You can write insightful, short poems, whether or not you think you can. You have to train yourself to think short if you want to write senryu, for example. Senryu originated in Japan in the eighteenth century, and is written in many languages now. (Senryu is typically pronounced sen-ree-YOO by Americans, and the word is both singular and plural.)
Senryu is becoming a fad in the U.S. It is often read to audiences in cafes that are delighted to hear it.
Consider this senryu, taken from my new book, Haiku and Senryu: A Simple Guide for All:
leaving the bank
with six figures
on the odometer
Does it make you chuckle? Senryu involves our everyday activities. It is a slice of life. It is witty.
During April, National Poetry Month, I was busy giving haiku and senryu workshops. Senryu is the sister or cousin of haiku with the same style, but the focus is on human nature, and senryu are often humorous. With haiku, the focus is on nature or the seasons.
May is another busy month for me with haiku and senryu workshops in the Midwest. Today, I gave a presentation to the Haiku Society of America on senryu, as I am Midwest Regional Coordinator of the Society.
What is senryu all about? Consider these elements which are just a few that make it effective:
1) Senryu, like haiku, are about 17 or 18 syllables long, in usually three lines.
2) Senryu are written in the present tense because they capture the moment.
3) Senryu often contains wordplay, irony, satire, hyperbole, paradox or other literary devices.
4) Senryu are playful, never insulting or offensive.
5) Senryu involve observation, self-reflection, and even self-deprecation on the part of the poet.
6) Senryu show, but don’t tell the reader. They evoke an emotion in the reader.
7) The last line of the senryu has a turn of phrase or surprise.
Above all, senryu aren’t a comment about something. The senryu poet observes something and writes about it in simple language, but in a literary way.
Sometimes online, people who know little about senryu, post tasteless jokes that they think are senryu. However, senryu has a skill and sophistication to it in its simplicity. Often, senryu deal with frustrations in relationships between people, or frustrating or embarrassing situations that we find ourselves in. A good senryu allows us to relate to the experience that the poet is writing about.
One thing is for sure, the more senryu and haiku you read, the more they grow on you, and you feel compelled to write down your thoughts turning them into short, poetic form.
In a short blog, I can’t cover all the facets of senryu. You can start reading senryu by logging onto Prune Juice, http://www.prunejuice.wordpress.com to read good senryu, and you can refer to my how-to book that has hundreds of examples of haiku and senryu with analysis about them. It is a comprehensive guide.