole or in part. To contact specific authors for permission for use a specific poem or part of a posting, in whole or in part, containing poems, you must send a copy of the post in question to the author along with your request specifying the intended use.

If you wish to use a poem where the author is not identified with the poem, you must send a request to the mailing list where it can be seen on the mailing list board *and* recorded in the mailing list archives. If no response is received by either method: *PERMISSION HAS BEEN DENIED!*"

This seems pretty clear, not to say emphatic, and suggests the same procedure that one must go through to reprint a work previously appearing in a magazine or book. However, the Web is operating under different principles from the familiar print routines we're used to, and those who use the Web a lot are used to repetitions, so they don't seem to be as bothered by the "previously published" bugaboo. A

s some of the people involved in print are also at some level involved in the Web, they are letting their Web practices and ideals leak over into their print operations.

Everyone surveyed said their e-mail submissions are rising, and most that do print reported that their postal submissions are either steady or falling.

Everyone surveyed said their e-mail submissions are now as good as or better than their postal submissions. One specifically noted that while up to a year ago, e-mail submissions were generally inferior, they are now better, on average, than postal submissions.

(Translation: The editors are now taking as high a percentage of e-mail submissions as of postal submissions, or better. This is true both of low-volume magazines publishing only a few poems in each issue and of high-volume magazines with scores or even hundreds of poems per issue, both print and Web-based.)

The electronic publication of haiku, like every other area of publishing, is increasing daily. To those comfortable with the Internet, such publishing looks easy, at first. But when they get into it, they discover, as did their 1950s, '60s and '70s counterparts in the kitchen-table presses of the global counterculture and the desktop publishers of the '80s, it takes hard, continuous work to build anything of lasting value, or even of immediate importance.

The main difference between the pre-Internet publishing world and the current expansion of publishing opportunities via the Internet is access. For less than the price of a color television set, one can purchase the primary tool of Internet access. And, although US West and other telephone companies that service rural areas around the world may be having difficulty providing adequate phone lines to some people, the number of people who may even accidentally be exposed to haiku in one form or another has increased exponentially, right along with the Internet itself.

That's Haiku?

One question that naturally arises, then, is what kind of haiku are such people--haiku "newbies", shall we say?--being exposed to? During the days when the Internet itself was news, in the middle years of the decade just ending, we heard a great deal about "Spam-ku", "Scifai-ku", "Haiku Headlines", "Computer Error Messages in Haiku" and other aberrant varieties.

As recently as six months ago, when Penny and I were in the throes of entering the Internet world ourselves, I received from a family member to whom our kind of haiku is as mysterious as the inner workings of an electronic ignition system, a forwarded copy of that now infamous e-mail message that begins something along the lines of "The Sony Corporation has announced a new line of computers, which will deliver error messages in the form of the Japanese verses known as 'haiku'."

Somehow, this was new to her though she'd been on the Internet herself for three or four years. She thought I should know about it--a message I'd first encountered from the fellow who sold me my first computer in 1983!

How pervasive are such haiku-manqué, such "zappai" as Lee Gurga has called them, and how challenging to those of us who in some sense adhere to an "orthodox" view of haiku, however conservative or liberal our own approach may be?

Do they constitute a threat to "real" haiku? Will they weaken our haiku and somehow overwhelm it in an all-pervasive saturation of the Internet and the other media, so that the very word "haiku" comes to mean nothing more than an inane 5-7-5 on the latest White House sex scandal? I don't think so.

To examine this challenge, I went to some of the search engines and directories available on the Internet, and searched for the word "haiku" two ways. First, I tried to construct a search so that at least the most offensive zappai would be excluded. I searched on "plus-haiku minus-spam minus-headlines", the particular syntax varying according to the search engine in use.

This series of searches was conducted on 12 April 2000, and employed Northern Light, Yahoo, Google, Alta Vista, and the Open Directory. The results not only bore out my impression, but they told me some significant things about the tools I was using.

