Etheridge Knight: 9 “Senryu”

ZP_January 27th 2014 B

Etheridge Knight (Corinth, Mississippi, USA, 1931-1991)



Eastern guard tower

glints in sunset; convicts rest

like lizards on rocks.



The piano man

is stingy, at 3 a.m.

his songs drop like plum.



Morning sun slants cell.

Drunks stagger like cripple flies

On jailhouse floor.



To write a blues song

is to regiment riots

and pluck gems from graves.



A bare pecan tree

slips a pencil shadow down

a moonlit snow slope.



The falling snow flakes

Cannot blunt the hard aches nor

Match the steel stillness.



Under moon shadows

A tall boy flashes knife and

Slices star bright ice.



In the August grass

Struck by the last rays of sun

The cracked teacup screams.



Making jazz swing in

Seventeen syllables AIN’T

No square poet’s job.

ZP_January 27th 2014 A

These short poems, written by Etheridge Knight when he was in prison for robbery (1960-1968), are a kind of hybrid between haiku and senryusenryu having the same structure as haiku but being concerned directly with human beings, whether the tone be serious, ironic or humorous. In poem #9 the word AIN’T is “boldfaced” on purpose – a reference to its importance in Black-American vernacular.

For more haiku composed in English click this link:

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