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Frogpond 46.2 • 2023

Museum of Haiku
Literature Award

Haiku & Senryu

Essay 1 - Quilts & Blankets

Essay 2 - Gengoro Senryu

Essay 3 - Famous Japanese Haiku Narrators

Essay 4 - First Haiku Course



Book Reviews

Haiku Society of America


Going to Gengoro: Senryu Dichotomies

by Michael Dylan Welch

Going to Gengoro: Senryu Dichotomies
(complete PDF version)


Here is a sample excerpt from the opening page of this essay:

“Haiku see both forest and trees, senryu often can’t see either because of the preoccupation with people and things.”

~ Howard S. Levy, 100 Senryu Selections, 1979

In 2003, Hokuseido Press published Distant Frogs: Selected Senryu by Gengoro, translated by the Aogiri Group, edited by Fukabori Shige and Taylor Mignon. The book’s nine sections contain 140 poems at one per page, most of which are illustrated by Miyagawa Yoriko. Gengoro is the pen name for Tobe Yoshiro, who was born in 1930 in Saitama prefecture. In his introduction, Bito Sanryū announces that this book is “the first time that a single senryu poet’s works have been translated” from Japanese (xii), as opposed to senryu by multiple Japanese authors appearing in anthologies. Consequently, this landmark book gives Western readers a more substantial view of a single Japanese poet’s senryu than had ever been the case before.

But of course, the age-old question remains regarding the distinction between haiku and senryu, and Gengoro’s book offers a sustained look at the genre to help answer that question. In his preface, Taylor Mignon quotes Kawakami Santaro, who said that “the content of haiku is exclusively nature, while in senryu the themes and subject matter are as extensive as the objects and phenomena in the world” (xvi). So, we immediately see contentiousness in this definition, because most emphatically haiku are not exclusively nature, which seems an absurd claim to make when there are thousands of poems by the haiku masters over hundreds of years that refute this. Think of Buson’s decidedly human-focused poem about stepping on his dead wife’s comb and feeling the chill of autumn, or Issa’s “snow melting . . . / the village is flooded / with children.”

[feature continues for several more pages] . . .

Welch, Michael Dylan. "Going to Gengoro: Senryu Dichotomies." Frogpond 46.2, Summer-Spring, 2023, 79-92.

This excerpt inclues the first page of the feature: page 79. The complete feature includes pages 79-92. To read the complete feature, click on the link to the PDF version:

Going to Gengoro: Senryu Dichotomies
(complete PDF version)