Senryu vs. Haiku

Dear Readers and Loyal Followers:

If you’ve been following this blog for a long time, you can see that haiku and senryu often overlap. Some of you write to me, from time to time, wanting to know why I didn’t label a  particular poem as senryu. Often, when different readers can make a case for it being either a haiku or a senryu, I don’t bother to label it as a senryu.

As I explain in my book, Haiku and Senryu: A Simple Guide for All, if the focus of the poem is on human nature, rather than on the natural world, then you can consider it a senryu. Senryu are often humorous, as they can involve human weaknesses. A senryu can have natural world images, but again, if human nature is its basic theme, then consider it a senryu.

It’s really a matter of what the particular reader sees it as, taking into consideration its layers of meaning. Sometimes, it’s fun to know what the poet considers it to be.

Feel free to comment and let us know whether you prefer writing haiku or senryu, and tell us why. If I get enough responses, I will devote a post to this topic, compiling your comments.  Some of you, I know, have no preference, but actively write both, depending on your inspiration at a particular time.

Best Wishes,


Copyright 2016 by Charlotte Digregorio.




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. I recently received an Official Commendation from Illinois Governor Bruce Rauner 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 five non-fiction books: 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; and Your Original Personal Ad. 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." 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 a Pushcart Prize in poetry. I have won forty-seven poetry awards, writing twelve 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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16 Responses to Senryu vs. Haiku

  1. daveboyer says:

    Personally, I think the senryu designation is unnecessary. After all, it’s all nature, human or otherwise.

  2. I often have problems distinguishing between the two, Charlotte (as I did here on your blog last week) I am sometimes concerned that I will label a poem incorrectly and look foolish: you have now given me a licence stop worrying about this! 🙂

    I enjoy writing both forms but find haiku slightly easier as I feel a senryu has to contain an element of wit, irony or dark humour, and this can often take some work to get right. Although I’m sure it’s like everything else, the more you read and practise, the easier it becomes.


  3. Paul Beech says:

    In responding to nature through haiku, we surely reveal something of ourselves as individual human beings. In rendering quirks of human nature through senryu, the natural world surely provides a backdrop, even if unstated.

    At their poles, haiku and senryu may be different genres but I believe there‘s a point where they mix and merge and I tend to label borderline pieces as haiku for convenience.

    I enjoy writing both but tend towards the borderline.


  4. haikutec says:

    Here’s a take on senryu that I developed when asked for some blurb for this senryu anthology: Pieces of Her Mind: Women Find Their Voice in Centuries-Old Forms
    Omega Publications (2012) ISBN-10: 0985035064 ISBN-13: 978-0985035068

    I’ve expanded it to:

    Senryu are short aftertastes like amuse-gueule, or small arms visual gunfire, and potent as longer satirical poems. The examples in this book create shredded shooting gallery targets within the bull’s-eye area, and will help re-invigorate senryu and give a boost to the confidence of new and established writers alike.

    Its bittersweet, ironic, poignant, truthful, painfully revealing verses will delight the taste buds of readers as I tend to think honesty has a higher register in senryu, if done well. Even if we don’t want to see the honesty of senryu verse, it’s there as checks and balances in our own lives: It feeds a need of a different place than haiku can accomplish.

    In Pre-Islamic poetry there were lampoons denigrating other tribes called hijāʾ (satire of enemies). This genre of Arabic satirical poetry was introduced by the Afro-Arab author al-Jahiz in the 9th century where he introduced biting humour in the developing subjects of what came be to be known as the subjects of anthropology, sociology and psychology.

    Well-written senryu verse cover these areas in all its sub-genres enveloping politics in particular, and family life and everything in-between where needs must.

    Note: hijāʾ (satire of enemies)

    R.H. Blyth said one of the properties of senryu should be to expose pretence, and this is where senryu is master or mistress. Politics has been where senryu should stand center, but not in its political views of course:

    political election
    my application to be
    a) human

    Alan Summers
    Publications credits: Haiku News Vol. 2 No. 24: (2013)

    And social issues such as justice/injustice, and debt (false and real):

    zombie debt–
    the practised slice
    of a bread knife

    Alan Summers
    Publications credits:
    Haiku News (Vol. 1 No. 41 2012); Does Fish-God Know (YTBN Press 2012)

    Senryu can be brutally honest when it comes to our busy don’t make our lives even more difficult existences whether an adult now, and homeless, or starting off early:

    sunlit sweat
    the young vagrant
    sucks a thumb

    Alan Summers
    Publications credits: Haiku Harvest vol. 4 no. 1 (2003); The Haiku Foundation’s Per Diem: Daily Haiku December 2012 (31 poems): Children
    Anthology credit: Haiku Harvest: 2000 – 2006 (Modern English Tanka Press 2007)
    Collection credit: Does Fish-God Know (YTBN Press 2012)

    Senryu can also be as soft as a loving parent’s caress, at times, when it comes to our children:

