A Hundred Gourds 2:3 June 2013
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Haiku in India

| Introduction | page 2 | page 3 | page 4 | page 5 | page 6 |

Haiku Utsav, February 2013[1]

– Bhavani Ramesh

The Haiku Utsav 2013 was held in Pune on 22nd and 23rd of Feb. Partly sponsored by the Symbiosis Institute of Liberal Arts, it was a wholesome two days spent in discussions, debates and detailing of haiku and other forms of Japanese poetry like tanka and haibun.

The participants were as varied as it can get: teachers, doctors, artists, navy officers, advertising professionals and students from different parts of India – Pune, Mumbai, Chandigarh, Hyderabad and Chennai. Our ages ranged from a young 27 to a much wiser 65. It made for a rich exchange of thoughts, perspectives influenced by each individual’s journey.

The first session on Saturday began with a bang. It was an introduction to haiku through Basho, Issa and Chiyo ni – the formidable pillars of haiku in the Japanese tradition. On paper, the session sounded as simple as a poetry reading of some of the best, but it took on a different dimension. Each poem was read, allowed to float around, pulled back through interpretations from the participants and then embellished with anecdotes by the well-known haiku poets leading the session, Angelee Deodhar (Chandigarh) and Kala Ramesh (Pune). Normally, appreciation of the masters happens in the privacy of one’s own thoughts. This session brought out new angles to each poem, at times surprising even the senior poets into saying, “oh I never thought of that, maybe that’s what he meant!”, driving home the lesson that no one interpretation of a poem is right and that good haiku only ‘shows’, and it’s up to the reader to ‘tell’.

The second session was an introduction to ‘new ku’ by the young poet, Aditya Bahl (Delhi). Haiku has been evolving through the years, but the “new ku” steps totally away; not an evolution but almost a revolution! Highly confusing for all the seasoned poets, this session was probably the most volatile one with multiple points of view and argumentative yet fruitful dialogue. It opened our eyes to a contemporary type of haiku in form and structure that has its roots in the essence of haiku. A favourite with all the participants was:

as an and you and you and you alone in the sea

- Richard Gilbert


Paresh Tiwari and Gautam Nadkarni get down to some nitty-gritty haiku work.

Photo by Bhavani Ramesh

In the last session on day one, each poet took the floor for around 10 minutes and read out their poetry. Varied forms were shared: haiku, tanka and haibun. Day 2 began with haiku on our minds as we brushed our teeth! At 6.30am, the participants walked up the Bhamburda forest with a symphony of birdcalls and crunch of gravel for company. A break for breakfast, and then it was time for the Haiku Bowl. Each person put a haiku written by him or her into a bowl, albeit anonymously. Each haiku was picked from the bowl randomly and workshopped by the participants together, thus crafting it into a better version of the same thought. It helped teach haiku newbies the rules through examples. It made me notice the importance of each word, each pause in a form that is so bare-bodied and pithy. What worked for all these sessions was the openness of the discussions, the lack of hierarchy while chairing the session or expressing an opinion. Some examples of the workshopped poems are:

turmeric moon –
on each page of Ma's cookbook
a smear of gold

space Sanjuktaa Asopa
spacer brush

mixed with His footprints
my kitten’s paws

space Geethanjali Raja
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    haiku bowl –
the chocolate shared
out of silver foil

space Angelee Deodhar
spacer brush

if I kiss you now
would I smell of
fish and rice too?

space Paresh Tiwari
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  sudden rain –
umbrellas mushroom
on the street

space Gautam Nadkarni [2]
spacer brush

    mountain walk
the breathlessness
after the chatter

space Bhavani Ramesh
spacer brush

The last session was a personal favourite where all the participants wrote a renku. The 12-verse Junicho was chosen for this year’s workshop. The joint sabakis – Rohini Gupta and Kala Ramesh – drummed down the list of words, images that could not be repeated. It got tougher once we were done with six verses, but there was a lively interplay of words, thoughts and everyone trying to make each verse even more beautiful. The entire poem moved from one person’s imagination to another’s and thus, flourished. The session was great fun, and brought out the best in each person sitting around the table. Our renku,  A Skylark Sings, is published in this issue of A Hundred Gourds.


Angelee Deodhar is not only an expert translator and a well-respected haijin. Here she gives Shernaz Wadia some hints about photography.

Photo by Bhavani Ramesh

The two days came to a triumphant close with a new haiku group formed – ‘IN haiku’ – for promoting, enjoying and sinking deeper into the beauty and intricacies of this art form. This was the 4th festival spear-headed by Kala Ramesh who with her enthusiasm and energy manages to make such events seem effortless. The Haiku Utsav made one sit up, take note of nature – it was almost like Wordsworth instructing us to all ‘stand and stare’.

1. ‘Haiku Utsav, February 2013’ is a version of ‘Those three Little Lines’, first published in February, 2013.
2. sudden rain – First Place, Shiki Monthly Kukai, 2009