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Haiku in India: A few glimpses from the past 12 months

This year has been an eventful one for India, with respect to haiku and related genres. A new journal, an actively subscribed kukai, a forthcoming conference and several individual activities have meant that India has been an exciting country to be in if you are a haijin.

Activities in the past year:
The year began with Dr. Angelee Deodhar, the doyenne of India haiku (who has been writing since 1989), giving a talk to the Poetry Society of Hyderabad, which was very well-received. On the following day, assisted by Paresh Tiwari, she conducted a day long haiku workshop in Hyderabad. The workshop was dedicated to Bill Higginson and she told the participants that they should use The Haiku Handbook as a Bible to learn haiku. As Ireland was the guest nation, Gabriel Rosenstock was there too.

Then in New Delhi on the 27th of January, Dr. Angelee Deodhar conducted a two and half hour bilingual workshop in a school meant for slum children. 45 children sat on a thin durree on the ground and listened spellbound as they interacted with her. Dr. Deodhar spiced it up with music and a short clip about birds. The children then wrote haiku and she workshopped each poem.

In April, Sunaparanta Goa Centre for the Arts conducted a four-day haiku workshop, led by Kala Ramesh. On 26th April, she partnered with Liz Kemp from Scotland to present “Illuminating the Natural World”, a collaborative session combining the art of haiku with visual art. This was highly stimulating for the participants as two art forms came together not as haiga but as individual mediums of expression.

On subsequent days, (27th to the 29th April 2014), Kala conducted a 10-hour solo haiku workshop with 12 participants of mixed age groups. At the end of day one, the participants wrote their first haiku. The next day they workshopped the haiku, check-listing whether at least 2 or 3 “ingredients” which make up a haiku were present! The next two days they were exposed to renku. A Junicho of 12 verses was completed and it’s been accepted for publication in A Hundred Gourds for their September 2014 issue.

On 29th May, 2014, Kala Ramesh had an introductory session on haiku for the members of the Indian National Trust for Art and Cultural Heritage (INTACH) Chennai Branch. It was their first exposure to haiku and the session was highly interactive, meaning the members asked the right questions about haiku and its nuances and sensibilities. This event was covered by Hema Vijay for The Hindu. Well said, in very few words - The Hindu

In the summer of 2014, we had the inauguration of Wah - a new bilingual journal of haiku and allied arts. Edited by Amrjit Singh Tiwana “Sathi” and Arvinder Kaur, the first issue carried the haiku and haibun of several haijin of note, with corresponding translations in Punjabi. Sathi says in his editorial, the “aim in this inaugural issue is to present haiku written in English to Punjabi writers and readers by translating them into Punjabi.”

The journal opens with a section of haiku on spring written by the Japanese Masters: Matsuo Basho, Yosa Buson, Kobayashi Issa, Chiyo-ni, Masaoke Shiki and Suzuki Masajo. It also includes well-known ELH writers such as Angela Leuck, Bruce Ross, Carole MacRury, Janick Belleau, LeRoy Gorman and Marco Fraticelli. A new crop of writers in Punjabi are introduced to the English world through translations from Punjabi into English. Here are two examples, selected by Patricia Prime in her own review:

black and white clouds –
an old woman puts another stitch
in the quilt

Amanpreet Pannu

on the flute
she plays raga Basant –
blooms everywhere

Amrao Gill

A number of essays on the art and practive of haiku and haibun round off the journal. Submissions for the second issue are already in full flow. We wish that Wah (Punjabi and Hindi for ‘kudos’) will go from strength to strength.

1. GLO-TALK is a new blogzine of literature and current affairs, started by Chennai-based litterateur Glory Sasikala Franklin. Raamesh Gowri Raghavan, a young haijin has begun a series of interviews of noted Indian haijin, in order to introduce the larger literary world to haiku, tanka, haibun, and more. The inaugural interview was of Dr. Angelee Deodhar (July 1st, 2014), followed by one of K. Ramesh (July 20th, 2014).

Ongoing activities:
Two notable fora have been active in promoting haiku online. IN haiku is the Facebook extension of IN haiku, the Indian haiku association. Not only are haiku written and workshopped to weekly prompts, but an entire Junicho was completed and submitted to A Hundred Gourds (where it has been accepted for publication). Haiku Samuh is a Hindi-language based haiku group, run by Dr. Jagdish Vyom, editor of the Hindi haiku journal Haiku Darpan. It has acquired a small but active community of haijin writing in Hindi.

The Indian Kukai has now established its presence worldwide, with its sixth season currently ongoing. A bimonthly Kukai, it has seen rising participation not only from India but also from the Balkans, Western Europe, North America and Australia. Topics covered have been as diverse as scent (3rd Kukai), salt (4th), swing (5th) and cloud (6th).

Forthcoming activities:
The fourth 60 hour course module on haiku, senryu, tanka, haibun, renku and haiga is commencing on August 19th at The Symbiosis International University, Pune, which will be taught by Kala Ramesh, their external faculty member. It is one of those rare courses in India where students are exposed to all short forms of poetry coming from Japan.

IN haiku will conduct its 3rd ‘Utsav’ in Mumbai. IN haiku is the association of Indian haijin formed in February 2013, bringing the formerly disparate haiku community in India under one umbrella. With the aim of deepening knowledge, attracting new recruits and strengthening mutual bonds, IN haiku organises annual national conferences. In recognition of the festive air of these gatherings, they are called an ‘Utsav’ (a word in several Indian languages that means festival).

The third ‘Utsav’ will be held on 13th and 14th September, 2014 at (and in collaboration with) SIES College of Arts, Science and Commerce, Mumbai. Titled ‘Distilled Images’, the conference has a focus on exploring and expanding the contemporary haiku scene in India.

(Published in Seedpods)

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