Tuesday, June 30, 2020

HAINKA: A New Style of Poem by Pravat Kumar Padhy

Since March 2016, I have been thinking about a new concept of writing a combination of ‘haiku and tanka’ (hainka) .I had coined the genre as “HAINKA”, precisely on the day 21st March 2016 and I had written about this new genre in my personal diary. Recently I happened to revisit my old diary. The Hainka may be composed in such a way that the fragment of the haiku will be the pivot line (kakekatoba) of the following tanka. It can be composed either by the poet himself or in collaboration. The “Hainka” can portray a broader coherency of the images keeping in view the aspect of ‘link and shift’ within the framework of the combined poem.

melting snow
sharing warmth
each other

under sunshine
kids clap together
melting snow
unfolding the secret
gathers smiles on smiles

****    ****    ****
cloud patches        
a mole on the moon
and on her face

gust of breeze
unlocks her braided hair
cloud patches                   
descend as achromatic drops
erasing her floating thoughts

****    ****    ****
I received an e-mail from my much-revered poet friend, Hidenori Hiruta, Editor, Akita International Haiku Network, Japan. Thank you, Hidenori, for your inspiration and interest.

Dear Mr. Pravat Kumar Padhy,
Thank you very much for your exciting e-mail.
I respect you for your new concept, which will be influential among poets in the world……..
And I hope that you will have finished writing about 50 hainka, which will be shared with our readers with my Japanese translations.

Best regards,
Hidenori Hiruta

Monday, June 22, 2020

Review Article: History of Contemporary Indian English Poetry: An Appraisal, Vol. I and Vol. II, by PCK Prem, by Pravat Kumar Padhy , Creation and Criticism, Issue Jan-April 2020

Poetry is the spontaneous overflow of powerful feelings: it takes its origin from emotion recollected in tranquility- William Wordsworth

The words of William Wordsworth are true to the flow of poetry through the perennial time. India is the land of beauty, peace, and poetry. The nostalgic reminiscence of poetry emanates from the inception of our age-old civilization. The radiance of poetry has been reflected in our ancient Vedic literature and continues to enlighten till every tomorrow.  Poetic philosophy of India has been sourced from the Veda, the Upanishads, the Ramayan, the Mahabharata, the Gita, and the Rasa-Dhvani theory. Poetry inspires to unfold  the sublime spiritual essence of the basic building block of creation: the living and the non-living. The literature, the cultural antecedents, is the blueprint of reformation. There has been a vibrant presence of prolific multilingual literature in India. Initial colonial influence has been vividly seen at the formative stage albeit embedded with the aroma of Indianness in English poetry. In 1809, C V Boriah’s English writing (Prose) is the first historical instant followed by the memorable prose, “A Defence of   Hindu Theism” (1817) by Raja Rammohan Roy.

PCK Prem in the present monumental analysis of Indian Poetry in English eludes the kernel of poetry and its journey: from a tiny seed to a gigantic blissful tree fructifying the essence of peace, tranquility, hope, and happiness. His in-depth study establishes a remarkable milestone in engineering Indian poetry and its classification. The author has systematically and ably evaluated the creative work of 185 poets including 50 women poets in two volumes, with a scholarly introduction. In contrast to the earlier perception, he has designed the concept of time and space in the journey of Indian literature by depicting historical manifestation of the socio-political sketch of India. Further, the author enunciated the poetic pursuits by correlating with various attributes like human psychology, industrialization, socio-cultural, socio-economics, socio-politics and so on with changing time. Industrialization, cosmopolitan lifestyle, materialistic appetite, rural landscape have a great influence on literature and human behavior. He further examined the psychological impetus in the evolution of poetry, its structural fabric, style, musicality  with the geographical spread.

In the post-independence era, Indian poetry for decades was represented primarily as the conservative and idealism of cosmopolitan experience. Here the author, Prem, has creatively introduced the concepts of nativization and  Indianness emancipated from the embodiment of rural culture. He has congregated the beauty of the rural landscape,  inherent behavior and innocence of people into the expanded-form of Indian English poetry at large. This has given an opportunity of amalgamation of rural musicality, imageries, idioms, symbols, and epithets into English poetry, thus enhancing the true literary spirit. After the stage of transitional assimilation and mutual appreciation, the flow of poetry is widely spread, endowed with openness and optimism. This has been aptly articulated by the author in his iconic volumes with an expansive spectrum  of exemplifications of poetry from Henry Louis Vivian Derozio, Kashi Prasad Ghosh to modern young poet Vivekanand Jha; women poets from Toru Dutt to Chitra Lele.  I feel the effort is a brave and valiant literary exploration of Indian English poetry. Indeed, it is a democratic manifestation of the inherent Indian Poetry with special reference and acknowledgement of the resonant regional literature.

