Friday, August 16, 2013

Haiku North America, 8/16 continued

Senryu: Refreshing the Human Spirit  by Sunny Seki & Judy Seki

While Judy was indeed present at this panel, she seemed to serve more as introducer for Sunny than co-presenter. Sunny was the main speaker on the topic of senryu this afternoon.

Sunny Seki began by comparing Basho to Senryu, making the following points

Matsuo Basho

  • ·       High class (Former Samurai, Zen Buddhist)
  • ·       Focused poems on Nature
  • ·       Literary Style
  • ·       Emphasized the Four Seasons
  • ·       Philosophical, Admiration, eternal, etc.

Karai Senryu

  • ·       City manager, Literary Promoter – never wrote poems
  • ·       Focused on poems about Human Nature
  • ·       Conversational Style
  • ·       Emphasized the Human Predicament
  • ·       Humor, Cynicism, Parody, Satire, Irony, Politics, Society

Senryu didn’t travel like Basho, but stayed in the city. He was the city manager. Published senryu anthologies that were read by the common people. as opposed to Basho, who was part of an upper class literati.

Modern senryu is often based on contests, much like those Senryu himself ran. The editor or editors come up with a theme or topic, and people submit their poems. There is a long tradition of this, starting with Japanese immigrants in the 20th century, and Sunny Seki presented this history with many examples.

He explained that Japanese immigrants started to come to Seattle in the 20th century, and travelled South to LA.

As the ship rocks hard
I notice my neighbor saying
the same prayer

Seki explained that even during hardship, when they’re miserable, Japanese poets used senryu to look at the brighter side of life.

Japanese were not allowed to buy property until 1952, and so senryu like the following were written to capture life and explore human relationships with humor and irony.

I learned basic English
from my child
and then went out to find work

From the 1940s:

I am forced to polish apples
even though I have
a college diploma

From the Japanese internment camps during WWII:

lucky sage brush
outside the fence

1950s, many Japanese in California became gardeners. The bulk of Seki’s talk focused on these senryu, which he translated from archives of gardener newspapers and publications:

The smell of fertilizer
no longer strange
to my wife

my husband’s sweaty laundry
tells me how hot
the day was

I expected a new job
but all he wanted
was directions

my wife waited for me
in front of the liquor store
because it was payday

One more payment to go...
my lawn mower
was stolen

my lawn mower and I
built my sweet home

With my lawnmower
I made my offspring
grow into doctors

Seki ended his talk by advocating that writers explore and experiment with senryu. So, your assignment after you read this--write a senryu! ;)

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The poet doesn't invent. He listens. ~Jean Cocteau