A Haiku Evening held at the Alliance Française recently demystified the poetry form

Basho’s famous lines ring across the room: Furuike ya /kawazu tobikomu/ mizu no oto which means The old pond/Frog jumps in/ Water sound. The words run into each other and flow with a rhythmic harmony. An image of the long-legged amphibian leaping into the recesses of an ancient pool flits across your head and you can almost hear the splash it makes as its body hits the surface of the water.

“Anyone who knows a language can write Haiku but you have to speak through those images.” says Mohammed Fakhruddin the President of Haiku Society of India, speaking at a Haiku Evening organised by Lotus and Chrysanthemum, in collaboration with the Alliance Française de Bangalore.

“Haiku is a quintessential Japanese form, representative of Japanese culture at its purest. It has a very strict grammar — 17 syllables in three lines and normally talks about nature, feelings and experiences,” says Chiranjiv Singh, President of the Alliance Française de Bangalore,

He goes on to trace the introduction of Haiku in India. According to Singh, it was Rabindranath Tagore who introduced the art form to India. “Tagore was very fascinated with Japanese art and poetry and it became a part of the Bengal school of arts,” he says adding that Bangalore was the second most popular centre for Haiku in India.

He then released Fakhruddin’s latest book The Art of Creating Haiku — a book that offers a guide to Haiku aspirants. “It was on the request of various readers across the country that I came up with this book,” says Fakhruddin. “All that I have learnt about Haiku is captured in this book.”

Fakhruddin proceeded to read out from the book, interspersing his reading with bits of information and some useful tips about Haiku. “Haiku follows a 5/7/5 syllabic metre but rhythm is not compulsory to it,” he says. “One can play around with it — it is completely different from other kind of poetry.”

Poets in the audience then exhibited exactly how versatile it was by reading various Haiku — some original, some the labour of the old masters. Japanese, Urdu, English, French haiku was recited drawing appreciative claps applause. Frogs, monkeys, wind, water, loneliness, God, hope, nature, children, and spring came to life as the poets drew their word pictures enthralling listeners.

“Haiku takes you to a new level of concentration. It leads you to mediate and at the end of it you have produced a beautiful piece of poetry”, says Fakhruddin. “It has a Zen element to it that makes the reader think a while before understanding it.”