Broadly the time span of development of poetry is correlated with the socio-political scenario and subsequent thematic cultural exploration. The poetry of the nineteenth century (1820-1900) and the era of socio-political awakening (1900-1950) have been classified as early Indian English Poetry. The time segments also influenced the structural fabric of poetry: from colonial Victorian influence to decolonization and style of free verse to liberal experience. The use of idiom, word-phrases, metaphors, imageries, etc in different periods portrayed the variegated contents and lyrical credence.

In the initial period, the Indian poets were influenced by the cadence of English romantic and Victorian poetry. In spite of the alien sensibility, poets articulated their thoughts of rationalism, love and social consciousness with independent texture and literary nuances. Henry Louis Vivian Derozio, Kashi Prasad Ghosh, Ram Sharma, Michael Madhusudan Dutt, R C Dutt, Manmohan Ghose and later, Aro Dutt, Toru Dutt, and others contributed a lot during the formative stage of Indian English poetry.

The following poem by Henry (1809-1831), the father of Indian English poetry, depicts spirituality that prevails even in the tiny entity of nature. It is a remarkable emotional driven philosophical illustration:

Oh! In such moments can I crush
The grass beneath my feet?
Ah no; the grass has then a voice
Its heart—I hear it beat.
(A Walk by Moonlight)

Some literary personalities emphasized the inherent Indian culture of universality and are revered as the Saint Poets namely Swami Vivekanand, Swami Rama Tirtha, Kabir, Nanak, Mira, and others. Later Sri Aurobindo, Sri Paramhansa Yoganand, J Krishnamurti, Rabindranath Tagore, and others symphonized the Indian ethos, metaphysical quests, spiritualism, socio-religious milieu, socio-scientific consciousness, liberty and universality in their prophetic writings manifesting the glaring chapter in Early Indian English poetry and endeavouring global recognition.

Prem elaborates the era of political awakening through freedom moment embarked on an illuminated spectrum of poetic iridescence. Poets like Rabindranath Tagore, Sarojini Naidu, Sri Aurobindo, Krishna Srinivas instilled the Indian philosophy, spiritual inheritance, idealism, nationalism in their scholarly poetry writings. The spiritual ethos helped to ignite the political awareness and subsequently the freedom moment was collectively spearheaded  by Mahatma Gandhi.

The metaphysical expression by Sri Aurobindo (1872-1950) stands unique in Indian English poetry:

Voice of Infinity, sound in my heart,-
Call of the One!
Stamp there thy radiance, never to part,
O living Sun.
(The Bride of Fire)

PCK Prem, in his innovative attempt, elucidates the concept two streams of poetry: one exclusively related to ‘urban landscape’ and the other emanated from the largely rural landscape in the post early poetry, i.e. after 1950-60.  The urban poets, Shiv K Kumar, Nissim Ezekiel, Jayant Mahapatra, A K Ramanujan, Arun Kolatkar, R Parthasarathy, Arun Mehrotra, Kamala Das, Keki N Daruwalla, Gieve Patel, Pritish Nandy, Gouri Deshpande, and others have manifested the expression of ‘cynicism and anguish’ in their writings. The multiple approaches to life, struggle of living, failure, sufferings, materialistic city life predominated in their poetic framework. Prem adds, “The poets born after 1920 and before 1950 or around have a different  bringing up….If one category of poets reflects on the sufferings and difficult living conditions, disillusionment in cities…. the other class still carries on theme of nationalism, nature, poverty, hunger ….. Interestingly, it also speaks of Indian cultural heritage, and in a reminiscent mood, experiences anguish on corrosion in ethical values….”.The poets expressed their anguish with distinct images, metaphors, and similes.