First, however, I should acknowledge that I use Northern Light all the time, and so am more proficient at searching with it than with the others. Second, I am an editor of the "Haiku and Related Forms" category in the Open Directory, so I have substantial and direct influence on what turns up in such a search there. With these caveats in mind, here are the results of my searches:

. .

From these limited data, we may make a few generalizations.

First, it appears that a sophisticated search engine, such as Google or Northern Light, produces higher numbers of valid hits. This is not surprising, but when we see that only 25 to 40% of the hits on Yahoo, and only 40% of the hits on zappai or pseudo-haiku in Alta Vista were valid, we might become convinced that it is essential to use the best tools available to obtain even moderately useful results.

Unfortunately, not everyone using the Internet is ready to leap out of the obvious route to their hoped-for results.

Three years ago, when I first began searching for "haiku" on the Internet, I too used Yahoo, and found thousands of "hits". But then I was not aware that the trick of a "Web site search" would greatly reduce the numbers involved, nor was I terribly conscious of the time wasted in pursuing dead links--I had the good fortune to be working with T-1 high-speed Internet access on an ISP's server.

Now, with a more common dial-up connection, I am a little more jealous of my time wasted clicking on dead ends.

The mess found on an Alta Vista search for "spam haiku" and the like was particularly disturbing. Only 40% of the first ten links provided were valid, that is, referred me to unique, active, Web pages that had the desired content.

Yet, Alta Vista told me there were 324,000 such pages! Even when I took only 40% of that figure, or 130,000, they told me that almost two-thirds of the Web pages concerning "haiku" of any type were basically spam. However, when I looked at the "last updated" date on each link, I discovered that very few of the top ten hits had been updated in the last two years. This is hardly the case for "real" haiku pages, even on Alta Vista.

Among the other search engines and directories, "spam haiku" and the like accounted for only one-tenth of one percent up to nine percent of the total haiku hits, averaging 4%. And again, most of these zappai sites had not been updated in the past two years.

Google, supposedly a hot, new search engine, yielded only a little more than one-tenth of one percent zappai among its haiku listings. The most persistent of these kinds of sites, "haiku headlines" sites on which anyone can post a 5-7-5 "haiku" encapsulating a current news story, are just about all that is left of this kind of activity aside from old archives of jokes from three to five years ago.

Thus, on the Internet, spamku has come and gone. Sure, the curious still drop by the archived Web pages for a chuckle. And there's even a book about spam haiku recently published, which has been reviewed in a number of newspapers. But like many things in the cyber world, last month's news is this month's archive, and soon forgotten by the mainstream. Like an Elvis museum, these archives may draw hundreds of visitors, but most people don't bother more than once, and the archives don't reflect the current scene.


Anonymous said...

Senryu As a Dirty Word
Jane Reichhold, 21 Mar 1996


>My definition
>Regards, Francine
> What is a senryu?
> A Japanese poem structurally similar to haiku, but primarily concerned with human nature. It is usually humorous or satiric. The term is also used for foreign adaptations of the senryu.

Sorry Francine, I cannot let this defination pass without a comment.
In the light of the fact that a great many English and Japanese contempory haiku are written about or from the viewpoint of humans, one can not separate haiku and senryu by saying those poems written with reference to
humanity are senryu and the pure nature-nature poems are haiku. The present concept is that humans are as much a part of nature as trees and cats.

To make an artificial division is to invite unproductive argument.
To categorize a poem with humor or satire as senryu would deny the
historical use of gentle humor and pun fun-poking from which haiku (hai = funny, strange, crippled; ku = verse) was named.

As far as "foreign adaptions" of senryu go, 99% of those persons
using the term have no clear of its source and usage in the culture in which it originated.

For that reason, I am posting below an article that my interest
others besides Lael who asked the question.
Senryu As a Dirty Word
Jane Reichhold

There can never be a clear differentiation between haiku and senryu because at this stage of development of the genre there is none. You can take an apple, cut it in half, call the side with the worm hole senryu and the perfect half haiku but it is still an apple.

