(The increasingly less) Daily senryu thread

That’s the entirely wrong way to look at this. If you’re wrong, you won’t know unless you tell others and they can judge you. Being wrong isn’t ever cringe.


No pressure. I thought it was a reasonable submission, though, FWIW. Thanks for staying involved!

Edit: Oh! I think you might have been embarrassed by the bit I quoted in my reply (might have sounded a little overconfident). I’ve deleted that quotation now.

Housekeeping notice

After writing this:

I realized that it’s already pretty hard to find and navigate to where we were discussing various poems, so I’ve added an index of sorts to the top post.

At the bottom of the top post you’ll always see a link to the current day’s assignment, like this:

Below that, I’ve just added a section with links to all the previous assignments. You can now jump directly to where the discussion began for any particular poem.

This adds a little more work for me each day, but I think it’s manageable, and I think it will prove useful to any future readers.


Time to automate it, huh? :joy:


First off, I feel that your guess was entirely reasonable, and not embarrassing. But I also have some thoughts about embarrassment with languages, that I will share although no one asked for that. I don’t think language mistakes are anything to be ashamed of, even if it is “so bad and far off base.” I’m pretty sure that’s happened to all of us, I definitely know it happens to me constantly. And in any case, language learning isn’t just for people who already know a lot, what’s the point in that? And also, really big language mistakes can be super helpful for learning, because you remember them, and the corrections much better. If you just read what other people say, you can remember things, but nothing sticks in the brain as well as something you perceive to be embarrassing. So let’s use that to our advantage, and be out here, doing it. Besides, as long as we are making an honest effort and not trying to be offensive, there is absolutely no harm in trying something and getting it wrong. No one has suffered at all!

Tbh, I really like your attempt, and I think it makes sense. What I really like about these challenges is that they are distilling the grammar down to fine detail. If we had longer sentences it would be way easier to understand, but because they are so short, you have to pay really really close attention. And in that sense, all of the guesses are super useful, even if they turn out to be incorrect, because they can help us see which grammar points are important and why. So please keep participating! I, for one, learn things from every incorrect guess.


Yeah one of the tough parts of getting into LN as opposed to manga is figuring out who’s talking at a particular moment. Most of the time it’s clear, but sometimes you have to backtrack and pay close attention to stuff like that.

I’m thiiiiiiis close to writing the one-off, throwaway script that I continue to use for the next 15 years…


Do it, you need finger practice, like I always do


Response from daughter #1, with further confirmation from my first wife (she’s still my first and only wife, but I call her that to keep her on her toes):

The sense is that the writer lit up a smoke after creating a splendid “no smoking” sign. 一服(いっぷく)す is short for 一服(いっぷく)する. She said she’d have gone with 一服(いっぷく)だ, herself. (She doesn’t smoke, though!)

My wife explains further that the に has the sense of 〜の(ため)に. Like あなたの成功(せいこう)乾杯(かんぱい)!

Lastly, the difference between 書いた and 書けた is subtle, but interesting. The latter has a nuance of accomplishment and being satisfied with a job well done, the former is just simple matter-of-fact:

I wrote a funny poem

I managed/was-able to write a funny poem

Great job, gang!

Every single mora matters with these things!

Others probably know this stuff cold, but for my own benefit I did a little research.

Don’t quote me on this, I’m often wrong, but I think 書けた is the “past positive potential form” of 書く. Apparently the “potential” conjugation of a verb “expresses the idea of ability or cabability”.

I learned this from this wonderful website about Japanese verb conjugation that somebody pointed me to recently. I wish I could remember who it was to thank them.

  • 書いた = ◯ wrote
  • 書けた = ◯ managed/was-able to write

I would agree.

One way to think of it is the past tense of the potential form is the realization of that potential.


There is an interesting chapter in Making sense of Japanese by Jay Rubin with an example almost the same as 禁煙と見事に書けて, a chapter about the “natural/spontaneous potential”. It’s a bit long, but interesting.

The natural Potential


I said in the introduction to this book that, “All too often, students are subtly encouraged to think that Japanese verbs just ‘happen,’ without subjects, deep within some Oriental fog. In the world represented by Japanese, actions ‘occur,’ but nobody does them,” and I’ve said a lot since then to lay to rest such “twilight zone” notions about the Japanese language. Now I take it all back. There really is a twilight zone in Japanese, and the “natural potential” is it, that misty crossroads where the passive and potential intersect, where things happen spontaneously or naturally. Another term for the “natural potential” (shizen kanou) is the “spontaneous passive” (jihatsu ukemi).

We encounter this form most commonly when an essayist, after supposedly regaling us
with objective facts, suddenly ends a sentence with kangaerareru or omowareru or omoeru, any of which would seem to mean “it is thinkable” or “it is thought,” but not “I think.” What is he doing? Ducking responsibility for his own ideas?

“Passive and potential forms are sometimes used in a way which might strike the English speaker as strange,” says Anthony Alfonso. “When something is left, or thought, or even done involuntarily or naturally by a person, the action is described in an OBJECTIVE manner and by means of either the potential form or the passive form with a potential meaning.”

