Central Park senryu

In the NYT “Metropolitan Diary” in my paper yesterday (in the New York paper on the 12th, apparently), a collection of “Central Park Senryu” by Barbara Hantman:

These senryu, haiku that focus on people, not nature, were written from a Central Park bench at 72nd Street.

Damselette toddler
With mom stops scooter, listens:
Poetry reading.

Bicycle rickshaw:
Lithe Russian man gives promo
Two blondes climb aboard.

Horse, buggy, red blooms,
Whinnying; turn into park
Second honeymoon.

Bethesda Fountain:
Lily pads, lotus, young folks
Seals sunning on steps.

Each has the syllable-count pattern 5 + 7 + 5 characteristic of haiku in English.

Wikipedia on the form:

Senryū (…literally ‘river willow’) is a Japanese form of short poetry similar to haiku in construction: three lines with 17 or fewer total morae (or “on”, often translated as syllables, but see the article on onji for distinctions). 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. Unlike haiku, senryū do not include a kireji (cutting word), and do not generally include a kigo, or season word.

Senryū is named after Edo period haikai poet Senryū Karai (… 1718-1790), whose collection Haifūyanagidaru … launched the genre into the public consciousness.

Four vignettes of people in the park.

(Damselette ‘little damsel’ is a rare word, apparently used with playful intent, especially in the phrase damselette in distress. Well according to NOAD2, damsel itself is now “archaic or literary”, and damsel in distress is “often humorous”.)


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