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New to Haiku: A Talk With Tia Haynes, Editor of Prune Juice Journal

This week, New to Haiku sits down with Tia Haynes, author of leftover ribbon and the new editor of Prune Juice: Journal of English Senryu and Related Forms.

Poet and Editor Tia Haynes

Welcome to New to Haiku, Tia! Thanks for your behind-the-scenes role in getting this feature off the ground. What are you working on these days?

Right now, I’m working on a joint memoir written mainly in senryu, haiku, tanka, and kyoka with poet Jonathan Roman. Jonathan and I met at the Haiku North America conference in 2019. After a wonderful long talk, we discovered there were elements of our past that were very similar. I don’t want to give away any spoilers but it’s a very exciting project that I hope we will be able to have available by the end of the year!

Congratulations on your new role as Editor of Prune Juice Journal! What do you like best about being the editor? What do you like least?

The best part is getting to read so much fabulous senryu! The hardest part is narrowing down which pieces to accept from such a great pool of work. For my first issue, I received 332 submissions with over 3,200 poems to choose from. I selected 115 poets to publish for an acceptance rate of around 35%. I’m very particular in what I want, but I love discovering and showcasing new talent.

What is senryu? How do you decide if what you’ve written is a senryu or a haiku? Can you share examples from your own work?

Senryu is a poetry form similar to haiku. For me, when I look at the two, I see some key differences. With haiku, there is traditionally a kigo – a season word – rooting the poem in a specific time of year (fall, winter, spring, summer) or an event, such as New Year’s. The whole of the poem rests on that imagery and what it evokes. If there is a human element, it is subtle and works in the background of the poem.

a doe
full with fawn —
spring thaw
     Cattails, October 2018

bowl of rain
a stray swallows
the moon
     Poetry Pea Journal, Spring 2020

a discarded umbrella
gathers rain
     5th Annual Golden Haiku Competition, HM

for a way out
this mayfly
    Stardust Haiku, Issue 34

With senryu, there is no need for a kigo, or for a reference to the natural world at all. It is a window into the human experience, focusing on everything from the awkwardness of a first date to the unforgiving reality of a prison yard. The expansiveness of senryu is quite breathtaking.

morning cartoons
I shake out
the last pill
     #FemkuMag, Issue 1

late night bottle
how our rocking
becomes a prayer
     Blithe Spirit, Vol. 28, No. 1

feng shui
I rearrange
my loneliness
     Presence, Issue 68

candlelit shadows
we forget
we are mortal
     Acorn, Issue 44

Many times poems sit in a gray space between haiku and senryu — employing a seasonal reference alongside a strong human element. It can be tricky to decide whether these poems are haiku or senryu. For me, if the natural element is what props up the poem, it is haiku. For senryu, the crux of the poem needs to lean heavily into the human element.

If you are unsure if you have written a haiku or a senryu, send it around to various journals and see how editors respond. Not every journal even makes a distinction between the two. At Prune Juice, I am happy to read anything you believe to be senryu. Here are a few poems of my own that I feel land in this gray space. Which ones do you think are haiku? Which ones would you call senryu?

the child
we didn’t plan —
morning glories
     Akitsu Quarterly, Summer 2019

pull of the tide
I embrace
my limitations
     The Heron’s Nest XXII, No. 3

thoughts of divorce
winter finds the last
of my garden
     Hedgerow #130

sea glass
one day I won’t
     The Heron’s Nest Vol. XXI, No. 4

What are you looking for in Prune Juice submissions? In what new directions do you hope to take senryu?

I believe senryu can be more than witty, humorous jokes, which is often the perception. When I read what poets are writing, I see a growing trend toward senryu that grapple with hard topics as well. There seems to be a collective need to let this genre expand and take on new heights. You’ll notice this at Prune Juice. I am not only publishing senryu that will have you laughing out loud, but senryu that also plunge into the dark waters of police brutality, religious discrimination, violence against women, and much more. My hope is to showcase the breadth of the human experience from all over the globe.

This past issue alone saw poets from 20 different countries. With so much talent in an ever-expanding community, I want Prune Juice to be a place where everyone is welcome. Poetry can be a universal language through which we can share our stories, gain understanding, and find common ground. It is my desire to have senryu be a part of that dialogue and be elevated to a place of esteem.

Where can poets learn more about senryu and find community?

A great resource is Senryu Circle, a collaborative resource and Facebook group to welcome new writers of English Senryu, hosted by the editors of Failed Haiku (another wonderful journal dedicated to senryu), Prune Juice, and Living Senryu Anthology (a growing anthology of published and new senryu by writers from around the world). I hope to see you there!


Poet Tia Haynes poses with her Golden Haiku.

Tia Haynes is a member of the Haiku Society of America and an active member of the Ohaio-Ku Study Group. Along with traditional publication, her haiku have been on public display on the streets of Washington D.C., on the Holden Arboretum Haiku Path in Kirtland, Ohio, and soon-to-be in the Chicago Botanic Garden. She lives in Lakewood, Ohio with her family and cat, Sebastian.

Julie Bloss Kelsey is the current Secretary of The Haiku Foundation. She started writing haiku in 2009, after discovering science fiction haiku (scifaiku). She lives in Maryland with her husband and kids. Julie's first print poetry collection, Grasping the Fading Light: A Journey Through PTSD, won the 2021 Women’s International Haiku Contest from Sable Books. Her ebook of poetry, The Call of Wildflowers, is available for free online through Moth Orchid Press (formerly Title IX Press). Her most recent collection, After Curfew, is available from Cuttlefish Books. Connect with her on Instagram @julieblosskelsey.

This Post Has 15 Comments

  1. It’s good to have Tia Hayes as Prune Juice editor. She worked with kindness and direction with me in her first journal, and I really appreciate it.
    From my newbie perspective, the distinction between haiku and senryu blur together. In fact, I simply consider senryu as a subset of haiku.

    1. Hi John,

      Look out for my senryu special issue of Blo͞o Outlier Journal, probably in 2022, as I have a haibun/kyoka issue, and then a haiku issue this year!

      warm regards,

      1. I’m planning to submit haibun to your Blōō Outlier next month. Haibun is my favorite form at the moment—inspired by positive editors such as Tia and yourself!

    2. John, it was my pleasure to work with you! Often it does feel like the lines can blur. What’s most important is that you enjoy the writing process no matter what comes of it!

  2. O so wonderful! I have to read again to differentiate between the two. And they are so lovely!

    Milan Rajkumar

  3. Thanks for sharing these fantastic insights, Tia. It’s always a delight to read from you. You’ve got a cut-edge eyes for pristine haiku and senryū; and that’s my admiration for you.
    All the best in your endeavour. Cheers.

  4. Tia, much continued success in the all the different areas of haiku and senryu that you are involved with. With a busy life, where do you find the time?


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