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Book of the Week: Senryu – Japanese Satirical Verses

This book, by R.H. Blyth, discusses the nature of senryu by comparing and contrasting senryu with haiku. A senryu is the “expression of a moment of psychological insight into the life of human beings; nature is either absent or a mere background,” whereas a haiku is the “expression of a moment of vision into the nature of the world, the world of nature.” Some of the chapters are:  Haiku and Senryu; Origins and Technique of Senryu; and Senryu. Below are examples of senryu from the book and Blyth’s comments about them:

Having a child,
He learns the names
Of dogs round about.

Before the child was born, he took little notice of the dogs living nearby, but now that he has a child, the father carries him about and tells him the names of the dogs that he sees. His world is enlarged for him by the child.

At the story,
Weeping tearfully,
And eating cakes

— Torao

This is like Homer. Ulysses and a few of his companions escaped being eaten alive by the monster, and after they had wept bitterly, ate heartily, and slept soundly. It is the truth, not the half, romantic truth, but the whole truth of the life of man.

One traveller,
Wakes another traveller,
At the sight of the sea.

— Choshi

We have here a clear example of the difference between haiku and senryu. The sight of the sea in the early morning makes someone wake up a fellow traveller. But what remains in our minds is not the sea glittering in the morning sunshine, but the shaking and awakening of the traveller by someone who hardly knows him from Adam. We feel the kinship of the men through that one touch of nature.

You can read the entire book in the THF Digital Library.

Do you have a chapbook published in 2015 or earlier that you would like featured as a Book of the Week? Contact us for details. Haiku featured in the Book of the Week Archive are selected by THF Digital Librarian Dan Campbell and are used with permission.

This Post Has 2 Comments

  1. With apologies to Momotarô:
    .
    at the scanner
    the fingertips too
    are thinking
    .
    This is such a fragile book I appreciate being able to pore over it online.
    Thank you Dan for the overview and to the person who did the scanning.

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