Heeding Haiku With HA: Improving Our Haiku # 2

Difference between Haiku and Senryu

And thus, I have trodden on the ground of controversy. Those of you who have been writing haiku since a while must know of the reason behind my hesitation in publishing this post. And those of you who have recently started writing haiku and are enjoying it immensely, I apologize for pulling you through into the realm of confusion.

Let us first “recite” the definitions of haiku and senryu:

Haiku and senryu both are short Japanese poetry forms which are generally intended to be unrhymed and written in three lines in a syllable distribution of 5/7/5 in English.

Now, we will point out the things that we know about haiku:

1. Amalgamated in western culture, the haiku are considered to be serious poems, creating a relation between the human nature and the whole wide nature at large.

2. Haiku is mostly attributed to those short poems which include a kigo or a season word and those which have a Zen-like quality to them.

Senryu is considered to be different from haiku because of certain differences:

1. The term senryu is generally attributed to those poems which attribute to human nature alone and have satirical and humorous elements in them. Social commentary in the form of a short poem can be referred to as senryu.

2. Senryu predominantly do not apply to the nature at large. They do not have kigo or season words.The major difference is in the tone. Many consider haiku to have a serious tone and senryu to have a light and humorous tone.

What is the conflict then?

1. Traditionally in its Japanese format, humor has always been a part of haiku. But many English haiku writers have attributed a more serious element to haiku. Different definitions of haiku have come up as a result of this. Some consider only, (i) typical short poems with a kigo written as an ode to nature, or (ii) those poems including a hybrid of human nature and the nature around us and, or (iii) all serious poems written in regard to nature or just plain human nature to be haiku and thus leaving all the rest to senryu.

2. There is no clear distinction between haiku and senryu. It is mostly said that it depends on the tone. But the tone of a poem is not always decipherable. The basic thing that we can approve is that serious nature poems are all haiku and humorous and satirical poems about human nature are all senryu. For the rest of them, it totally depends on what one feels about it. I will leave it at that.

This week, I would like you to write a haiku and a senryu (based on what you gathered from the post) and try to analyze the differences between the two forms. For a more detailed study about haiku, you can read the last week’s post here.

To end the prompt with some humor,

What to do next?

1. Publish a post with your haiku or senryu if you have a blog. If you haven’t got a blog, you can share them in the comments down below. In case you have published a post, you can submit its link in the linking widget.

2. After you have made the post, take some of your time and visit the links of other participants. This is how we learn and improvise. Return again at the end of the week if you have made your post during the weekdays because there would be new links to visit, which would help us all to make connections and develop the feeling of community and togetherness in our adventure every week. Even if you can’t take out the time to visit all the links, then visit at least the link shared before or after you and offer your feedback and develop comradeship with that person.

Happy Writing!

And for further reading, here is a link to Georgia’s article where she cites many sources and discusses about the differences between haiku and senryu: Japanese Poetry: Haiku or Senryu? It is a very knowledgeable read.

You can also add the following tags to your post: HeedingHaikuWithHA and MindLoveMisery’s Menagerie.

What do you think?


Image source 1, Image source 2, Image source 3


  1. Lovely post HA … now for fun and games … you should have another voice on your poll … other 😉 Just kidding! Thanks for the info.


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