senka

“Senka” was a poetic form—essentially a humorous senryu written in the five-line form of the tanka— invented by American poet Carrow DeVries in the 1970s. He published 53 of these poems in a chapbook titled Senka about 1985.


The senka form—essentially a humorous senryu written in the five-line form of the tanka—was a form invented by American poet Carrow DeVries in the 1970s. He published 53 of these poems in a chapbook titled Senka about 1985. In the Introduction to the book he wrote:

I have always been Interested in people and what we do. I tried to write in the Senryu form, but found it too constricting. I needed more room, so I tried the Tanka form and found it suited me. I sent them to editors and they came back: this is not Tanka. I did not mean them to be. So I called them Senka and sent them out again. A few were accepted. I took Sen from Senryu and ka from Tanka. Senka. I think senka shall be used because they fill a need. These Senka are all written in 5-7-5-7-7 syllables. I do it just to show that it can be done, but feel that a short line, then a little longer line, then a short one, then two longer ones is all right. What if a line is a couple of syllables short or too long? We do it in Haiku all the time.

It is not clear if DeVries was aware of the old Japanese form kyōka, defined as comic waka or tanka, but few if any other poets wrote poems that they called “senka.” De Vries’s book contains 53 senkas; the following two examples were included in a book note in Wind Chimes 17 (1985):

Jake Potts bought a suit
for his brother’s funeral;
made him look so good,
after the service, he went
and had his picture taken.
You can hardly keep
from looking backward, watching
the furrows turning.
Like water flow, or music,
it could go on forever.

SOURCES / FURTHER READING

  • DeVries, Carrow. Senka. No place [Eugene, Ore.]: published privately, 1985?

kyōka

senryū

tanka

AUTHOR: Charles Trumbull

Updated on April 26, 2022