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Autumn 2005, vol 3 no 3

SENRYU

 

HISTORY OF SENRYU

A Satirical Parody

Of R.H. Blyth’s History of Haiku

by
Alan Pizzarelli

Karai Senryu was born in 1718 in Edo. For much of his life, he was the head of a front village. As such, he was a well known and respected man. His humorous maeku verses in the game of maekuzuke (based on renga), soon became popular and cultivated a following of local merchant poets. His teachings founded the "Mindless School", where he enjoyed the reputation as the Maeku-duke [the originator of Senryu]. His collection of pseudonymous and anonymous poems "Maeku Haihu Yanagidaru", published in the middle of the eighteenth century, established senryu as a haikai related genre which has since echoed through the centuries. The following is his final senryu, or so it is said:

Write me down

As one who loved senryu,

And loose women.

 

Aso Fugawari, 1742–1821, was a rich merchant who owned the local Fuzake (Lampoon) Newspaper. Born into a wealthy family of merchants, Fugawari was an eccentric of the highest order whose notorious antics are legendary in Japan. On one occasion, wealthy patrons invited him to a banquet. Fugawari arrived dressed as Napoleon Bonaparte. With great respect, he was received into the banquet room where he participated in a coup to fire the chef. More critic than poet, Fugawari published his views in a daily column. He often imposed his views on others by twisting their noses until they cried "uncle".

On the verge of tears, his stuttering wife.

 

KuKu Kichigai was born in 1762. At the age of 12, he wrote his first successful novel, Shika Meru [make faces]. Later, he studied law and entered the Bar where he drank himself into a stupor for several years. He often composed senryu and sent them to the Fuzake Newspaper, of which Fugawari was the senryu selector. As the result of stepping on the wrong end of a rake, he made a historic journey up Mount Fuji on a pogo stick.

Tumbling down the cliff,

I couldn’t help but notice

the cherry blossoms.


Bukiyo Soya, born in 1814, was known as a bumbling country bumpkin, a gourmet cook & a master of pyrotechnics. He is said to have accidentally used gun powder while preparing a meal of stuffed bamboo for a wedding celebration. The following are from his book: An Explosion of Fried Sushi:

Where the water

Tumbles over the rocks

So do I


My bones

Feel the bruises

A clumsy day

 

Henjen Bunpitsu, born in the 10th year of Meiji, was a pioneer of erotic senryu. He lived in Osaka with as many as 40 concubines and is said to have asked the same question each evening when he arrived at his home "Okay, who hasn’t got a headache?" He later established a cultural circle and published a periodical: Shaburu, which included erotic sketches, senryu, critical articles and a geisha of the month foldout.


At a festival I wink at the ladies, I’m that kind of firefly.


No time for foreplay, Godzilla!


Peeling potatoes, recalling her buttocks

 

Odo Keta, born in 1860, was a disciple of Bunpitsu and wrote in the Tsukeai genre. The following is an example from his early period:

thrusting and moaning

in the bedroom: the delivery men

 

 

Kaai Fufuie, 1826–1895, was a poor merchant poet of the Kyushi Province. He had unusually large teeth, which did not afford him the ability to stop smiling. Encouraged by Akubi Osuru, the local dog groomer, Fufuie learned Maekazuke from Odo Keta, a pupil of Bunpitsu. He later became the founding editor of Kyushi Fushi (The Kyushi Lampoon). Fufuie’s solo Maekazuke are mostly satirical and often irreverent:

Cherry blossoms fall

as Osuru poses with his dog.

 

The photographer mutters

"Both have whiskers,

his wife…. too."


Ishi Iwashi, 1856–1908, was born in the fishing village of Namazu. It is said that he was haunted all his life by nightmares of, among other things, "yodeling fish heads". The following are two examples from his book of the same title:

The great fish head

becomes a bloated belly

and then a deadly gas.




Dreamt I was

a cormorant fishing,

woke up choking.

 

 

Kinshi Manuke, 1880–1902, studied for years to become a genetic scientist, but gave it up to start a lobster farm and study senryu under the tutelage of Iwashi. The following verse is said to have been written by Manuke while fleeing in his underwear:

A giant lobster

wearing a bib

runs over the tatami


Credits:

- Japanese translations by Yuko Otomo.

- All of the Japanese poets are pseudonyms of the author.

 

Glossary:

General English translations of fictitious Japanese poet’s names.

1. Senryu = river willow

2. Fugawari = eccentric

3. Kichigai = lunatic

4. Kinshi = near sighted
    Manuke = half wit

5. Henjin = oddity (odd person)
    Bunpitsu = secretion (liquid)

6. Odo Keta = zany

7. Kaai Fufuie = truly fictitious

8. Iwahi = sardine

9. Bukiyo = clumsy
    Soya = also means clumsy


Copyright 2005: Simply Haiku