Many persons argue that verses having humor or satire should be called senryu instead of haiku, but the hai of haiku means in Japanese "humorous,joke or funny."

In spite of the efforts to make haiku profound (which it certainly can be), the hai still means not only joke or funny, but also "crippled" referring to the use of sentence fragmentation. This factor has been so hidden from us who do not speak Japanese that we think haijin (a writer of haiku) is a term of honor when in reality haijin can mean to a Japanese "a crippled person."

Three hundred years ago when Basho and Onitsure first began separating off the hokku from the rest of renga they were careful to retain the characteristics of the beginning verse to a renga and eager to drop the hai from the complete name of haikai no renga.

What later came to be called senryu, did not evolve out of hokku nor the poetry scene. Currently senryu is not listed in Japanese textbooks on literature as a poetry form with haiku, renga, and tanka--and for a very
good reason.

Then as now, Japanese men gathered in tea or sake houses for their
exclusively male orientated activities. In Yoshiwara, the red light area of Edo (Tokyo), in the early 1700's began the custom of the maekuzuke (a contest to write a tan renga--two links of 5-7-5 and 7-7 written between two persons) as one of the entertainments amidst drinking and carousing. A local poet would be paid to write a two-line or three-line poem to which the bar patrons would add or cap with their own best verse to compete for fame and
Due to the atmosphere and the mental condition of the men at the
time, these links were witty, satirical (usually degrading women), and explicitly erotic. Senryu is a verse so lewd it is only signed, if at all, with a nom de plume.

Karai Hachiemon, whose pen-name Senryu meant "River Willow", (river willows also referred to prostitutes as we would say in English "soiled doves") collected these lascivious winning verses and began to circulate them as well as writing and teaching the tricks to others. We can think of him as Edward Lear with chopsticks. In 1765 the first collection was published as
Haifu Yanagidaru and over the next one hundred years 160 further editions were published. Being published did not mean the verses were great or even good; the opinion is that they degenerated rapidly into the unprintable.

That we English readers have a mild -- and therefore false -- impression of senryu, we can thank R.H. Blyth who was such a gentleman and well-known sexual prude that the senryu he translated were either the cleanest possible ones or those with double meanings in which he avoids revealing the seamier version in his translation.

Even these, now called Ko-Senryu [Old Senryu], are an embarrassment to the Japanese and they have made efforts, mainly with a conference in Olympia, Washington, in 1985, and the book, Modern Senryu in English by Shuho Ohno, to create a sanitized version of senryu for English readers.

With a new name, Gendai Senryu, contemporary senryu has most of the same rules which are widely accepted for haiku. Mr. Ohno actually states on page 18 of Modern Senryu in English:
"There is no distinct boundary [for haiku and senryu] in recent developments as far as the subject matters are concerned." The fact is that the only difference is in the use of a Japanese term of punctuation <197> somewhat like "wow" <197> which no other language has or uses.

When, at the turn of the century, Shiki gave us the new name haiku for hokku, the changes which had occurred in what was being written and collected as hokku had been enlarged so that ANY link of a haikai no renga could rightfully be called a haiku if it had the required syllable count.

The name haiku instead of hokku implies the form's combined aspects of haikai and hokku. Even for Westerners this is still so. Whether links concentrate on nature or human affairs, both have their place in a renga and
therefore, since Shiki, their right to be named haiku. I have not seen any senryu published that could not be used as a link in someone's renga.

Again, R.H. Blyth is responsible for this false splitting of haiku into two divisions. For haiku, accepted by Japanese literary history as haiku, which
Blyth did not like or understand, he constantly exploits the term senryu to degrade them. Adopting Blyth's attitude, certain experts and editors have set themselves up as judges to determine what is "real haiku" and referring,
as he did, to all else as senryu.

I strongly believe if a writer calls his/her work haiku, it IS haiku. If someone else does not like it, or it does not fit their standards, this does not give anyone the right to call it by the depreciatory name of erotic doggerel.