The followings are some of the examples reflecting  the sense of agony and distress. Shiv K Kumar (1921-2017) expresses his stressful life of the city:

Day is for sweating—
For shoe-shining, foraging for crumbs from dust-bins,
For pan-handling, or wiping the window screens of cars
As the traffic freezes at the red signal.
(Pavement –sleepers of Bombay, Woolgathering)

Seclusion of  the city life is poetically imaged by Nissim Ezekiel (1924-2004) :

The city like passion burns
He dreams of morning walks, alone
And floating on a wave of sand.
(Urban, The  Unfinished Man)

The creative upsurge from the extensive rural arena, somehow, remained in isolation and in translucent-visibility in Indian English poetry. The obvious reason remains quite ambiguous. After a long time, the creative search unfurls the concept of ‘hope and anticipation’ prevailed amongst the poets from the rural landscape. In spite of difficulties, they cultivated the sense of hope and aspiration from the serene natural beauty, simple way of living. The poetic embellishment reckoned with a sense of optimism and emotional intensity has been observed in contemporary poetry written after 1970 or precisely post 1980. The poets of this generation have shown a different path of sanguinity by deriving the philosophical and emotional mores of the saint poets. This has been vividly seen in the poetry of Mahanand Sharma, Hazara Singh, Yayati Gandhi, P Lal, Keshav Mallick, Baldev Mirza, I H Rizvi,  R C Shukla, O P Arora, H S Bhatia, T V Reddy, Nar Deo Sharma, PCK Prem, D C Chambial, R K Singh, V S Skanda Prasad,  H C Gupta and others.

PCK Prem says, “It is poetry of Indian consciousness with emphasis on ‘transformation, reformation, secularization, and democratization’ of human values and universality”. He further observes, “Poetry after eighties, appears mature, expressive and confident and looks intensely at life and existence, and identifies areas of hope, joy and stability….”.

R C Shukla (1943) in his poetry collection, “Darkness at Dawn” narrates anguish of the present with an optimistic note:

I am bearing the anguish today
In the hope that
Joy shall surely dawn tomorrow
Joy which I earn
And never borrow.

H C Gupta in his collection, “Poetical Rosary (2011) searches the purpose of life. He explores:

Shepherds selfless, feeding hungry sheep
Traversing thro thorns, have no time to weep
For others’ pain, their pain never mind
With faith move mountains, meek and kind
(Seek those who find)

With time, there has been an assimilation of both urban and rural thematic concepts and hence, synthesis of the realism and its manifestation in the renewed poetry writings. The author visualizes, “The period after 1980s notices a slow decline in exclusive city psyche and one witnesses, poets of rural backdrop gradually turning to urban areas and sensibilities…. The process of assimilation of thought and emotions into poetry that already exists but treads a different path….”

Based on this inventive search, PCK Prem has harvested the poetic essence across the country to enrich the true representation and it is indeed conclusively unique. The contemporary musical voice of Bibhu Padhi, O P Bhatnagar, Vikram Seth, P Raja, Sankarshan Parida, S A Hamid, K V Dominic, Sailendra Narayan Tripathy, Pravat Kumar Padhy,  Gopal Lahiri, C L Khatri, Bijoy Kant Dubey others to  contemporary modern poets  Vihang Nayak, Kanwar Dinesh Singh, Kirti Sengupta, Bhaskaranand Jha Bhaskar, Vivekanand Jha represents a wide spectrum of poetic nuances.

Let us explore some of the examples of verses of assimilation and hopefulness. Bibhu Padhi (1951) writes with lucidity and erudite:

Something, we know, had been growing into light
At a place where all our shadows are supposed to be;
We know that something is taking its birth
Quietly, within our planet’s deep night.
(Going to the Temple)

M R Venkatesh in his book, “I Wonder as I wonder” (2014) paints nature with a graceful benediction:

The streams from the hill flows
With swimming fishes of different colours
As beautiful and near as ever
So Mother Nature let you laugh like this I shall hear.

Referring to the younger generation, Prem notes, “As one goes through the lyrics of Vivekanand Jha (1977), one encounters the effect of experiences as actualities of life depict regions of milieu objectively”. Jha synthesizes the oriental Vedic spirit with the use of metaphors and images in the following stanza:

Manual for mankind, road to redemption,
saga of science for self-realisation so much so that
life’s empty without it’s interpretation
as a bogie halts without an engine.
(Falter and Fall 15)

The rich contribution by women poets has added a different dimension to Indian English poetry. Acknowledging their courageous contribution, PCK Prem posits, “Women poets create an ambience of reformation, renaissance, idealism and optimism and visualize joy and fulfillment for not only man but also humanity”. Eminent poets like Toru Dutta, Sarojini Naidu, Kamala Das, Ira De, Manika Verma, Eunice De Souza, Suniti Namjoshi, Gauri Deshpande, Mamta Kalia, Margaret Chatterjee, Sukrita Paul Kumar, Meena Alexander, Etty George, Vimala Rao, Sunita Jain, Lila Ray, Gauri Pant, Maheshweta Chaturvedi, Jayshree Nandi, Mani Rao, Lalitha Kumari, Nandini Sahu, Shernaz Wadia, Vinita Aggarwal, Chitra Lele and others have contributed immensely to Indian poetry with sense of fidelity, honesty and innovative poetic lexis. They record the feminine creativity encompassing love, family life, societal issues with gracefulness and imaginative craftsmanship.

