Sex and Senryu

Sex and Senryu

 Posted by Susan Shand on January 15, 2013 at 7:40 PM Comments comments (4)




I’ve been looking at senryu. I haven’t written much senryu myself so I’m not familiar with this form – which is often considered to be the poor cousin of haiku. I don’t think it is a poor cousin at all. It provides a medium which is largely free of all the form judgements that haiku suffers from and which allows for a level of comment and observation lost to haiku. You do tend to get a lot of aphorism-ku and joke-ku but there is some well-crafted and beautifully engaging work around.


On the joke-ku lines here are a few with depth which made me laugh; from the prime senryu magazine Prune Juice.


Saturday night

haiku poet plays

the air shamisen                                      Aubrie Cox 


Basho’s frog –

will he ever

finally croak?                                             Hortensia Anderson



Software upgrade.

The system now falls over

In all the latest ways                                  Tim Graves



Sex is a common subject in senryu, mostly because it has been unwelcome in haiku unless it was heavily veiled by euphemism. This is not just a western trend, nor indeed only modern, nor exclusively a male preserve. The Japanese tend not to be influenced by the puritan distaste for sexual subjects which Britain suffers but even their earthy humour suffers from social disapproval it seems. I imagine this is the reason why the Japanese wished to separate the respectable poetic haiku from the supposed excesses of senryu humour.  Unfortunately they largely lost, in the process, the bold social comment, the satyrical, and the sexual.  No doubt the political too, although I haven’t included any here.  The whole area of senryu provides for comment on areas of human life, in a voice unsullied by the poetic pose, which we in the west might find fruitful. 


There is a nice collection of Japanese women poets here; The Japanese euphemisms are a little obscure in places but we get the gist with most of them…



For sharing joy this mosquito net is too small

                                                      — Kataoka Hiroto (1890-1975)

So I hate him to the very end I dress to kill

                                                      — Tokizane Shinko (born 1929)

Let me eat you you eat me to become nothingness

                                                        — Miyumi Akiko (born 1934)

The whole thing the whole of it slips in I slip in

                                                        — Hiyashi Fujio (1926 – 1959)



Of the modern western writers Americans have been at the forefront of senryu.  Here are some of the women writers who’s work I found engaging… 



300 miles away –

my father makes sure

I hear him sigh                                          Alexis Rotella



top view

of his careful hairdo                                 Karen Sohne


the men on both sides

have taken

my armrests                                               Karen Sohne


20,000 feet

traces of masking tape

on the jet engine                                         Dee Everts


and then there are the exquisite parodies of Alan Pizzarelli


write me down

as one who loved Senryu

and loose women


Check this out if you haven’t found it already.


All in all they seem to have a lot of fun in the senryu world. I have no idea how I have missed it for so long!




(stardate 20130115)



4 thoughts on “Sex and Senryu

  1. Jeffrey Winke 05:22 PM on January 16, 2013
    Susan — I have a nice collection of erotic haiku I think you will like. Email me and I’ll send you my chapbook, Coquette: Sensual Haiku. You can reach me at, jeff_winke (at)

  2. Susan Shand 11:04 PM on January 16, 2013
    Jeffrey Winke says…
    Susan — I have a nice collection of erotic haiku I think you will like. Email me and I’ll send you my chapbook, Coquette: Sensual Haiku. You can reach me at, jeff_winke (at)

    Thank you Jeffrey, its very generous of you to offer and I don’t want to seem ungrateful… but don’t you think its just a little creepy to be offering your ‘erotic’ poetry to a woman whom you have never even spoken to before? You do know I’m English, right? We Brits don’t usually get to erotic poetry until we’ve been married a few years.

    I was hoping to encourage women to engage with earlier generations of women in exploring the potential of senryu for their own poetic expression of their own experience of sex. I wasn’t really inviting men to send me their androcentric ‘erotica’. But thanks for the offer.

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