J Poetry for the commoner

In the Edo period of Japan–approx. 1600-1868–Japan closed itself from the outide world and enjoyed a time of peace for over 250 years. Tokugawa Ieyasu and his successors ruled Japan with an iron fist, but there was relative prosperity among the common people. And it is this time when new forms of Japanese poetry deverloped. Everyone knows about Haiku, I think, but few know about Senryu. Senryu takes the same form as haiku, but it is less concerned about the seasons and focused on the activities and emotions of man. The following is a poem by my dad, about his nostalgia for home.


geta haite
hashi wo watareba
sato no oto

When crossing a bridge
in a pair of wooden clogs,
sound of my birthplace.

As the poem states, the sound of geta–the noisy wooden clogs worn mostly by men–reminds the speaker of his native land. As this poem was composed in the US, the verse ellicits a sense of nostalgia, a sense of distance, and hence a sense of loneliness.

As in haiku, the structure of the senryu poem is 5-7-5 syllables. I have translated the poem to matche the same syllable count. Would anyone be interested in composing his/her own senryu in English? If you are, the rules are simple. First and foremost is the syllable count. 5-7-5. Do not deviate. Compose a poem that reflects a kind of universality of common, everyday life through textual description. My dad conveyed the nostalgia felt by many who are far from home. The poems can be funny as well; in fact, senryu is often translated as “comic verse”.

Don’t worry about how good it is; we can slowly develop our style as we go along. If you leave your poem as a comments, I will try to respond to it. Now, I don’t know how many would be interested, but I think it might be fun. My students ahd to create poems for a poetry match in class. One student relayed this to her HS teacher, and they are now going to try it. GOOD! I love it when I can influence people in a positive way.

Anyway, let me start it off with a rendition of my own. Mmmmm….

Video in hand / I scurry to Blockbuster / at twelve-ten PM

Okay? Like I said: It doesn’t have to be good.

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