    Father’s Day
    a child circles the tree
    in his own John Deere

    Alan Summers
    Publication Credit: Scope vol 60 no. 4 (May 2014)
    Anthology credit: EarthRise Rolling Haiku Collaboration 2016 Foodcrop Haiku

    heat and sunlight
    a child starts building
    snow castles

    Alan Summers
    Publication Credit: Derafsh-e Mehr Issue#4 Winter & Spring 2014

    Children are certainly an engaging topic for senryu, sometimes highlighting what we as “mature” adults have lost:

    in a polka dot dress
    a child repeats everything
    on the train

    Alan Summers
    Publications credits: Snapshot Two (1998)

    snow flurry
    a child thrusts his anorak
    into it

    Alan Summers
    Publications credits: Simply Haiku vol. 1 no. 3 (2003)

    And the open curiosity of children:

    wind-spun flakes…
    a child’s world escapes
    the snow globe

    Alan Summers
    Award credit: Joint Winner, Tinywords photo prompt:

    And then we have to embrace changes of all kinds:

    fresh start

    all my childhood
in book covers

    Alan Summers
    Publications credits: Asahi Shimbun (Japan 2011)

    Our childhoods are sometimes, or even often, tricky:

    snow on the sun navigating childhoods

    Alan Summers
    Anthology Credit: Yanty’s Butterfly: Haiku Nook Anthology
ed. Jacob Salzer and the Nook Editorial Staff (March 4, 2016) ISBN-10: 1329915410 ISBN-13: 978-1329915411

    sunday lunch
    the chatter of children
    among hard drinkers

    Alan Summers
    Award credit: Editor’s Choice, Haiku Harvest book (and magazine)
    Publications credits: Haiku Harvest  vol. 4 no. 1 (2003)
    Anthology credit: Haiku Harvest: 2000 – 2006 (Modern English Tanka Press 2007)


    ants following invisible trials the children

    Alan Summers
    Publication Credits: Modern Haiku issue 44:3 (2013)

    And it is vital to return to some childlike innocence now and then:

    Milky Way Train
    I bring my inner child
    down to earth

    Alan Summers
    Publication Credit: hedgerow: a journal of small poems (Issue 1, September 2014)

    If we lose too much, we lose what a childhood should be, and what we should and could inherit from it, and what a mother and child go through:

    the bones of fairies
    reside in me

    Alan Summers
    September 2014 issue of Scope (FAWQ) Climbing Mount Fuji Slowly

    school memories

    one tadpole left in
the collection jar

    Alan Summers
    Simply Haiku (September 2003, Volume 1, Number 3)

    We can poke fun at ourselves and our love life and Christmas is a great time for senryu, just think of all the social gatherings, faux pas etc…

    the sticky label
    over the christmas card
    the new boyfriend’s name

    Alan Summers
    Anthology credit: Raku Teapot: Haiku (Raku Teapot Press/White Owl Publishing, California 2003)
    Collection: Does Fish-God Know (YTBN Press 2012)

    christmas moon
    the wine waiter inches
    away from me

    Alan Summers
    Publication Credit: Asahi Shimbun (December 2015 Japan)

    wall hopping magpie
    how can one be for sorrow
    if I am smiling

    Alan Summers

    Valentine’s Day
    my wife reads up
    on Henry VIII

    Alan Summers
    Journal credit: Blithe Spirit vol. 20 no. 3 (2010)
    Anthology credit: The Humours of Haiku ISBN 978-0-9565725-4-7 (Iron Press 2012)

    We can certainly be explicit in many ways with senryu:

    sunnyside up
    the autopsy shows
    a decent breakfast

    Alan Summers
    Publications credits: Prune Juice issue 9 July 15th 2012

    Senryu is coming back into our lives, and we should welcome it for the wake up call that it is, where all too easily a casual thoughtlessness becomes a callous lifestyle choice. Sometimes we need shock treatment in the shape of a highly focused ruthless sense of humour as a poetic blow to the head, for a moment, before we then resume our life: After we’ve been pulled up abruptly for a few seconds of something thought-provoking, it could steer us in the right direction.

    Alan Summers 2012-2016

  5. aloha Charlotte. i saw this post and meant to respond. however my life was such an apples and oranges cart, teetering on the precipice of the street curb—yeah, i didn’t get to it—more like time simply evaporated around me.

    still, i’d like to respond. so here it is. and then i’ll add it in a comment to the response post too.

    when i set out to write, unless the intention is specifically to write one or the other, haiku or senryu, i prefer to allow my writing to simply explore and unfold focused on what ever triggered my desire to write. this may be from inner or outer observation of course. sometimes in that exploration the focus may shift in one direction or another—haiku or senryu.

    i tend to keep most all variations of my writings, even parts as i write, whether it is haiku or senryu, without marking the distinction for each variation. i then select what i prefer as the better version of these writings as needed. occasionally there may be more than one version i like. whether they are senryu or haiku is critical to me only when it’s predetermined that the writing should be one or the other. this might be a stipulated component of a publication or challenge for instance. however i also like to be able to distinguish which the writing is for my own understanding and so apply the basic premise i see as haiku or senryu. this is simply the focus i feel is dominant in the work—the natural world or human nature.