Let us examine the journey of poetry by some of the women poets. Toru Dutt (1856-1877) explores the idealism of life in the following poem:

Virtue should be the aim and end
Of every life all else is vain
Duty should be its dearest friend
If higher life it would attain.
(Ancient Ballads 68)

Kamala Das (1934-2009) unveils her experience of anguish and writes:

I am saint. I am the beloved and the
Betrayed. I have no joys, which are not yours, no
Aches which are not yours. I too call myself I.
(An Introduction, Selected Poems)

The aspiration and optimism have been vividly expressed by the young poet, Chitra Lele:

Together we can dream
And envisage youthful vision.
Together we can walk as a team
Through the darkest of times.
(Divine Decorations)

The in-depth analysis of critics and synthesis of various anthologies at the end of the volumes make a holistic picture of the long journey of Indian Poetry in English. Contemporary poetry of Niranjan Mohanty, Tabish Khair, Shanta Acharya, and a few others could have been incorporated. Prem’s endeavor in contouring the democratization of literature is a landmark achievement. Undoubtedly he is eclectic in his inner impulse and offers the symbiotic joy of poetry to all with his intellectual renaissance. “Poetry is as a cure for bringing about equality…..Poetry unifies man and eliminates discordant notes in man and society”, PCK Prem enumerates by embodying the lines from the collection, “Silence of the Seas” by P K Padhy:
You create a sense
That bridges
The poor and the rich
You create a salt
That dissolves
Dirty rusted edge of colour and creed
(Poetry for Me, Silence of the Seas, 1992)
The volumes would remain as an important treatise on Indian English Poetry for poetry lovers, research scholars, and academicians for times to come. The unwavering endeavour by Prem is praiseworthy, beyond words.

Pravat Kumar Padhy hails from Odisha, India. He holds a Masters in Science and Technology and a Ph.D from Indian Institute of Technology (ISM), Dhanbad. He has a certification of the Executive Education Programme on “Advanced Management” from IIM-Bangalore.

His literary work cited in Interviews with Indian Writing in English, Spectrum History of Indian Literature in English, Alienation in Contemporary Indian English Poetry, Cultural and Philosophical Reflections in Indian Poetry in English, History of Contemporary Indian English Poetry  etc. His poetry won the Editors’ Choice Award at Asian American Poetry, Poetbay, Writers Guild of India and others. His poem, “How Beautiful”, published in 1983 in the leading Newspaper, Indian Express, has been included in the Undergraduate English Curriculum of Shivaji University, Maharashtra, India. He guest-edited the November 2019 Per Diem Column, The Haiku Foundation, on the theme, “Celestial Bodies”. He has seven collections of verse to his credits.
His Japanese short form of poetry (Haiku, Tanka, Haibun, Haiga, Senryu, Tanka Prose) appeared in various international journals and anthologies. His haiku won Vancouver Cherry Blossom Festival Honourable Mention, UNESCO International Year Award of Water Co-operation, The Kloštar Ivanić International Haiku Award, IAFOR Vladimir Devide Haiku Award, Diogen Spring Haiku Award, 7th Setouchi Matsuyama International Photo Haiku Award, Second International Haiku Contest for the award “Radmila Bogojevic", IRIS Commendation Award, Haiku Society of Constanta Haiku Contest, Rumania, and others. His haiku is showcased in the exhibition “Haiku Wall”, Historic Liberty Theatre Gallery in Bend, Oregon, USA. His tanka, ‘I mingle’ is featured in the “Kudo Resource Guide”, University of California, Berkeley.

Thursday, June 18, 2020

The Craft of Haiku Writing: My Experience , Pravat Kumar Padhy, Literary Vibes, LXIII, April 2020

Haiku is considered as the shortest non-rhyming Japanese poetry form written in three lines, in 5-7-5 format, with 17 syllables in total. Generally, the strict syllable style is not followed in English and it is written in the form of short/long/short lines, all in lower case. It comprises two images in the form of fragment (Line 1) and phrases (Lines 2 and 3) so that the two images juxtapose each other either as association or contrast. The poem reflects the present happening in nature with a seasonal reference. The art of haiku dwells in capturing the image in an aesthetic and simple way without any poetic ornamentation and allowing the readers to interpret in their own style.

