Japanese type short verses became very popular by seventeenth and eighteenth
their antiquity may go up to one thousand years. Visiting in 1916 Rabindranath
Tagore was amazed at the beauty and simplicity of their haiku, usually written
in one line but actually consisting of three lines with 17 syllables. He was
the first man to have introduced their poetry in India mentioning and
discussing them in his Japan-traveller orJapan
Yatriin Bangla. Though he
did not write any poem naming it haiku, he was influenced by it, as rightly
said Krishna Kripalani in his Rabindranath Tagore: A biography.
these poems had and still have quite some varieties slightly differing from
each other in their composition, meaning and purpose. Haiku, haikai, hokku,
senryu, tanka, waka, renga, rengay, haibun and tanka prose are a few only. Most
of them are still in use. There are controversies over their use among the
poets and editors of such verses in English language.
going into such details we wish to introduce this genre for the readers ofSignaturebeginning
with two most popular haiku by Basho, the most popular among the Japanese
masters, referred to by Tagore.
haiku by Tagore himself which were parts of his short verse book,Stray Birds,
published at the same time of his visit to Japan, are given below which were
one liners and not mentioned as haiku by Tagore himself.
my dreams like the rains
STILL my heart,
great trees are
here are the modern examples from four poets of the genre from India.
feeling so close
to its vastness
pearls of tear–
my mother gathers me
on her lap
over the graveyard
an eagle flies
is a non-drinking family…yet on special occasions we always celebrated with
spirits. To the slosh of ‘Blue Riband’ gin …he would add the fssst of soda, a twist of lime, a sprig of mint
from the backyard patch and ice, all stirred together in frosted glasses…now my
sixty fifth birthday approaches and he is gone these past two years… with an
enlarged liver all I am allowed is an occasional coke…
my first visit to Japan, I went to several places where Master Matsuo
Basho had once lived . When he was working for
the Kanda River water works from 1677 to 1681 he lived in
entered the new Sekiguchi Basho-an, as it is now called and were invited to
join the poets gathered there for their annual renku meeting. I was invited to
contribute a verse, which as a neophyte haiku poet I hesitatingly did. Did the
Master also have renga meetings there? This is from where I got a sapling
ginkgo. It was growing just outside an outhouse below a giant four hundred year
old ginkgo tree .The curator of this place, helped my poet friend and me to get
the tiny sapling from the ground and put it in a small pot with its root ball
intact. He assured me it must have been from the parent tree…from the time of
the master. I touched that tree reverently. I wondered if Master Basho had seen
it as a sapling then.
I had to bring the sapling home, to India. After washing away most of the
dirt I wrapped it in wet cotton wool, placed it in a Ziploc bag in my carry-on
luggage, hoping no one would discover it.
one did and today, a decade later, it is in my garden, a tall tree with its
special leaves. Each winter it is reduced to a nubbly, woody, twiggy shape…and
each spring it buds and brings forth tender green
fan shaped leaves.
the quiet sound of water
at the end of the season rain greets the earth splashing with light showers.
Smiles float in bright blue face of the sky, slightly tinged by purple
thickness at times, ending in pouring. Happiness abounds in all the fields
pregnant with corns, paddy and other greeneries. Earth is satisfied yet solicitous.
Sun is bright. Lake is vast.
washing the face
swishing the edge
water sways the boat-
lake is full to the brim, smiling with jubilant water lilies- pink, white and
red. Lotus buds with stems seem taller than the boat. A small snake coiling the
stem looks at him. Riding on a big country boat with two oarsmen at two ends he
rejoices the exuberant nature.