American Senryu

First published in Woodnotes #16, Spring 1993, page 29. +

American Senryu by James D. Hodgson. The Japan Times, 1992, 96 pages, hardback, 5¼ by 7½ inches. $20.00 from the publisher or at bookstores. Replete with an introduction by the Prime Minister of Japan, this book by former U.S. Ambassador to Japan James D. Hodgson offers essays on the art of senryu, and 53 titled senryu (one per page) with an intriguing combination of “reflections” or commentaries on each poem. Books such as Hodgson’s are published more for who the author is than for the merit inherent in the poems. With titles or labels such as “Trust,” “Rhetoric,” and “Reality,” these senryu suffer further indignities by stooping to weak intellectualizations and assessments. The commentaries are essentially redundant, for no successful poem should require [such] explanation. Moreover, the subtle essences of senryu humor are missing, in spite of the author’s attraction to the form for its “saucy satire and penetrating comment on the vagaries of the human condition.” An interesting record of one public figure’s adaptation of a deceptively simple poetic form, but save your money. Hold your breath and try the following sample, entitled “Communication”:

A “disengagement,”

Says one. “Defeat” says another.

Yet acts are precise.