Japanese literature is largely inspired by Chinese literature during the Tang Dynasty (618-907) in China. Kojiki (712) and Nihonshoki (720) are the books of the earliest Japanese mythology, history, and poems. The word haiku is a combination of two different words haikai and hokku. Haikai is a linked-verse (collaborative)  in haikai no renga poetry style developed during the Edo period (1602–1869). Haikai, a type of renga poetry, consists of at least 100 verses in 5-7-5-7-7 pattern. Hokku is the name given to the opening verse (5-7-5, go schichi go) and the last two-line is known as wakiku. Matsuo Basho (1644-1694) is the pioneer of writing Hokku. Haiku poetry came into existence from hokku of haikai and Masaoka Shiki named hokku as haiku (ha-i-ku, 3-sound in Japanese) in 1892. The etymology of the word Haiku from Japanese is ‘hai amusement + ku verse. Haiku consists of 17 ‘on’ or ‘morae’ (sound), written in a vertical single line (top to bottom).  A Japanese haiku comprises three sections namely kami go (the top five-section), naka shichi (the middle seven-section), and shimo go (the lower five-section).
Matsua Basho (1644-1694) ,Yosa Busan (1716-1783), Kobayashi Issa (1763-1827) and Mosaoka Shiki (1867-1902) are the Masters of the Haiku literature,   including  Chiyo-ni (1703-1775), a great women haikuist. In 1877, W G Aston, first translated haiku in English. Writing of 3-line haiku may date back to the 1600s in the western language in Dutch. The first successful haiku written in English was "In a Station of the Metro" by Ezra Pound in 1913. Initially, haiku is written with 5-7-5 format (with 17 ‘on’ or ‘morae’). In Japanese literature, there is no such syllabic concept as in English. These formats are indeed the phonic or sound expression. Hence it is not possible to translate the Japanese haiku into English in the same format. For example ‘akai’ in Japanese has three sounds (a/ka/i). The word ‘akai’ means red and it is one syllable in English. Later on, in the English language, the schemata are widely kept as s/l/s form in haiku writings. The haiku masters have composed with poetic brilliance unveiling observations in quietude and simplicity.
Basho’s famous ‘frog’ haiku remains as an iconic example in the haiku literature:


furu ike ya
kawazu tobikomu
mizu no oto

old pond
a frog jumps into
the sound of water

(Tr. Jane Reichhold)

Similarly Busan wrote a haiku with splendid imagery:

evening wind—
water laps
the heron’s leg

(Tr. William Higginson)

Issa’s one of the fine haiku:

O snail
Climb Mount Fuji,
But slowly, slowly!

(Tr. R H Blyth)

And Shiki’s haiku with poignancy

how much longer
is my life?
a brief night...

The haiku contains two images, the “fragment” and the “phrase” while writing in English with a causer or pause in between (Kireji). Haiku is an objective-based expression. It is not a sentence, hence there is no capital letter or punctuation or full stop in haiku writing, and there is no title of the haiku. Additionally, the two images should not reflect the simple cause and effect. In Japanese, the Kireji (ya, kana, keri, nari) is expressed by syllables, but in English, it is denoted by punctuation. The “Kireji”, in its sublime form, sparks the juxtaposition or disjunction of the two images (syntactic pivot) facilitating a “leap”. If the poet thinks that the expression is explicit for the reader to understand the images without difficulty, the natural pause itself takes care of the cutting word. The fragment is written in the first line and the phrase is expressed in the remaining two lines. The fragment could also be expressed in the third line. One can put “dash” or “dots” (ellipsis) to separate the distinct images. Minimum use of adjectives, articles, gerund, refraining from the use of simile, metaphor (with exception of implied poetic predicament), adverbs, verbs, and conditional clauses are some of the essential characteristics of writing haiku. In general, the haiku should not be personified and it is non-rhymic. The poem is written about the keen observations of happenings around nature or human aspects related to nature based on the experience through five senses. Touchingness of things (mono na aware) and touchningness of life (yo no aware) are the essences of haiku. It is better to refrain from incorporating ordinary cause and effect, abstractions while writing haiku. The poet should not be judgmental. On the contrary, he can explain the cause of feeling rather than his self-feeling and put it in the present tense to create the haiku spirit with poetic musicality.  At no point, it should be a sentence broken into three lines. There are different linked forms or genres of haiku such as Monoku (one- line haiku), haibun (prose interspersed with haiku), haiga (image, drawing or photo with haiku). Senryu, written in haiku style, is more of witty, satire nature with human attributes and without seasonal or nature reference.

