I wish I understand
Failed Haiku, December 2016
© Christina Sng
Though this senryu is cute at first glance (and many more glances) it has something deeper to it.
Cats are often good friends, and the writer wants to know more of the inner world of one of her best friends. Also, cats are often associated with mysticism and otherworldliness. By being able to understand the language of cats, maybe we can have a greater comprehension of what is readily unknown to humans and maybe glimpse divinity, or the magic behind mundane existence.
This is juxtaposed with the sun in winter. Though it burns, it hardly gives warmth, and almost teases us with its appearance. Though the cat meows we cannot understand may appear cute or “warm,” there is the coldness of being left out of their world, and maybe out of a secret dimension to the human experience.
Now let’s get a bit more technical. Though this senryu was published in a senryu journal, some poets might say this poem fits into the haiku genre as well… and they would not be exactly wrong. We got a kigo (seasonal reference) and a juxtaposition, but does it have a haiku aesthetic? What the great poet and teacher Michael Dylan Welch wrote in his essay Everything You Always Wanted to Know About Haiku and Senryu But Were Too Busy Writing to Ask applies to this poem:
“Senryu aims more at the head than the heart, more at the intellect than the soul (and in this sense, many so-called avant-garde gendai haiku may be more akin to senryu than haiku). Where haiku are subtle, senryu are blunt. Where haiku are shaded, senryu are lurid.”
By using “understand,” you can say that the poem aims at the mind rather than the heart; but on the other hand, if the reader focuses on “wish,” you can say the poem leans more to haiku. And to give more emphasis to this, Mr. Welch wrote a comment below this post:
“When the poem says “I wish I understand,” to me the emphasis is on wishing, thus an emotion of longing. Consequently, that points to feeling rather than the intellect, which I think makes the poem lean more towards haiku than senryu. The fact that there’s more to the poem than just a cute veneer also points to it being a haiku rather than a senryu. Nor does the poem have a victim or make fun of anything, which is common with senryu. Definitely a haiku!”
In terms of sound, the letter “w” features strongly, giving an impression of yearning. Also, the letter “s” makes a prominent showing. This sound gives it a more musical reading.
This senryu is at once serious and lighthearted, which supplies it with more dimension. The reader does not know if the poet is serious or playful about what she wrote, but this adds to the white space of the senryu and makes it all that more enjoyable to read.
– Nicholas Klacsanzky