In any case, the term senryu should be discontinued because that is not what we are writing. Personally I have never read anything yet in English as
degrading as a real senryu. None of us would accept or publish such work.

Why should we remind ourselves of this questionable practice by the Japanese by using the term? They don't.

As Yagi Kametaro wrote in his article on senryu published in 1976, he explains the Japanese attitude as, "senryu has been regarded as inferior and has been neglected by devotees of haiku." He continues with "... haikuists
seldom write senryu and Japanese magazines almost never provide a section for senryu."

The reason he gives is, "During the Edo Period only our popular
literature treated carnal love. Such affairs were popular subjects for senryu and novels, but that kind of writing was full of vulgar expressions and was supposedly frowned on by "refined" people."

The situation can also be compared to one in English. If you wrote a light verse which had a pun or wit or even a sensual reference in it, wouldn't you be insulted if someone else called it a limerick and published it as that?

If you wanted to write a limerick and if it was REALLY a "good" (meaning very witty and perverse) I doubt you would want to sign it with your real name. It is still the custom in Japan not to sign senryu; with this thinking it is easier to understand why.

I am making the radical suggestion that we as haiku writers and publishers stop using the expression senryu, that writers no longer be put forced to give some of their work a terminology that has no relevancy. This means that
contest sponsors stop setting up two categories for the one form of haiku and the frog-hair splitting over which is which.

If you are a writer, you can object to having your haiku labelled as senryu,
you can boycott senryu contests or the parts of contests requiring this mistaken label. You also have a right to request that editors not publish your material under this inaccurate terminology.

As a judge of contests you can refuse to cooperate with those who continue this practice.
It's up to you. You write the lines. You should know what to name them, and how to care for them.


Blyth, Robert H. Senryu: Japanese Satirical Verses. Tokyo: Hokuseido Press, 1949.
Kametaro, Yagi. Haiku - Messages from Matsuyama. Edited by Oliver Statler.
Rochester, MI: Katydid Books, 1991.
Ohno, Shuho. Modern Senryu in English. Seattle, WA: Hokubei International, 1988.
Shiki, Masaoka. Masaoka Shiki. Translated by Janine Beichman. Tokyo:Kodansha International, 1986.

This article was first published in Haiku Canada Newsletter , in the winter 1991 issue.
Translated into German it was published in Vierteljahresschrift in spring,1991.
In autumn, 1991, the article was reprinted in Lynx in U.S.A.
The article, slightly revised, appeared in England in spring, 1992, in New Hope International's Special Haiku Issue.
It has been accepted for publication in summer, 1992, in the Romanian Haiku Society's journal of haiku.

Anonymous said...

- Reflections on Haikai –
Susumu Takiguchi, WHR 2008


What is most important is that all through the history of HAIKAI-NO-RENGA developed by the people named above and by many other poets under different schools of thought, never once were forgotten the main characteristics of HAIKAI-NO-RENGA, especially and most crucially its sense of humour. So, it is quite beyond one’s comprehension that the American-led haiku trend, which has been the dominant or even only force in the world haiku community outside Japan, largely omitted the sense of humour from haiku until very recently when some revision has begun to be detected.

Even more puzzling is the fact that the sense of humour has been removed even from senryu whereas it is the very essence of it. No cogent explanation has been given about these very peculiar phenomena. This is because there isn,t one.

Initial exploration of HAIKU by non-Japanese was like gunmo taizo wo naderu (a lot of blind men feeling a great elephant) whereby one says that the elephant is a tree trunk and another says that it is a giant fan, and so on.

The loud voices saying that HAIKU was Zen, or HAIKU was not poetry, or HAIKU was Here and Now, or HAIKU was the product of the HAIKU moment, or HAIKU was nature poetry, or HAIKU was a verse in present tense, or HAIKU was devoid of ego, or HAIKU was an extremely serious and sacred business, or HAIKU reached some mysterious and profound truths captured in a few words, or HAIKU was not anthropomorphism, or such ridiculous assertion that HAIKU is not poetry, and all other hundreds of things rang out across the world and muffled any other voices saying things quite to the contrary.

