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Well said, in very few words

Poet Kala Ramesh says she is practically addicted not just to haiku, but also to its allied forms like tanka and haibun. Photo: R. Ragu  

Playful. Perceptive. Unshackled. Well, that would describe both Kala Ramesh and the beautiful haiku poetry she writes. Now on a visit to hometown Chennai to be with her parents, this Pune resident gets nostalgic . “Going to the beach with my dad every Thursday, his weekly day off; to kutcheris with my mom; turtle walks looking for Olive Ridleys and their eggs, my morning cup of coffee with The Hindu...I am thrilled to be back home,” says Kala, just ahead of a lecture on haiku for the Chennai chapter of Indian National Trust For Art and Cultural Heritage (INTACH). Kala is considered to be among the most important haiku poets in India.

Besides the many critically acclaimed books on haiku she has penned, her poems have appeared in anthologies and journals published across the world. Incidentally, she was the  director for the 9 World Haiku Festival held in Bangalore in 2008. Kala is one of the founding members of the ‘IN haiku’ group, the umbrella organisation of Indian Haiku poets. An intriguing person, Kala dons several hats. She teaches poetry at the Symbiosis International University, Pune. She is a veena player and a Hindustani classical singer and has given concerts in cities across the country. But right now, it is haiku that has her in sway.

How did Japanese haiku poetry get to cast its charm on an Indian classical vocalist like you?

Besides a few short essays on Indian music, school leave letters and the like for my two children, I was not much of a writer until January 2005, when I came across haiku on a poetry site, boloji.com. On a whim, I downloaded haiku lessons from this site and tried writing it. Now, I am practically addicted not just to haiku, but also to its allied forms like tanka and haibun.

How does haiku connect with the Indian psyche?

There are many similarities between haiku and Indian thought. Take for instance the 5/7/5 syllable count in haiku: we’ve had these rhythmic patterns like ‘kanda nadai’ or ‘misra nadai’ in our classical music and dance for hundreds of years. Our a dvaita concept of oneness with the universe is central to haiku too.

What defines haiku? Is it in the metre or the message?

A haiku has to be open-ended like a semi-circle, with each reader making her own interpretation. Haiku brings in Nature with a touch of human nature. Haiku is called a wordless poem not merely because it’s written in just 9 to 10 words, but, it’s also simple and stands bare, without adjectives and poetics! It’s the most condensed form of poetry in the world — so chopping off redundancy is crucial. I tell my management students, haiku will help them edit their presentations effectively!

How would you compare haiku with Indian verse formats like Dohe (Hindi couplets) or Thirukkural (Tamil couplets)?

Both Dohe and Thirukural are lovely, and Kabirdas has been my all-time favourite Bhakti poet. Having said that, both tend to be a little heavy compared to haiku. The last advice from the 17 Century haiku master Basho to his students was the importance of ‘Karumi’ (lightness) in haiku.

How do you write verse? Do you compose on the go, or in retrospection?

There are many ways, but the best one is to keep all our five senses open — be receptive. Let our eyes become the camera, the mind, a sketchbook! Hear, smell, touch, see and taste as you walk along the haiku path!

Who has been your inspiration?

My father, 92 years is still practicing as a doctor and my mother, being a poet, has composed dozens of songs on devi. I am greatly touched and inspired by the simple and contended lives they lead.

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Printable version | Apr 18, 2021 7:29:15 PM | https://www.thehindu.com/features/metroplus/well-said-in-very-few-words/article6101288.ece

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