Literary Shelf

Poetry: Not Everyone's Cup of Tea - 2

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Sonnets, Haiku, Ballads, Epics, Limericks, Elegy, Idyll, Narratives, Blank verse, Odes, Sestina, Rhyming couplets, Free verse, Tanka, Acrostic, Lyric, Villanelle,, Satire, Epigram, Fable, Tribal, Didactic, Pastoral, Renga, Cinquain, Prose poetry, Shape poem, Blues poetry, Luc Bat, Monoku, Clerihew, Found poem, List poem, Object poem, Imitation, Ghazal, Sher-o-Shayri and many other types of poetry are the categories of verse a hard-wired aficionado poet comes across. Every type of poetry has a distinctive structure and set of qualities, but they all share a dedication to the craft of language and a reverence for the expressive power of words. Even though it has been a part of human society for thousands of years, poetry is still a dynamic and alive art form that captivates and inspires us today for the sheer magic that the words conjure up.

Let us take a look at one of the beautiful formats of poetry that has its origin in Japan, known as Haiku, which, because of its simple format and mainly a subject of natural beauty, became popular across the globe and has been the darling of many poets the world over.

A traditional Japanese haiku is composed of three lines with 17 phonetic units (called on in Japanese, which are similar to syllables) in a 5, 7, and 5 structure. It also contains a kigo, (seasonal reference) and kireji, (a cutting word). Cutting word briefly cuts the stream of thoughts and gives a turn, just like a volta in sonnet in which the rhyme pattern and the poem's topic abruptly changes. This device is frequently used to denote an answer to a query, a resolution to a problem, or the release of tension that was created at the poem's beginning. This turn typically occurs near the conclusion of the sonnet, though the exact timing varies based on the sonnet form. This sudden turn is a forte of Shakespearean sonnets. It may serve as a respectful conclusion, bringing the stanza to a close with a greater sense of finality. In haiku, it may indicate a similarity between the previous and following lines.

For example, see this haiku in Japanese.

furu ike ya
kawazu tobikomu
mizu no oto

The 17 phonetic units called “on” in Japanese would be:

fu-ru-i-ke ya (5)
ka-wa-zu to-bi-ko-mu (7)
mi-zu-no-o-to (5)

Translated into English the above haiku is:

Old pond
Frog leaps in
Water's sound

Frog denotes springtime in Japan. Another example of haiku is as below:

A summer river,
being crossed,
how pleasing!

“Summer” here is a seasonal reference and the cutting word or the volta, is “crossed”. If you remove the line “being crossed” from this Haiku, still the first line and last line make sense.

Some more examples:

Winter solitude,
In a world of one color,
The sound of wind

Autumn moonlight—
A worm digs silently
Into the chestnut.

Over the wintry Forest,
Winds howl in rage
With no leaves to blow.

In the cicada's cry
No sign can foretell,
How soon it must die.

Similar tracks that do not fit into these categories are usually called senry. Haiku often focuses on nature, and though brief, uses vivid imagery and sensory details to create a powerful and evocative image.

The prior term for Haiku was Hokku. Masaoka Shiki (1867-1902) renamed hokku to haiku. The term, haiku is now commonly used to denote all hokkus irrespective of when they were written. Masaoka also changed the format a little bit to suit the ambience of the poem.

Global exposure to haiku started happening when Dutchman Hendrik Doeff (1764–1837) served as the Dutch commissioner at the Dejima commercial station in Nagasaki and was smitten by the style of poetry. One of his haiku reads:

nazuma no…….. lend me your arms
kaina wo karan………fast as thunderbolts
kusamakura……....for a pillow on my journey

When the first volume of R.H. Blythe's four-volume masterpiece, Haiku, was released in Japan in 1949, he became the first Englishman to bring haiku to the English-speaking post-war world. He is known as a major English-speaking haiku interpreter. The evolution of haiku in English-language was influenced by his works.