The blind were leading the blind.
It is little wonder that all kinds of misconceptions, misinterpretations or sheer mistakes have been accumulated over many years, unchecked and unchallenged. It has transpired that it was in fact very tricky and even dangerous indeed that they should start with HAIKU in the modern form without first studying HAIKAI.

It is like an artist plunging into an attempt at creating sophisticated paintings without first learning how to draw.

Read all here :

anonymous said...

Also, Hiroaki Sato, in his recent book, Japanese Women Poets, wrote the following:

“The distinction between haiku and senryu has been tenuous at best from early on, and in recent years the blurring of the differences has become such that Onishi Yasuyo has said, ‘If someone asks me how senryu differ from haiku, I tell the inquirer that the only distinction that can be made is by author’s name’—that is, if the author is known to write haiku, the pieces he or she writes are haiku; if the author is known to write senryu, the pieces she or he write are senryu.

more is here

anonmyous said...

I’ve always liked the distinction between haiku and senryu as: haiku are poems that remain open, and unresolved in some way. Senryu often close like a joke, once you get it, repeated tellings don’t add anything new.
Paul Miller

anonymous said...

Chris White

I think something that I find distinguishes haiku from senryu is along the lines of a metaphysical communication versus a sociological communication. Haiku tend to express something metaphysical, whereas senryu push forward something more sociological.
Of course, there is crossover between the two in which case it is for us to decide whether it responds more to the haiku tradition (metaphysical communication?) or the senryu tradition (sociological communication?) or perhaps responds equally to both in which case it seems perfectly reasonable to say that a poem is categorized as both.


anonymous said...

David Coomler in an ongoing discussion (THF)

Scott writes:

“It seems that because our definition of Nature is expanding to include us (humans) and our inventions—that human nature is indeed part of Nature and vice versa and not separate or divided from it—our definitions of haiku and senryu, and what they can be (and what they are capable of doing), must expand as well. The lines become blurred, as they should. Isn’t this a good thing, and a natural trajectory for haiku and senryu as they become more global?”

The more things change, the more they stay the same. This redefinition of Nature and separation of haiku from the seasons was a very sore point between Harold Henderson and William J. Higginson in the founding of the Haiku Society of America in the late 1960s. Henderson — a traditionalist — said with some irritation that contrary to to Higginson’s notions, if one is going to remove what is characteristic of haiku (and to Henderson, “haiku” meant really hokku and the traditional haiku of Shiki, etc.), then one should no longer call the result haiku.

ongoing discussion here


Anonymous said...

Ichiro Fukumoto (1943 – ), who specializes in haiku and literature, explains the difference between senryu and haiku, both of which are usually written in five-seven-five syllables.
He denies the common belief that senryu doesn’t use season words whereas haiku does, and that senryu sets the theme on human beings whereas haiku focuses on nature. According to Fukumoto, such a simplistic interpretation became invalid ever since muki-haiku, seasonless poems, appeared. Fukumoto’s assertion is that the real difference is that senryu doesn’t have KIRE, whereas haiku does.

quote from “Technique used in Modern Japanese Haiku: Vocabulary and Structure”
by Ban’ya Natsuishi

anonymous said...

Keiji Minato
The Haiku Foundation

Definitions of senryu and haiku, and their distinction, are real conundrums for Japanese senryu and haiku writers too. As Mr. Metz quoted above, some say they are only distinguishable according to who wrote them: if the writer says he is a haiku writer, then his ku are haiku, and if he/she says he/she writes senryu, then their ku are senryu . This opinion is a bit extreme, but they have a point. Many ku today can be categorized either as haiku or senryu. As genres, though, most think there are differences in feelings (and maybe structures).

In my opinion, you have to refer to the history of both genres to get a little clearer perspective. Haiku and senyu were both born from renku (renga). As many of you already know, a haiku is originally called a hokku, the first ku of a renga. Basho and Issa wrote their famous ku as a hokku, and in the late 19th century modern master Shiki cut hokku from renga and started to call them haiku. Elements that are distinct in haiku are rooted in hokku.

