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
- · High class (Former Samurai, Zen Buddhist)
- · Focused poems on Nature
- · Literary Style
- · Emphasized the Four Seasons
- · Philosophical, Admiration, eternal, etc.
- · 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
my wife waited for me
in front of the liquor store
because it was payday
One more payment to go...
my lawn mower
my lawn mower and I
built my sweet home
With my lawnmower
I made my offspring
grow into doctors