Take, for example, this somewhat spooky recollection of a childhood incident by the narrator of a story called “Man-Eating Cats.” The day his cat disappeared into the garden’s pine tree, he says, he sat on the verandah until late in the evening, unable to take his eyes off the upper branches of the tree in the brilliant moonlight. Tokidoki sono eda no naka de, tsuki no hikari o obite neko no me ga kirari to hikatta you ni omoeta. Demo sore wa boku no sakkaku ka mo shirenakatta. “Every now and then, the cat’s eyes seemed to be flashing in the light of the moon. Maybe it was just a hallucination of mine.” The italicized phrase translates the natural potential expression you ni omoeta, which certainly does not mean “I was able to think that …” and certainly does mean something more like “It seemed that . . . ,” “One couldn’t help feeling that,” “One could not but think that . . . ,” etc.

I’m not sure if such a description is entirely “objective,” but it does seem to be removed from the observer’s exclusively subjective domain, perhaps floating somewhere in the middle between pure subjectivity and pure objectivity. The implication is that the environment naturally leads the speaker to think or feel something. These forms don’t translate properly as either passive (“It was thought by me”) or potential (“I could think that”).

A few more examples: When a sad occasion brings forth an involuntary gush of tears, the verb naku, “to cry,” is routinely inflected as a potential, nakeru, as in Nakete kichatta / “I just couldn’t help crying.” When a Japanese fisherman pulls a fish out of the water he doesn’t take the credit for it as English speakers do. Instead of shouting “I’ve got one!” he inflects the verb tsuru (to fish) with the potential ending and says Tsureta! / “It has spontaneously caught itself on my line!” And when a Japanese writer
talks about the successful completion of a novel, he will often say Shosetsu ga kaketa, meaning not boastfully “I was able to write it,” but far more modestly, “It was writable,” “It wrote itself.”

Good luck with this one.

The last example 小説が書けた is almost the same as 禁煙と見事に書けて. So if I understand Jay Rubin correctly, I guess the potential is used to show some kind of spontaneous feeling behind it, like if the person after writing the 禁煙 sign can’t help but think “it came out beautifully”, something like that maybe.


Wow, thank you! I found that super interesting. I’ll move that book higher up on my (looong :sweat_smile:) reading list!


Should’ve finished the explanation with a 考えられる, missed potential (pun not intended)


Woah. I’ve been waking up to this view every morning for the past several months:

Apparently, this book will have caused itself to be read whether I actively try to or not! I haven’t had my coffee yet or I’d attempt the past potential positive of 読む.

I made it to page 41 in one sitting, but the bookmark has stayed there since last Xmas if I remember correctly.

Thanks for helping me progress!

P.s. I need to run out for a bit. I won’t be able to post today’s poem for a couple more hours.

P.p.s. I’d still translate 「釣れた!」 as “Caught it!”.


Thursday, April 28, 2022

Previous senryu

Thanks everyone for a GREAT discussion yesterday. That was a ton of fun and I feel like I learned something regardless!

Unfortunately, the collaboration ended with a complete understanding, but without an actual translation to pick from, so I’ve taken the liberty of modifying @Gorbit99’s wording slightly.

  1. 禁煙と見事に書けて一服す
    I managed to write / “no smoking” so splendidly / — I had a smoke


  • Congrats to @Gorbit99 :confetti_ball: (with fantastic assists from too many to mention)
  • 一服(いっぷく)す is short for 一服する
  • The difference between 書いた and 書けた is subtle, but interesting: 書けた is the past tense of the “potential” conjugation. The potential form expresses the idea of ability or capability. The past tense implies the realization of some potential. In this case, “I managed or was-able to write”. It gives a sense of accomplishment and being satisfied with a job well done (contrasting with 書いた which would just be a simple, matter-of-fact, “I wrote”).

Current senryu challenge

Volume: Various settings

Another one that I find challenging:

  1. 鬼でも来い独り暮らしはもう飽きた


  • I’m pretty sure 独り暮らし just means a solitary life
  • I’m unsure if the choice of 独り vs. 一人(ひとり) has any implications

Remember to please use the spoiler tag with your translation attempts! Also, please include the reading in kana with your submission.

Everyone is encouraged to participate, no matter your level!

Online tools like dictionaries, sentence databases, and even AI translation engines are fair game and can be extremely helpful. Yomichan is particularly handy if you use the Chrome or Firefox browser.

Here’s the link to the spreadsheet with all the upcoming senryu as well as the translations to date.

Translation attempt

I’m not 100% sure I understand this correctly, and I can’t figure out how to make this a literal translation, but to kick things off with what I think it means:

  1. 鬼でも来い独り暮らしはもう飽きた
    I’d welcome even an ogre / I’m so tired of this solitary life
    Even an ogre, come! I’m fed up with being alone!

(Totally stealing words from Nicole)


Translation attempt

Even if you’re the devil, please come! I’m sooo fed up with living alone.

Note: I am aware that 鬼 means “demon”, I just thought that “devil” fit better for a western translation :upside_down_face:

Big energy


We clearly think alike. I went back and forth on that specific word choice multiple times.

“Ogre” or “troll” would also be reasonable choices.

In fact, after writing that, I’m changing my submission! :slight_smile:

1 Like

I think you guys sorted it so I don’t have anything to add for the translation.

I think it’s meant to invoke the feeling of relating to 単独 or even 独身 rather than just a neutral “living alone”

I think Ogre is a closer approximation, but that just may be my bias from first seeing the word in Final Fantasy Legend on the original Gameboy, and they sure looked like ogres.