Senryu, on the other hand, has its roots in hiraku, or ku that are not a hokku in a renga. The genre began as a practice for novice renku writers to learn how they put their ku to the previous ku in a renga. The method of practice became the genre called “maeku-dsuke,” independent from renga. KARAI Senryu was the most popular master in “maeku-dsuke,” and, in the late 19th century, the master’s name was picked as the name of the genre. Well, that’s a brief history of haiku and senryu before the late 19th century.

Haiku and senryu writers in the late 19th and early 20th century tried to revitalize their genres that were so formularized and dull. Shiki re-read classics and emphasized descriptive elements in haikai. He also cut haiku from the renku tradition, eliminating much of the communal elements in haikai. Senryu writers also re-read their classic “maeku-dzuke” and other neighboring genres and at the same time attempted to “modernize” the genre. Some tried to make them more “poetic,” and others wrote their ku as self-expressions.

Such new approaches to their genres gave birth to many ku that could not fit to the traditional views of them, that are still popular in today’s Japan (Most Japanese feel difficulties accepting Mr. Koike’s ku as senryu). Senryu is often thought of as a genre that has three elements: 1. ugachi (surprising but persuasive grasp of reality), 2. kokkei (comicality), and 3. karumi (lightness). However, among serious senryu writers, they are not necessary conditions. Actually, the three elements were theoretically abstracted from classic maeku-dzuke by scholars in the 20th century, and are pretty much modern constructions.

Recently, it is getting clearer that modern senryu has roots not only in maeku-dzuke but in a much broader genre of haikai. For example, many senryu writers today write 7-7, not only 5-7-5. The 7-7 form derives from Haikai Mutamagawa, a book that collected good hiraku in renku. 7-7 senryu (sometimes called juuyoji-shi) have very different feelings from 5-7-5 senryu. In addition, modern senryu, as a living literary tradition, has incorporated literary elements from overseas to have many types: biographical, surrealistic, satirical, socially critical, etc. In the process part of the senryu genre has been overlapped with that of haiku, which has also come far-away from the traditional hokku or haikai.



anonymous said...

The Distinct Brilliance of Zappai:

and the Need to Reconsider its HSA Definition

by Richard Gilbert and Shinjuku Rollingstone

This article argues for the removal of the term zappai from the recently published Haiku Society of America (HSA) definitions of both haiku and senryû. Zappai in the HSA definition is equated with "pseudohaiku" and "doggerel verse."

Statements are also made inferring that zappai are without literary value, and it is implied that zappai are not worth memorializing as literature. The HSA valuation of zappai states:

Many so-called "haiku" in English are really senryû. Others, such as "Spam-ku" and "headline haiku", seem like recent additions to an old Japanese category, zappai, miscellaneous amusements in doggerel verse (usually written in 5-7-5) with little or no literary value. Some call the products of these recent fads "pseudohaiku" to make clear that they are not haiku at all. [1]

As the HSA mentions in its "preliminary notes" to the definitions: "we hope the results of our efforts are faithful to the spirit of these words' Japanese origins . . . ;" if there is veracity to this statement, the HSA needs to reconsider its definition and completely disassociate the term zappai from the connotations given in their present definition. Zappai is an important literary term, pre-existing in Japanese literature and culture that has been introduced as an English-language term in order apparently to lend credence to what is an English-language literary issue.

Since there has been scant public mention of zappai, or substantive discussion relating to potential problems of its use in English [2], it is unclear how this term has suddenly found its way into two important English-language haiku-genre definitions. A closer look at the literature of zappai as it exists in Japanese literary history and contemporary literary culture seems warranted.



Anonymous said...

