Japanese Whispers

A growing number of people in the city are taking to haiku – the ancient art of poetry that originated in the Land of the Rising Sun

Written by Prajakta Hebbar | Published: May 1, 2013 11:36:30 pm

A growing number of people in the city are taking to haiku – the ancient art of poetry that originated in the Land of the Rising Sun

The sea darkens/ A wild duck’s call/ Faintly white.” Japanese poet Matsuo Basho’s words may seem to paint an abstract picture,but for haiku enthusiast Kala Ramesh,they mean more. “Can a duck’s call be white? This makes us sit up and notice. The image links to the ‘darkening sky’,so all that I understand as a reader is a white bird,perhaps a migrating bird,flying and getting smaller. And it honks,which to me becomes ‘white’,” she explains.

“A haiku is like taking a photograph with words,” says Snehith Kumbla,a blogger and poet,about the ancient art of Japanese poetry. He first came across it when he attended a haiku writing workshop in Pune,a couple of years ago. “Haiku is so simple and conveys so much through so little. Its intensity and depth had me hooked on to it,” says the 30-year-old enthusiast.

This Japanese form of short poetry is more than 400 years old and is said to have fascinated both Rabindranath Tagore and Subramanya Bharathi at the beginning of the last century. And now it is finding many takers in the city — in the form of writers,bloggers and haiku enthusiasts.

The short form of poetry is based on the juxtaposition of two images or ideas and a kireji (Japanese for cutting word) between them,a kind of verbal punctuation mark that signals the moment of separation between these elements. Haiku,known as the most condensed form of poetry in the world,is also riddled with rules. “But techniques are like the banks of a river,” explains Ramesh,who has been writing haikus for more than seven years now. An Indian classical musician,Ramesh has been composing poems in other haiku-related genres such as tanka (five line-poem),haibun (tight prose embedded with haiku),senryu and renku (collaborative linked verse) among others.

Talking about how the city is growing to appreciate the art form,Ramesh says,“We have probably one of the only institutes in the country that offers a course in haiku writing. Symbiosis has introduced haiku as one of the subjects offered in their Floating Credits Program. Twenty three undergraduate students opted for the 30-hour haiku course module this year.” She adds that she has been organising several haiku meets in the city since December 2006.

Shernaz Wadia,a freelance writer and poet,is among those who recently got hooked to haiku. After attending the Haiku Festival earlier this year in the city,she met many like-minded enthusiasts. “Though I write more of free verses,I think that haiku is a beautiful art form. It is an arrested moment,conveyed through very few words,” says the 65-year-old. Most haiku enthusiasts stay in touch by reading each other’s works through websites such as World Haiku Review among others.

Ramesh had earlier worked with six other international poets and had experimented with incorporating the traditional renku with the nine rasas or emotions from the Indian art forms.

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