Monday, February 21, 2011

Five Questions for an Editor: Liam Wilkinson

Our February interview comes to you from jolly Yorkshire, England, with Prune Juice's editor, Liam Wilkinson. Let's see what he has to say...

1. Senryu and kyoka: the evil twins of haiku and tanka?

I like the idea! Senryu and kyoka let us explore ourselves within our environment and, unlike haiku, aren't usually concerned with the natural world. A senryu, depending on its author, might 'happen' in a shopping mall or in an office. The best ones are like magnifying glasses hovering over some strange but universally recognisable aspect of living in this mad, mad world. As a result, many senryu and kyoka are funny and, occasionally, wickedly witty. Jack Kerouac called senryu 'pops' and modernised the idea of writing these very short poems.

2. Does British English differ from American English when writing syllabic poetry? Like, does "colour" have more syllables than "color"? Or... like... if you wanted to write a poem about Nottinghamcestershirestershire-upon-Tyne, would the spoken-length of the word change?

Sorry to disappoint, but modern English senryu and kyoka, and haiku and tanka for that matter, aren't concerned with syllable counting. Some of finest writers of senryu never use the 5-7-5 pattern. This ain't a word game.

3. So are we correct in understanding that the senryu form essentially came from a Mr. Senryu at some point?

Senryu is named after Edo poet Senryƫ Karai (1718-1790). Senryu was a pen name and translates, literally, as 'river willow.'

4. And the form is well represented by the noble prune because...

A prune, like a senryu, gives one the chance to, erm, get it all out... so to speak!

5. You mention in your journal that both the senryu and the kyoka can be "a vent, a portal, an opening through which we can feed our minds and end up cleansed." So we're doing something more important with these poems than just spouting nonsense and running off at the mouth?

Absolutely. A good senryu/kyoka writer knows how to tap into both the soul of the writer and the reader. A senryu a day keeps the monsters away.

LIAM WILKINSON is a poet and musician from Yorkshire, England. He edits Prune Juice: Journal of Senryu and Kyoka. His blog can be found at

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