"What Transcends Haiku Masterpieces" [syūku wo koeru mono] from his book Is Japan a Haiku Country? (Nihon ha haiku no kuni ka, Kadokawa Shoten, 1996), Katō Ikuya [4] has composed the following paragraph, with reference to another expert, Katsutada Suzuki: [5]

Zappai means:
other haikai schools with a wide variety of uncategorized styles; it does not mean pseudo-haikai [un- or non-formal haikai]. Suzuki Katsutada defined zappai this way: "Zappai can be defined as haikai in which human feelings are composed in hiraku form, which cannot be incorporated into existing haikai." It is quite displeasing that zappai has been looked down upon in relation to ordinary haikai, and mixed up with maekudzuke (in haikai-renga: completing a 7-7 verse with a 5-7-5 verse), senryû, or kokkeiku (a humorous stanza, usually 5-7-5 or 7-7 verse).


Anonymous said...

Briefly then, here are five reasons for the removal of the term "zappai" from the HSA definitions:
. . .

4) Cultural insensitivity.
Zappai is a variety of haikai, and not "lesser." Some critics find the "serious" variety of zappai to have greater literary merit than senryû; that is, zappai are not merely 'miscellaneous amusements in doggerel verse.' Mainly though, Japanese regional-language poets who are aware of the English-language idea of zappai have become offended at the implied slight to their local poetic traditions and culture.


anonymous said...

To Laugh Or To Cry

Janice M. Bostock, Australia

We have a television commercial in Australia, at the moment, which goes something like this. A woman is looking at half a glass of milk. She says: 'I like to believe the glass is half full.' As opposed, of course, to it being half empty. This, I believe, is the best philosophy for any artist, whether we are talking about haiku or other forms of creative expression. We should try to accept life with a positive and cheerful approach.

Through humour in any creative expression we can see the positive side of human nature. Humour is a way of coping with the day to day problems of the human condition, and when done with dignity, and care for others, it can actually lift our spirits. The fact that we find humour at any time in our condition, and give it as a gift to others (through haiku), helps us to rationalise the problems and perhaps even begin to solve them—if only by the recognition of them.

If we think of two of the world's recognisable nations which seem to have been unjustly treated, we may also wonder at their great strength and resilience, through, I believe, a sense of humour. I think of Ireland and Japan!

The first Japanese gentleman that I had the priviledge to meet immediately asked me how I had become interested in haiku (knowing that I was an Australian). I answered that I had no idea, because on both sides of my family my ancestors were of Irish descent. He laughed, brought his index fingers tightly together and said: 'Ah! The Irish and the Japanese are like that!' Meaning very close. I believe their humour is similar!

continue here

anonymous said...

Misunderstood Japanese Literary Terms

Chen-ou Liu

Few weeks ago, I received a copy of
What Happens in Haibun: A Critical Study of an Innovative Literary Form, written by David Cobb, . . .

that David Cobb placed a special emphasis on the functional role of a glossary of literary terms: a touchstone for important aesthetic concepts and ideals.

However, of his 21 Japanese literary terms, five are seriously misunderstood.

The generic name for any confection of prose with embedded haiku. Includes, at least in the West, essays and “[haibun] stories,” which may be either anecdotal and imaginary, or a blend of both fact and fiction (See also kikobun, nikki) (p. 83) 1


Often translated as “lightness,” but not in the sense we use “light” in “light verse.” Rather it seeks the ability to deal with “weighty” subjects with philosophical detachment; not be “weighed down” by them. Treating good fortune and disaster the same (p. 84)


a kind of haibun which we might call a diary or an essay (p. 85)


A Japanese verse of the same length as a haiku, but without the requirement of a “season word” or a cutting word (kireji); making pointed comments on some aspect of human behaviour, and generally regarded by the Japanese as vulgar or at least inferior to haiku (pp. 85-6)


1 A joky Japanese verse superficially resembling haiku, but intended to display wit or sentiment, possibly meant as an adage or aphorism.

2 A similar verse in a Western language and shunned by the “informed” haiku poet. Also known as “spam haiku,” though writers of these are usually sticklers for 5-7-5 (p. 86)

read Che-Ou about this here


Gabi Greve - Edopedia said...

Introducing senryu from the Edo period