Most of us are familiar with the three-line haiku, a breath of nature whispered into the in-between spaces of our existence. Senryu is not that type of poem. It looks you in the eye and winks. It’s known as haiku’s comic cousin. Sometimes it’s more like haiku’s sarcastic cousin.
I first wrote senryu in that elementary school class. In Pegasus, I have one senryu about strawberry shortcake and one about the joys of reading — two things I still enjoy. But my poems were too sincere for a proper senryu.
Line 1: 5 syllables
Line 2: 7 syllables
Line 3: 5 syllables
Here is a senryu that doesn’t follow all the rules but does contain the poem’s trademark humor.
pecking at popcorn mocks
the old guy texting.
– Kimiko Hahn
My senryu “Blinded” from Rainbow Crow rhymes, even though rhymes are not generally a part of this form. But it’s your poem. You can rhyme if you want to.
Foolish trusting boy
Left his glasses out for me
Now I see as he
I tried my hand at writing a story (or two, or three) about the crow who stole my son’s glasses, but they never worked. Then I thought of writing the encounter as a haiku. I soon realized what I had was not the lyrical beauty of a haiku, but the sneer of a senryu.
One aspect of the haiku I kept was the turn, the kireji. This pivot occurs between line 1 and 2 or between line 2 and 3. After I wrote the first two lines, I asked myself, Why would a crow steal glasses? The answer came immediately: Maybe he wanted to see.
Your turn: Write a Senryu
Think of an experience you want to remember. Write it in three lines, following the 5-7-5 formula. Now look at your poem again and see where you might change it to be a little more comic or ironic. If it helps, ask “why” about the beginning of the poem (the way I asked why a crow would steal glasses), to get your answer in the second half.
Browse more children’s poetry
“Megan Willome has captured the essence of crow in this delightful children’s collection. Not only do the poems introduce the reader to the unusual habits and nature of this bird, but also different forms of poetry as well.”
—Michelle Ortega, poet and children’s speech pathologist