Due to his strong personal ties to the Italian literati, the Japanese poet Harukichi Shimoi brought haiku to Italy in the 1920s. Both Gabriele d'Annunzio and, to a lesser degree, Ezra Pound had a thorough understanding of the haiku literary genre, made known by Harukichi.

The haiku form caught the interest of American writers, who adopted it, after Harold G. Henderson's An Introduction to Haiku: An Anthology of Poems and writers from Bashô to Shiki was published in 1958.

The haiku was introduced to France sometime in the early 1900s by Paul-Louis Couchoud. F. S. Flint, an early Imagist thinker, read French-language articles on haiku and forwarded Couchoud's ideas to other members of the proto-Imagist Poets' Club, including Ezra Pound.

Since several well-known Spanish authors, including Joan Alcover, Antonio Machado, Juan Ramón Jiménez, and Luis Cernuda, have experimented with haiku, and the form has gained popularity in Spain.

Un dia (1919) and El jarro de flores (1922), two volumes written completely in haiku, were published by the Mexican author José Juan Tablada. Rafael Lozano and Carlos Gutiérrez Cruz then continued Mexican haiku. They were shortly followed by Jaime Torres Bodet in his compilation Biombo, Carlos Pellicer, and Xavier Villaurrutia also loved haiku. Many poems in haiku were included by Octavio Paz in Piedras Sueltas much later. The Ecuadorian poet and diplomat Jorge Carrera Andrade included haiku in his work Microgramas. The Argentine author Jorge Luis Borges took to haiku in his book La Sifra. In 1992, Nobel laureate Czeslaw Milosz released the book on haiku, in which he translated current Japanese, American and Canadian writers’ poems into Polish.

Rabindranath Tagore, a Nobel winner, wrote haiku in Bengali at the start of the 20th century. He also did some Japanese translations. Jhinabhai Desai, also known as "Sneharashmi," popularised haiku in Gujarati and has stayed a well-known haiku author. The World Haiku Festival, which drew poets from Bangladesh, Europe, the United States, and India, was hosted in Bangalore in February 2008. Omer Tarin, a Pakistani poet who is involved in the movement for nuclear abolition on a global scale, is one of the South Asian writers who occasionally composes haiku. Some of his "Hiroshima Haiku" has been performed at different peace conventions in Japan and the UK. The Malayalam-language author Ashitha from India wrote several Haiku verses into a book. Her writings helped Malayalam literature enthusiasts embrace haiku to a great extent.

Here are some Haikus in a few Indian languages, starting with one composed by the great Gurudev Rabindranath Tagore in Bengali.

(Jole uthe phule,,

Phule uthe phaler swapno,,
Swapne mile manush.

From water, flowers rise,
From flowers, the dream of fruit,
in dreams, humans meet.


(Raindrops falling,
Stuck on the rooftop,
Peace in the mind).


(Phullam da rang,
Khushbu da siahi,
Man da sukh.

The color of flowers,
The ink of fragrance,.
Peace of mind.)


(Ghare bahaar chhe,
madhur fulonu khusboo chhe,
koylanu geet

Springtime at home,
Sweet fragrance of flowers,
The song of a cuckoo.)


(Marada kombugalu,
Hosa pushpa huttuttive,
Vasanta bandu hoy,

Buds on the tree,
New flowers are blooming,
Spring has arrived.)


(Prema prapancham
prakruti kuntunnavi
chutu leni prema

The world of love,
Is being expressed,
Through a love that never fades).


(Vizhigalil vizhundhu,
Vizhigalil kalandhu,
Vaanavil poga.

Sinking in the eye,
Vanishing into the sky).


(Mazhayum kaattum,

Rain and wind,
Become equal,
Remembered in the mind.)

Let us close this thread with another Bengali Haiku by Gurudev Rabindranath Tagore.

(Batasera aghate,
Tara kape na abar,
Alor pathe.

Amidst the wind's strike,
Stars tremble not again,
On the path of light.)

Continued to Next Page 

Image (c) Rajender Krishan


More by :  Dr. Satish Bendigiri

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