Art of haiku writing is a way of imaging around nature (kocho-fuei), behavioural sense of man, animal and non-being entities and exploring the human feeling and relationship. Haiku is unique in its form and simplistic expression with reference to season or nature as a whole. The tiniest object of nature has its genuine worth in this world. I feel it is the realisation of this truth and zen-feeling that has given rise to the genesis of the Haiku poem. The haiku discovers the meaning of each entity through the aesthetic (wabi-sabi) way. This makes it a distinct style from other poetry forms. It reflects simplicity and honesty in expression without any artificiality, complexity or pretention. It enunciates a contemplation of spiritualism and the realization of self- being a part of nature. The basic elements (teikei) of haiku are the seasonal reference (kigo), the surrealistic silence in the form of pause (kireji), depth and mystery (yugen), contained space (ma), becomingness (kokora), lightness (karumi) and creativeness (zoko) and elegance (fuga). It is an art of capturing the happening at the present moment and leaving the interpretation to the readers without telling it (show but do not tell) with brevity (less is more). Unexpetedness (atarashimi) and drifting mood (nioi) in expression render beauty to haiku.

The art of juxtaposition (renso) is an exploration of reasoning and a poetical logic that resides in one’s imagism sensibility processes. However, subtle metaphoric expression with logical credence continues to explore the enlightened (satori) nature. Indeed it is an expression of poetic elegance (miyabi) in simplicity (iki) style.

Westerners describe haiku (pronounced as hi-koo) as epigrams and snapshots. Dutchman Hendrik Doeff (1764–1837) was known to be the earliest westerner to have written haiku. The first haiku-influenced poems written in English was arguably by Ezra PoundIn a Station of the Metro, published in 1913. Harold G. Henderson (1889-1974) describes haiku as “Primarily it is a poem; and being a poem it is intended to express and evoke emotion... haiku is a very short poem... more concerned with human emotions than with human acts, and natural phenomena are used to reflect human emotion.” The pioneer translators of the Japanese haiku into English are Arthur Waley (1865-1966), R B Blyth (1898-1964) and others. At present haiku become a global ‘small poetry’, commonly written in s/l/s format.

The classical haiku is about realization and reverence of nature. Our ancient Vedic culture is a culture of nature and divinity. In the Rig Veda, verses (suktas) in Sanskrit  are written in praise of nature and its
significance. The Indian Nobel Laureate, Rabindranath Tagore during his first visit to Japan in 1916, cited reference of haiku poems in his travelogue “Japan-Jatri” and  translated Basho’s two haiku. His collection of haiku-like short and epigrammatic poems 'Fireflies' was published in English and Bengali in 1926. His one-line poems (monoku like), “The Stray Birds” are more of proverbial expression with poetic lucidity. In 1916, the great poet Subramania Bharati wrote a classical article on “Japaniyat Kavitai (Japanese poetry)”.  Prof. Satyabhushan Verma is the pioneer of Indian Haiku who first translated Japanese haiku into Hindi  'Japani Kavitaian' (published in 1977). A poem, “Hokku’ by Roshen Alkazi is a two-line verse: The solitary bird/ sings (Seventeen More Poems, Writers

Workshop, 1970) is among one of the earliest examples of haiku writings by Indian poets. Urmila Kaul, I H Rizvi, D H Kabadi, Angelee Deodhar, A. Thiagarajan, R. K Singh, K. Ramesh, Kala Ramesh and scores of other contemporary Indian poets have written beautiful haiku in English. Haiku has also been composed by many regional languages.

My Experience:

Humbly, I wish to share a few words about my small steps in the long poetic journey. I use to enjoy the poetic feeling and metaphoric expression and started writing at an early age of around thirteen. I composed proverbial-short poems (one to two lines, similar to monku) while writing essay on some topics. In early school career, I sublimely   endowed with natural beauty and used to write articles pertaining to scenic landscapes of resplendent nature. 

Earlier I wrote both longer and shorter versions of poems with internal rhymes. Gradually, I feel more comfortable in writing the shorter version. It clusters poetic energy to unveil the touch of beauty through brevity. Interestingly some of my earlier writings were of haiku-like verses though I was not aware of the genre at that time.

