Senryu is a Japanese syllabic verse that deals primarily with human nature and is often expressed through humor. It developed in the 18th century and is named after Karai Senryu who was a judge of comic verse contests. They were originally poems of the merchant class and often made fun of corrupt officials and professionals.

The official’s child—
How well he learns to open
and close his fist!
———- —anonymous

The focus of the modern Senryu can be just about anything as long as it has a human or humorous slant. Senryus are lively, often humorous and sometimes even vulgar.
The main characteristics of the Senryu are energy or liveliness in the focus and choice of words, humor as revealed in human nature and use of subjects such as relationships, family, professions, children and pets. It is written in the same frame as the haiku, 17 syllables or less, 2 units of imagary and 1 unit of enlightenment.

So if you are wondering if a 3 line, 17 syllable poem is Haiku or Senryu, you can pretty much place the serious poem in the Haiku column and the more human, humorous poems as the Senryu. (but there are humorous Haiku and serious Senryu, go figure..)

The Senryu is:
• a poem in 3 lines or less.
• syllabic, 17 syllables or less.
• commonly written in 3 lines but can be written in 2 lines and can be written with fewer syllables, never more.
○ L1 5 syllables describes image.
○ L2 7 syllables, adds conflicting image or expands first image
○ L3 5 syllables provides insight (the ah ha! moment)through a juxtaposed image.
• written as a natural human experience in language that is simple, humorous, sometimes bawdy or vulgar.
• presented with an energy or liveliness in the focus and choice of words
• often humorous
• written in the moment.
• an imagist poem (draws the humor from the image)
• untitled but can be #ed.

Some of my own senryu: —Judi Van Gorder

small child ignores call,
parent warns and begins count,
“Daddy, don’t say fwee.”

some roads meander
others flat out ask for speed
don’t forget your map

fire ignites within
flame mushrooms to the surface
autumn days

pelican’s head bobs
beak bulging with trigger fish,
shore’s stand-up comic

Pasted from Poetry Magnum Opus, with thanks to Judi Van Gorder for years of work on this fine PMO resource

My Example

Form: Senryu

dumpster diver digs
begs for change upon the street
lives a tax-free life

(c) Lawrencealot

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