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.
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.
full with fawn —
Cattails, October 2018
bowl of rain
a stray swallows
Poetry Pea Journal, Spring 2020
a discarded umbrella
5th Annual Golden Haiku Competition, HM
for a way out
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.
I shake out
the last pill
#FemkuMag, Issue 1
late night bottle
how our rocking
becomes a prayer
Blithe Spirit, Vol. 28, No. 1
Presence, Issue 68
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?
we didn’t plan —
Akitsu Quarterly, Summer 2019
pull of the tide
The Heron’s Nest XXII, No. 3
thoughts of divorce
winter finds the last
of my garden
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!
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.