A few of my Odia poems, composed during the early seventies, resemble like Haiku:

darkness all around
I search
light within

Eka Akaar (The Shape: A sequence poem, 1972-73)

In 1978 a few of my haiku-like stanzas written in “Odia” appeared in the Deepti magazine, edited by Shasidhar Pattnaik, under the short-verse sequences “Satyameba” (Truth Alone). The translation of one of the poems, Jibanata (Life) is as follows:

half-moon in the sky
her body veiled in mixed
colours of clouds

Deepti, Vol.8, Issue III, Oct-Dec 1978
The Living Anthology

One of my short poems, titled ‘Seed’, “It is tiny/ Because it nests/ With care/ The mightiest in it”, Kavita India, Vol. III, Nos. 2&3, 1990  was published in “The World Haiku Review”, Vol. 7, Issue 2, 2009 with minor edits by the editor, Susumu Takiguchi.

creation is mystical
vast value of life
compressed in a seed

I was thrilled when I got an e-mail from the editor and renowned haiku poet, Werner Reichhold, on 23rd Sept 2009 about acceptance of the poem which was later republished in Lynx-Aha Poetry, XXV:1 Feb 2010.

Dog is misspelled
the child discovered
the Great 

Lynx-Aha Poetry, XXV:1 Feb 2010
(Original poem, “God” first published in “World Poetry Anthology”, 1992, Ed. Krishna Srinivas)

I could recall, Urmila Kaul, a bilingual poet, published five of her 3-line haiku poems in the journal ‘Skylark’-47/48-1982, edited by Baldev Mirza. Interestingly, my longer version of poem, ‘A Part of Civilization’ was published in the next opposite page of the journal.

I chanced upon to see the published review article on “Indian English Haiku and R K Singh” by Razni Singh in e-zine “Got Poetry”, December 2007. I went back to search my manuscripts of the eighties, and some of the published ones closely resemble (though not in the strict sense) to haiku and tanka. In Sept 2009, I posted four lines of poem “Pretending” (They speak of volume/ In reality it fills/ Thin hopes/ Of vacuum) in PoetBay and received an appreciation from the poet, Tai, UK about the image of thin hopes of vacuum. I received inspired-comment from the poet, Shells, UK suggesting to condense the poem into a three-line in the form of haiku instead of four lines. Then I started searching  about haiku poem and the related genres. I could come across the age-old exquisite poetic work of iconic literary Japanese Masters. Since then it has been a thrilling experience and a joyful journey of writing Japanese short poems.

Werner Reichhold encouraged me to go through some of the haiku poems written by western haikuist and literature with Asian roots. He appreciated and encouraged me to turn the observations/images with the poetic touch. Paul, Alice Framton, Hidenori Hiruta, Fay Aoyagi, Robert D. Wilson , Gabi Greve Lorin Ford, an’ya, Sasa Vazic, Susumu Takiguchi, Patricia Prime,  Isamu Hashimoto, David McMurray,  Anna, Isabelle, Karina Klesko, John Daleiden, Beatrice Van de Vis, Gisele LeBlanc, Michele Pizarro Harman and others  inspired me a lot during my formative stage of haiku writing.

Some of my selected work:

rainy day
mud escapes
between toes

Ambrosia, Summer 2010

early moonrise
cranes shift whiteness
to an old banyan tree

Honourable Mention, Haiku Reality / Haiku Stvarnost, Vol.8, No.15, Winter 2011

the tree--
spreads its branches
without noise

Simply Haiku, Vol.8, No.3, 2011

deep dark space
many cosmic townships
with their own light

The Mainichi Daily News, 23.3. 2012
Haiku in English: Best of 2012, Mainichi Daily News

green vegetables
my mother smiles with
morning freshness

Editor’s Best Choice, Sketchbook, Vol. 7, No. 3, Issue 43, 2012

cherry blossoms—
the scent bridging
the long river

Honourable Mention, Vancouver Cherry Blossom Festival Invitation, 2013

temple bell--
the lone bird adds
its cry

Frogpond, 36-2 Spring/Summer Issue, 2013
Published in Anthology, “A Vast Sky” 2015

tree to tree--
I walk along carrying

Issa’s Untidy Hut, Haiku #149, 2013

first rain
the paper boat carries
my childhood

Asahi Shimbun, May 31, 2013
Butter Fly Dream Anthology, 2014 

flowing river--
the bereaved girl  holds 
a palm-full of water

Editor’s Choice (Sample Poems), Acorn, Issue #33, Fall 2014

Neil Armstrong--
baby’s maiden walk
on bright moon day

Commendation Award, The Kloštar Ivanić International Haiku Competition, 2014 

early morning--
the sweeper gathers
autumn wind

Presence, Issue 49, 2014

wild flower--
I breathe my

The Heron’s Nest, Vol. XVI, No.4 December 2014

fallen kites--
the slum boy gathers
the colours

Second Prize, Spring Haiku Contest, Diogen, 2014

desert journey—
camels follow shadow
after shadow

Creatrix 26, April 2014
Highly Commendation Award, Creatrix Haiku Prize 2015, WA Poets Inc, Australia

