Selected Senryu

Senryū (川柳, literally ‘river willow’) is a Japanese form of short poetry similar to haiku in construction: three lines with 17 syllables [5-7-5]. Senryū tend to be about human foibles while haiku tend to be about nature, and senryū are often cynical or darkly humorous while haiku are more serious. [Adapted from]

Senryu Poems of the People, by J.C. Brown, Tuttle, 1990

Selected Poems

Notes: A hyphen – indicates a long vowel; hold it an extra count. Double consonants sometimes hold for two counts.


ne ni hosomu

inochi shinjita

eda no saki

— Sho-ichi

“The tip of the branch believes in the hidden life of the root.”


samazama no

na o motsu hanabi

mina kemuri

— Keisen

“Fireworks, variously named, are all just smoke.”


hana saite

itemo zasso-

hiki nukare

— Ko-bo-

“Bloom though they may, weeds are pulled up.”


nusutto neko

ana no aku hodo

mite nigeru

— Kaishinji

“The thieving cat stares hard, then runs away.”


massugu ni

yuki ni cho-cho-

hima ga ari

— Kaho-

“A butterly that goes straight has free time.”


doko e yuku

kumo ka to mireba

kieru kumo

— Gokason

Looking at clouds, “Wondering where they’re going, the clouds disappear.”