Literary Shelf

MuMu - Tamil Haijin - an Interview

The 41 year old, Tamil poet Mu Murugesh aka Mu Mu, is the author of five haiku collections, six books of poems, six books for children and four collections of essays, articles and book reviews.

In 1976, the popular Tamil short-story writer, Rangarajan writing under the pen-name Sujatha, translated some haiku into Tamil for the literary magazine, Kanaiyazhi and C Mani translated some Japanese haiku into Tamil and published these in Nadai. The earliest known Tamil haiku were written in the 70's by Abdul Rahman, who also wrote some essays on the form of poetry.

The above and a translation by Leelavathy and poems by Mithra, Arivumathi, Amuthanharathi and Erode Tamizanban have all inspired Mu Mu into writing haiku. He was further influenced by Abdul Rahman's articles in Junior Vikatan in 1984-85.

Mu Mu statrted writing poems even when he was about 12 years old. Three years later, he ran a small magazine called VidiyalDawn in which he wrote many three line poems.? He recalls the following haiku , which, in 1988 (?) got him accolades :

azhu ...mazhaiyey azhu...
poththal kooraikku keezhe
kaaliyaai mansatti

cry...oh rain, cry...
beneath the roof with holes
an empty mud pot*

*mud pot = vessel made of clay in which food is kept in rural areas)

When asked why he writes haiku Mu Mu responded: “Any artistic and creative writing should be short in stead of going on and on taking page after page; it should of depth, commanding, at once, the attention of the reader. Only such writing will attract the reader and kindle in him an interest to pick it up and read. Haiku does precisely this and also does it exceedingly well. Further around that time, when he came into the scene, he saw Tamil poetry to be hollow with mere word-play either didactic or a helpless-complaining. The short form of haiku gave him hope for changing the trend. Mu Mu therefore immersed himself in this genre with great love and started writing haiku with abiding interest.

Though he is generally known as a haiku poet, he has been writing, from the start, what in Tamil, they call, new poetry. While six Tamil Haiku collections have been published, six collections of his other forms of poetry has also been published and have won quite a few prizes/awards as well.
Mu Mu says: “I don't so much concern myself with the form of any writing or poetry. What attracts me is what is said, how it is said, the poetry in the poem and the impact it has on me when and after I read it. Writing which are focused on social change give lot of happiness and enthuse me into celebrating such creation.

While responding to the question if such social-change-oriented writing do not become propagandist preaching or an advertisement script, Mu Mu says - there is nothing called "pure" literature; any creative writing has to have some happening / principle / philosophy / thought /event / class of people or society as the provocation for its birth, or as its base or a starting point and takes off from there. Talk of pure literature is all hogwash. However, straight and simple propaganda or loud slogans can not become literature. Like sweetened medicinal capsules, society-oriented writing alone, when they have a literary flavour and couched in artistic language, will stand the test of time and stand out as literature. Mu Mu wants to cite this haiku as an example-

eththanai pEr izuththum enna...
innum varavillai
sErikkul thEr

What if so many people pull
this temple-car*
has not yet entered the harijan** colony ??

*temple car is a decorated cart or a chariot in which the deity(god) of a temple is taken round the streets of a village/town
**harijan - god's children- refers to the untouchable people in a population. There used to be colonies where harijans lived together, called Seri in Tamil

According to Mu Mu, even after so many centuries, when the downtrodden people are still ignored and untouchability (apartheid) still practiced; such writing , which is not propagandist nor didactic, yet taking the social issue to the reader, he will be remembered by people, age after age, as literature.

Mu Mu says he is yet write his best haiku and "all my haiku are my favourites". If he has to choose five which gained lot of attention, he would choose these-

bayame yillaiyaa...
mullin nuniyilum
panith thuli

no fear at all...
even at the tip of the thorn
a drop of dew

pakkaththu veettil
kalar ti vi
karuththup ponathu en mukam

in the neighbour's house
colour TV
my face gets dark*

*gets dark >> change of colour- losing happiness. showing disappointment

kaayam padavey illai
viragu vettiyin paattu

not hurt at all
in the thorny forest
wood-cutter's song

netrey seththup ponaan
sediyil indru puthithaai poo

died yesterday itself
the gardener
in the plant a new bloom today

nanbanin maranam
idu kaattil nuzaigaiyil
netriyil mudhal thooral

death of a friend-
entering the crematorium
drop of the first drizzle on the forehead

One of his favourites among the haiku of other Tamil Haijins:

antha kaattil
entha moongil

in that forest
which bamboo
is a flute               - Amutha Bharathi

There were over 350 haiku books in Tamil published after 1984. Mu Mu has collected most of them. Another of his favorites:

nagangalai vettungal
poovin mugaththil kaayangal

oh rabbits
trim your nails
scratches on the face of flowers       - Mithra

paavam... en suvadugal

hot sands
poor thing! my foot prints           - Arivumathi

oornthu kondey irukkum- ithu
paambu pona thadam

crawling yet- this one
the trace of the snake's path   - Erode Tamizhanban

vinmeengal rasiththapadiye
urangum kuzanthaigal
pazuthadaintha tholaikaatchi

star gazing
sleeping children
TV under repair            - Bharathi Jibraan

About the interest among the Tamil public to read haiku, Mu Mu says: “Haiku faced the same resistance as faced by new poetry as against the traditional classical poetry of form and prosody. "Are there not enough poetic form in Tamil, why do we need new ones, it is like dressing up another man's wife" "it's a three line fad" - comments such as these were faced by the early haiku writers in Tamil. However, the Tamil Haiku survived these onslaughts and now stands at a phase when it is accepted by the reading public ; with haiku stickers, haiku diary, haiku small film, small/tiny magazines, meetings etc haiku has found welcome among poetry lovers in Tamil.”

Mu Mu's advice to aspiring writers:

“Please do not assume that simply because it is only three lines, that writing haiku is easy. Do not make it puzzle writing with a question at the end of the second and an answer at the next sentence. Do not robe a six lined new poem with the attire of a haiku by editing tricks. With appropriate use of right words, tightly controlled command over the line structure and presentation of a meaningful picture, one can take Tamil haiku to global audience — with this conviction haiku aspirants should write haiku in Tamil. If done so, the future days are not only of the youth but also of Haiku.

Mu Mu expressed his views about the haiku scene in Tamil today:

“We are at a stage when haiku is an accepted form of poetry in Tamil. Senior writers of other genre, Professors, writers of fiction, and the new generation of young poets are all coming round to writing and reading haiku accepting it as new poetry of great depth, thinking and creativity bringing new insights into life. Worn out subjects, pale imitations of great poems and rerun of perceptive poems with a bit of tinkering are dangers new writers should guard against to avoid pools of stagnation and decay.

Reading haiku literature and taking Tamil Haiku to the international arena are the next steps before us.


More by :  A. Thiagarajan

Top | Literary Shelf

Views: 3356      Comments: 1

Comment Admitted the excerpted Haikus are powerful and beautiful (more so in Tamil than in the translations). But how do we define Haiku in Tamil, while, in English, it is generally understood as a three-liner of 5,7,5 syllables describing something in nature as relating to a human situation (to paraphrase Wikipedia). Limiting the syllables to the required number is a real problem in Tamil, and in any other Indian languages, for that mater. That would be like shortening Mu Murugesh to Mu Mu!

03-Apr-2014 17:56 PM

Name *

Email ID

Comment *
Verification Code*

Can't read? Reload

Please fill the above code for verification.