Senryu: Write Delightful, Short Poems About Human Nature

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, 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.

Copyright 2014 by Charlotte Digregorio.Image

About Charlotte Digregorio

I publish books. I have marketed and/or published 55 titles. These books are sold in 46 countries to bookstores, libraries, universities, professional organizations, government agencies, and book clubs. In 2018, I was honored by the Governor of Illinois for my thirty-eight years of accomplishments in the literary arts, and my work to promote and advance the field by educating adults and students alike. I am the author of seven books including: Haiku and Senryu: A Simple Guide for All; Everything You Need to Know About Nursing Homes; You Can Be A Columnist; Beginners' Guide to Writing & Selling Quality Features; Your Original Personal Ad; and my latest, Ripples of Air: Poems of Healing. The first four books have been adopted as supplemental texts at universities throughout the U.S., Canada, India, Pakistan, and Catalonia. They are sold in 43 countries, and are displayed in major metropolitan cultural centers. These books have been reviewed, recommended, and praised by hundreds of critics, librarians, and professors worldwide. I am also the author of a poetry collection: "Shadows of Seasons: Selected Haiku and Senryu by Charlotte Digregorio." Two of my books have been Featured Selections of Writer's Digest Book Club. I am regularly interviewed by major print, radio, and television organizations throughout the U.S. I regularly sign books at libraries, chain bookstores, and university bookstores, and do poetry readings at art centers, cafes, tea houses, and galleries. I was recently nominated for two Pushcart Prizes in poetry. I have won fifty-nine poetry awards, writing fourteen poetic forms. My poetry has been translated into eight languages. I do illustrated solo poetry exhibits 365 days a year in libraries, galleries, corporate buildings, hospitals, convention centers, and other venues. My individual poems have been displayed at supermarkets, apparel and wine shops, banks, botanic gardens, restaurants, and on public transit. I have been nominated and listed in "The International Authors and Writers Who's Who" in Cambridge, England and in the "Who's Who In Writers, Editors & Poets U.S./Canada." I hosted my own radio program, "Poetry Beat," on public broadcasting. My poetry has been featured on several library web sites including those of Shreve Memorial Library in Louisiana and Cornell University's Mann Library. My background includes positions as a feature editor and columnist at daily newspapers and as a magazine editor. I have been a public relations director for a non-profit organization. I am self-employed as a public relations/marketing consultant, having served a total of 118 clients in 23 states for the past several decades . In other professional areas, I have been on university faculties, teaching French, Italian, and Writing. I regularly give lectures and workshops on publishing, journalism, publicity, poetry, and creativity to business and professional groups, and at writer's conferences, universities, literary festivals, non-profit organizations, and libraries. I have been a writer-in-residence at universities. There have been about 400 articles written about me in the media. I have served on the Boards of writers and publishers organizations. My positions have included Board Secretary of the Northwest Association of Book Publishers. I served for five years as Midwest Regional Coordinator of The Haiku Society of America, and for two years as its Second Vice President.
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4 Responses to Senryu: Write Delightful, Short Poems About Human Nature

  1. Reading over this I think a form of senryu is what I do in my cartoons. I certainly employ 3-7 in image and caption. As opposed to the comic strip or comic novel, the creator of the single frame comic has just one shot to deliver the entire concept of humor using senryu technique as applicable to cartoon humor.

  2. Reblogged this on Haiku Prayers and commented:
    Hope you have a moment to visit Charlotte’s site. I am enjoying her new book. Ellen

    • Oh, Ellen, thank you for reblogging my post, and plugging my book. I wish you’d been able to come to our Haiku Society program yesterday and read your haiku. We had an interesting mix of haiku and senryu readings.
      It was lots of fun! I’m sure everyone would have enjoyed your haiku.

      Best Wishes,


  3. Interesting comparison, Carl! Thanks.

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