Senryu: Definitions & Pronunciation
Provided by Ray Rasmussen

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Definition of senryu: Merriam-Webster Online Dictionary:

sen·ryu : a 3-line unrhymed Japanese poem structurally similar to haiku but treating human nature usually in an ironic or satiric vein.

Definition by Hiroaki Sato, Modern Haiku E-Journal

Unlike the haiku which normally deals with natural or seasonal phenomena, the senryû is expected to deal with matters of human and social nature, often in a playful, satirical, or knowing manner. The haiku carries a seasonal reference; the senryû does not have to. The distinction between the two genres has been tenuous, however, from early on. In recent years the blurring of the differences has become such that Ônishi Yasuyo has said, “If someone asks me how senryû differ from haiku, I tell the inquirer that the only distinction that can be made is by author’s name”—that is, if the author is known to write haiku, the pieces he or she writes are haiku; if the author is known to write senryû, the pieces she or he writes are senryû.

Definition by Jane Reichhold, Aha Poetry

Senryu in Japanese means "River Willow." It is the pen name of the most famous poet who conducted maekuzuki (linking contests) has been given to this genre in his dubious honor. Because haiku and senryu are written much alike, often on the same subjects and usually by the same authors, great controversies have ensued over which is what. For a time, in America, senryu were considered to be faulty haiku. Actually, if one must differentiate, the senryu form is satiric, concerned with poking fun at human behavior as opposed to the profound, sublime world of nature where haiku shine.

Definition by Michael Dylan Welch [from the Atlantic Monthly Word Games Senryu Content]

A good senryu is not merely a knee-slapper, though it can be that. It's not just a showcase for puns or wit, although a good senryu can include cleverness or humour as part of a more resonant purpose. Rather, a senryu is a poem that wakes us up in a small way with its distilled, one-breath moment of heightened awareness focusing on human nature. It's a window into the human condition, freshly squeegeed. Senryu are, ultimately, poems of human self-awareness. They don't have to be funny, but often it is good to laugh at ourselves through senryu.

Definition and Comments by Donald Keene, "World Within Walls: Japanese Literature of the Pre-Modern Era, 1600-1867", Holt, Rinehart, Winston, ©1976, ISBN 0-03-013626-1, p. 527.

"The difference between a comic haikai and a senryû are hard to define, but we might say that in general, haikai poetry deals with nature and senryû with human beings. This choice of subject matter is reflected by the insistence on seasonal words (kigo) in haikai poetry, but not in senryû. Haikai, at its best, tries to capture in seventeen syllables both the eternal and the momentary, but senryû is content with a single sharp observation. The importance of the "cutting words" (kireji) in
haikai stemmed largely from the division they established between the two elements they contained, but a senryû needed no cutting words, since only one element was present. The language of senryû is generally that of the common people, and is sometimes even vulgar, but haikai, despite its occasional daring uses of such words, was essentially restricted to the vocabulary of the man of taste. Parts of speech that were considered inconclusive in a haikai often ended a senryû, as if to signify it was flash of wit rather than a rounded-off poem."

Pronunciation of senryu

'sen-rE-(")ü, Merriam-Webster

SEND-JEW-RUE, Jane Reichhold, Aha Poetry:

More about the pronunciation:

senryu -
difficult to write
harder to pronounce

ray rasmussen

From Debi Bender: Put an 'l' before the 'r', say it really quick, no syllabic accent (monosyllabic, tonal), and I think you'll have something like it : (sin-lree-yu). During WHC events of 2001, Debi made the Japanese in
England laugh when she tried to pronounce it...over and over again. funny!

outside of Japan, also
is getting bigger

D.W. Bender

From gK: I was told that the Japanese pronunciation was something sehn-dr'yoo or sehn-d'yoo.

From Debi Bender: I think gK's got it best to my American ears -- sehn-dr'yoo. I've noticed that the u sounds in haiku and senryu seem shorter than most Westerner's pronounce. Sometimes I've heard "haiku" pronounced almost like "haik" (the "u" still being there, but almost inaudible to me).