In a world where everything is blown out of proportions, where there is a fascination for the biggest, the boldest, the tallest and the greatest, here comes a slim collection of poetry which raises a tiny voice to remind us that small is beautiful too. Ashithayude Haiku Kavithakal seems like an unpretentious philosophical manifesto out of which is born poetry that lovingly lingers upon transient little moments that make life seem so simple and joyous.
In the preface, she compares the art of haiku to a little strip of her heart. She says, that if stories help her escape her self, haiku is the complete erasure of the self and the ego. In just three lines it etches a thousand stretches of meaning, stringing this world with a metaphysical other, and awakening the reader to fresh possibilities and new connections. Ashitha dedicates her poems to those, who in a big world, seek the beauty of smallness.
Here is an eclectic mix of fabulous poetry touching upon anything and everything. The first poem is an ode to wind, which sweeps away memories like dead leaves and leaves one uprooted like a tree felled by its might. The wind in that sense is an undesired lover. The deceptive simplicity of Ashitha’s verse leaves one turning the pages for more. Another poem is an onomatopoeic tribute to the rhapsody of the rains. ‘Avatharam’ is meta-poetic in that it is a poem about the making of a Haiku verse, where Vamana, one of the avatars of the cosmic God, measures the three worlds of poetry with his foot, here a metrical line.
The traditional Japanese haiku poem in three lines has two images and a conclusion that clinches a comparison. Ashitha’s poems also largely conform to this pattern. Deeply meditative, most of these poems have an element of the Zen in them, where the measured self almost aspires to self-effacement.
Though most of these poems are grounded in time, in the here and the now, they open up philosophical dimensions that seem timeless. A poem titled ‘Buddhanmar’ speaks of trees as rooted in eternal meditation and therefore calls them the Buddhas of the world. In ‘Daivathinoru Premalekhanam’, or a love letter to God she speaks of a mystical experience, of descending like a dove, gently, to roost in the divine. ‘Darsanam’ speaks of stars as the mischievous glitter in God’s eyes.
Many of these poems offer profoundly meditative images. A nightingale’s song, a lullaby to the world, the spring as a song nesting in a bird’s breast, the trees praying, raising their branches in complete suppliance. The poet also says that in a world filed with meaningless words and pregnant silences, she commits hara-kiri in the Haiku verse.
Compassion, for the self, the other, the world, and all things animate and inanimate seems to be an underlying emotion for the poet. Most of the poems seem like little posies of wisdom born in compassion. What is interesting is that it is in the everyday and the humdrum activities of daily life that both knowledge and empathy are situated, cherishing a forthrightness in attempting to understand truths and speaking them aloud. For example, the mirror tells one that your eyes are as empty as the river flowing back to its source and drying up. The poet reflects that the autumn of one’s life has arrived when in gait and gaze your mother peeps out of you. Here is both a deep sense of time and a graceful acceptance of its vagaries. In a true Zen Buddhist there is also a yearning to go beyond the dualisms that are contingent in the everyday. The ‘I’ is therefore either muted or merges into cosmic rhythms and cycles.
Ashitha’s poems easily slip out of experiential domains into the supra-sensory and the metaphysical. The fluidity of both diction and thought becomes a philosophy that permeates the verses. However, the refreshing simplicity of the poems, with no seeming agendas or ideologies, is illusionary. For, they do revel in being one with the world of sensations, the world of nature, celebrating all the evanescent things in life, floating like a feather, both through language and a languid world of wonderful revelations. In this slow journey in time with no destination, everything heavy and cumbersome, all the trappings of civilization, are shed. One sails only on the wings of a gentle verse, riding the wind and the wave, losing oneself in an infinite lightness of being.
(The writer is Professor, Institute of English, University of Kerala.)
Ashithayude Haiku Kavithakal