thick clouds--
a gap takes me
to the ocean

Modern Haiku, Issue 46:2, 2015

liquid garden--
sprinkles of sunlight
on coral blossoms

Shamrock 32, October 2015

the cold breeze remains
tightly folded

AKISAME (European Haiku Society) Issue 19:1, 2015

paddy fields--
the sun for a while
pretends in green

Honorable Mentions, Haiku Reality, Vol. 13, No 21, Spring 2016

tiny pebbles
the softness
of her talk

Runners Up, Iafor Vladimir Devide Haiku Award, 2017

prison window
the softness of the wings
of a butterfly

Haiku Foundation Workplace Haiku, 27.9.2017

moonrise the sky from the oncology wing

Presence # 61, 2018
a hole in the light: The Red Moon Anthology of English-Language Haiku 2018

end of summer
an antique table fan
pauses for a while

Anthology - All the Way Home: Aging in Haiku, 2019

evening market
cats join their voices
with the vendors

Poetry Pea, January 2020

monks gather

Lucas Lily Pad, 3.2.2020

coronavirus ...
even the shadows
drift away

Butterfly Dream, 21.3.2020

on the back of a refugee a pregnant dog thrashing the shore current

is/let, 21.3.2020

spring evening
moonrise brightens
your homecoming

The Cicada’s Cry, Spring 2020

aroma of  jasmine flower
crosses the fence

My Haiku Pond Academy, April 2020

The haiku discovers the meaning of each entity through  an aesthetic way. Haiku imparts life to every object of realization and its vivid image. Essentially the genre of expression  acts as a diligent medium to have a wide spectrum of exploration within ourselves associating with the rest. Writing haiku unveils the poetic parlance and lively moments conjoined with all the entities within the ambit of nature and human behaviour. This leads you to start realising the value of the tiniest dust particle to diamond, raindrops to ranges of the mountain, the distance of the sun to closeness to your shadow, tender grass to the giant trees, and rhythms of sound to the voice of silence.

Discussion on syllable counts, whether to express in one, two, or three lines or occasionally four lines may remain as debatable point, especially in the neo-literary revolution. The image-moment around us, phrasing and its poetic association with human behaviour, love, emotion, humour, season, climate, observances, plants, animals, geography and elements of senses are to be poetically embedded to enliven the soulful feelings of haiku writings.

The classical haiku by Basho expressing the element of  synesthesia is unique:

The sea darkens
And a wild duck’s call
Is faintly white

(Tr. Makotoa Ueda)

The basic ingredients need to be respected with a fair degree of modernity. Sincerity, the honesty of experience and imagination, originality and simplicity, choice and order of words, musicality are some of the key aspects of good haiku writings. In the end, it should reflect the wisdom of poetic credence in line with the aesthetic spirits and contemporary values. The original haiku in the Japanese language is a class of its own. One can perceive the spark-moment and express it with refreshing images. The time and topography have been changed over the years. Rightly Basho said, “Learn of the pine from the pine; learn of the bamboo from the bamboo”.

One can try to evolve a contemporary sketch of neo-haiku irrespective of whether he lives in the village, urban area or elsewhere. That is the beauty of Japanese masters’ craftsmanship. Let us revere them and their classical contributions even we dream to shift to Moon or Mars! It has always been to have trans-creation of tender expression of nature through the art of words for the readers to derive emotion, goodness, quietude and divine pleasure of the haiku moment. The poem needs to carry the essence of zoko (creativeness), fuga (Elegance), yugen (depth and mystery), Koko (becomingness), wabi-sabi (austere simplicity, naturalism, and solitude: Japanese aesthetic virtues) and ma (opening, space). W Hackett says,‘Lifefulness, not beauty, is the real quality of haiku’.

Solemnly I still continue to march ahead with my tiny steps! An incredible journey so far! 

Note: The article is an abridged version of assimilation of my earlier essay “Haiku: The Art of Words and My Maiden Journey”, Living Haiku Anthology, and part of ‘Preface’ from my recently published haiku collection, “Cosmic Symphony”.

References for further reading:


Publication Credit: Literary Vibes, LXIII, April 2020