During my stay at Chennai, I requested Mr K.Ramesh, an eminent World Haijin from India, to offer me an opportunity to listen to his haiku journey and also to his suggestions for the newborn crying out loud to capture those day-after-day haiku moments into its true form. He readily accepted to my request and then we met for a first meal at a restaurant in Adyar to discuss Haiku.
K Ramesh writes haiku, tanka and free verse. His poems have appeared in The Little Magazine, Kavya Bharati, Kritya, The Indian Pen, Poetry Chain, Frogpond, Modern Haiku, American Tanka, The Heron's Nest, Snapshots, Haiku Presence and other journals that cater to the free verse and Japanese forms of Poetry.
Some of his works have been included in the following anthologies:
1. Voices For The Future: A collection of poems brought out by Poetry Society India and British Council Division
2. Wild Flowers, New Leaves: World Haiku Anthology
3. Pegging The Wind Anthology- Red Moon Press
Red Moon Press Virginia, USA published his collection of haiku titled Soap Bubbles in 2007.
He teaches at The School (Krishnamurti Foundation India) in Chennai.
RA : Please tell me about your entry into the haiku verse at the world stage? When you started to write Haiku, who were the prominent English writing haiku poets in India?
KR : Internet played a major role in introducing me to what was happening in the haiku world. In the year 2000, I started looking for information regarding haiku journals and also opened an email account to send my works to the editors of haiku magazines. My first haiku got published in Still, edited by Ai Li.
Mrs. Angelee Deodhar and Mr R.K Singh and Mr Johannes Manjrekar were the prominent English writing haiku poets in India at that time.
RA : I notice that each of the haiku journal or different countries is endorsing different set of rules for Haiku? What is your opinion about it and how do you get adjusted to it?
KR : An evocative haiku resonates in the editor’s and reader’s mind.. If poets go by the strict rules of a particular journal, over time, they may get lost with the journal’s exit. So, it is important for a haiku poet, to focus on factors such as depth of perception, juxtaposition of images and clarity of expression. Another crucial point that we need to keep in mind is the fact that haiku works on the principle of ‘showing not telling’.
RA : How do you start to frame a Haiku? Do you complete the haiku in your mind and pen it or will you play around with your essence on the paper before finalising it? It is very popular now to choose a kigo from the world kigo database or from Mr.Willian J. Higginson’s The Haiku Handbook to juxtapose the human event with the nature event. What is you opinion about it?
KR : If all our senses are open and if we are not preoccupied with thinking, we become aware of what’s happening around us. We are in a state to observe a haiku moment. It begins with a mild surprise. There is certain recognition. After this stage, we compose a haiku by juxtaposing images.
I feel it is good to be familiar with the kigo of different seasons. However, the ‘Aha’ moment that we experience in the natural environment we are in, offers us a relevant kigo.
cool evening –
a fish nudges a pebble
in the aquarium
(First published by Tiny Words)
fading evening light
small glow of a lamp
up in the mountain
(First published by Tiny Words)
RA : Who are your favourtie haiku poets?
KR : I keep in touch with the works of Japanese haiku poets such as Basho, Buson, Shiki and other haiku masters. I also read the poems of contemporary poets that appear both in print and online magazines I don’t think on the line of “favourite haiku poets”. But I have a number of haiku which are my favourites.
RA : Other than haiku, what other forms of poetry you write? What is your advise for a poet like me who write only haiku?
KR : I don’t write senryu separately though some of my haiku may qualify as senryu. I also enjoy writing Tanka. It gives me the freedom for philosophical and emotional expression it offers through its 5 lines. I do write free verse to share my feelings as a response to what I observe in our society.
searching for coins
in my pocket-
my little daughter
As far as suggestion is concerned, I feel focusing on a particular form until one gets a clear sense of its nuances is essential before venturing into other forms of poetry. Our practice of writing haiku, I feel, will have a positive influence on the manner in which we write any other genre of poetry!
RA : I notice that some of you haiku don’t strictly fit into 5/7/5 or L/S/L or S/L/S syllables categories. For e.g. take below haiku, they have 7 syllables in the phrase of 1st haiku and 6 syllables in the fragment of 1Ind haiku respectively.
starlit sky –
I touch a turtle
before it enters the sea
(First published by The Heron’s Nest)
I let the fish
bite my toes
(First published by Tiny Words)
KR : Yes. As I stated before, I don’t consciously adjust the syllables count. It is very important for a haiku poet to present the haiku with its original essence than formatting the verse according to the syllables count by compromising with the essence of the Ku. However, one has to remember that economy of expression and choice of words are crucial factors that we have to keep in mind while composing a haiku.
RA : Of late haiku has been written deliberately in philosophical pattern and if I am right you have not written similar haiku until now. For eg, winter kigos like winter stars and winter loneliness is being associated with philosophical theme. What is your opinion about it?
KR : Using a winter kigo is fine if our attempt is to create a mood which is associated with loneliness. A good haiku is mutli-layered. Our attempt is not to convey a philosophical idea deliberately. It is our perception of a haiku moment followed by the juxtaposition of apt images that create a certain depth in our haiku.
RA : What are the journals do you recommend for the haiku learners to read regularly?
KR : I have benefited from reading these magazines: The Heron’s Nest, Presence, Modern Haiku, Bottle Rockets, Frog pond, Mayfly, Mainichi Daily News, Shamrock, Simply Haiku, Magna Poets, Paper wasp and Road Runner.
RA : I notice that you have down sized your publications, both Haiku and Tanka recently. Is my observation correct and any reason for it?
KR : Yes, you are right. Even though I continue to write haiku and other forms of poetry, I am not submitting them regularly as I used to do earlier. And also right now, I live in a place where the internet connection is not so good.
RA : These are my all time favorites from the list of your published haiku available online that present images so close to heart especially for a person like me born and brought up in Kumbakonam, Tamilnadu.
With this, I thank you once again for accepting my invitation to listen to your haiku way of life. This day will add to my list of most memorable events of my life.
the vendor’s face
from a children’s park
break a traffic rule
(First Published by Haijinx)
scent of dry leaves…
two seeds stuck on
the bath towel
(First Published by Simply Haiku)
village in the hills
a monkey looks into
the bike’s mirror
(First Published by Frogpond)
KR : Thank you for the dialogue. Your questions have made me reflect on haiku and its significance. I wish you all the best in your haiku journey.