    haiku vs senryu is a curious division, nature or the natural world of the planet vs human nature. yet it’s one that human beings have been making for a long time. i believe it’s all one. however we could make the same distinction between any selected part of nature and label it as different than all the rest. in fact that’s what we do when we label anything. we make a distinction of this one thing from all the other things.

    so i accept that the distinction has been made and in general i observe with that in mind after i’ve written. of course the awareness is often there as i write too. haiku may have a human being in it, and senryu may have elements of nature in it. i go by what i feel is the dominant focus of the work—the natural world or human nature—as to whether it is haiku or senryu when needed.

    i recognize that my call on haiku vs senryu may be disputed. mostly for me i’m willing to allow others to present their case for a work being one or the other. if i’m asked, i may give my thoughts on it as well. what matters to me more in my own writing is whether the writing works, not which it is (unless as i mentioned the distinction is required).

    occasionally i look at my own writings or other writings and make my call on whether i think it is haiku or senryu. this is simply me trying to apply my thinking on haiku and senryu. of course some of my labels might be revised when others are giving their thinking on the same works.

    i don’t yet have a preference for writing haiku or senryu, although i occasionally get on a track writing one or the other. i like writing and reading both. a steady diet of only one might leave me feeling something is missing.

    one of the reasons this response took so long to come to fruition is my engagement in my month of haiga on my blog—September, 30 Days of Haiga (30doh). still i was thinking about it. at one point i became aware that in some cases i use senryu as the written component of my haiga rather than haiku as the written component of the haiga. i wondered about that, particularly when the image might be from the natural world. things like, is senryu okay in haiga.? should haiga with senryu also use an image that is more human based? does haiku in haiga require an image that is focused mainly on the natural world? these question have come up in me, however i have not been particularly concerned on these points—yet. any thoughts?

    thank you for the invitation to think out loud on my keyboard regarding the place of haiku and senryu in my own writing. fun. aloha. rick.

    • Interesting thoughts and questions, Rick! Thanks for commenting. My opinion/answer to your last three questions is “yes” for all three.

      • wow. deeper into the clarity. very cool then and thank you. i’ve worked my way into the prompts that have already appear on my blog. i will have to check those works with this in mind. i may have crossed up the written and the image pairing. if so. . . .letting go and redoing may be time tricky. however moving forward i will keep this more clearly in mind. thank you.

        this is one of the things i like about haiku and related forms—for me there is always more to learn. coming to new understandings almost always alters how i approach work and that usually alters the outcome of my work for the better—when i achieve the goal. very cool. thank you again. aloha.

      • Rick, you might want to try kyoka, too. That is, humorous tanka.

  6. Charlotte. strangely enough i noticed that word “kyoka” only recently. i have not looked into it yet and so had not understood it until your comment here just now.

    wow. that is exciting. my tanka is way underdeveloped. i understand the basics of tanka. and i’ve written what i call tanka. i just have not developed much ability to write it any where near approaching what i feel might be presentable (altho that does not often stop me from presenting it, i just don’t write tanka often—yet). the really good tanka i read intrigues me. so i may have to go after this.

    a few years ago a good friend of mine invited me to participate in an event known as Hourly Comic Day (HCD). she liked the once a year event so much she wanted to do it once a month. so that’s what we (several of us) did. i know it’s not kyoka, however when i read the panels, which are drawn hourly for every hour we are awake over a 24 hour period, i get an interesting sense of my day—at least at that time. there is humor, however it’s often quirky or just a way of looking at a moment in my day. which is what is connecting me up to kyoka in an appealing way.

    we each did HCD in our own way. it was fun altho hectic for that 24 hours. the days are still up on the “burping babies” blogspot blog. if you are (or anyone is) curious, here is one of my days from near the end of the first year we did this:

    i posted under the name “Wrick”. i drew in a small sketchbook with pen and ink and used a water brush on the water-soluble permanent ink.

    its interesting for me to watch my approach and development over time to HCD.

    Victoria, my friend, posted under several names. her sense of humor is way fun, altho clearly adult and maybe not for sensitive ears or eyes. the archives are in the right hand column. i may have posted in about half or slightly more of them.

    altho i may do kyoka differently, my attempts at HCD is why the idea of humor instantly appeals to me.

    as a note, sometimes there is a dog in my panels. this dog’s name is “Aka” which is Hawaiian for “shadow”. i mention this because the letters a.k.a. also have another meaning most people connect up with and that can make coming across the dog’s name confusing in the panels.

    the panels are a one time, first time, splat. no refinements or reworkings. and no corrections unless it’s done exactly on the panel presented—because we were doing one of these panels every hour we were awake for 24 hours. at least that was the goal. so they are quite raw. meaning there may be and are many misspellings, wrong words and warped sentences, along with sometimes a dozy mind etc. i find i like that quality in them altho sometimes they are not so easy to read until i get used to it. at least that is the case with many of mine.

    because the group is no longer active on that blog it’s unlikely i’ll see comments there any time soon.

    so now kyoka is on my radar and mind. thank you. fun on. aloha.

  7. Pingback: 2016-019-30doh Thirty Days of Haiga ~ Day 19: Blue Bridge | A 19 Planets Art Blog 2010/2016

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