In this post we review the haiku by Arvinder Kaur below.
rickety bridge —
the langoor’s leap
from fog to fog
—published in A Hundred Gourds, December 2014 Issue.
Dr Brijesh Raj:
An interesting ku with movement in all three lines and yet an element of surprise. The usage of ‘fog’ in L3 sounds forced but does not detract too much from the beauty of the crystal clear visual. Reading this ku is like watching a video-grab from an incursion into mother nature’s space.
The Langur is a powerful and fiercely free-spirited being. It will not easily share space with us. Ironically it appears to be more sure of itself in the air than the observer on ground.
Obviously here, there are two distinct and disparate images: the rickety bridge – in the fragment – and the seemingly unconnected image of a langoor leaping from fog to fog, in the phrase. Here, how does the rickety bridge, in the fragment, connect with the langoor’s leap, in the phrase? When the langoor leaps from one fog covered limb to another, it bridges the gap between the limbs or branches of a tree, doesn’t it? That’s it! The key is ‘bridge’. And this leap between limbs, covered as they are with fog, is as dangerous as traversing the rickety bridge. The technique employed here, is one of Comparison, drawing a likeness between the two images.
Raamesh Gowri Raghavan:
Between ‘rickety bridge’ and ‘leap’ you see the first contrast: you’re made to think of an image in which you’d rather leap over a chasm than risking stepping on the bridge. ‘fog to fog’ adds to that uncertainty: visibility is low on both sides of the chasm, so how do you know how deep it is? The ‘langur’ is the third visual element and very strong at that: a powerful and resourceful animal much celebrated in Indian traditions.
Taken together, these three images work at two levels. At the literal level one looks at a langur taking a leap in a foggy situation, and one wonders whether s/he’s trying to avoid the bridge and trust her/his own limbs (Langurs are good leapers).
At the figurative level though, picture the mind as the langur (an image often used in Hindu & Buddhist philosophy), leaping from blurry idea to blurry idea, lacking faith in the rickety bridge of actual study and enlightenment; the mind is happier to by lulled by comforting falsehoods than traverse the difficult path of truth.
The image in the haiku is beautiful. The juxta positioning of the rickety bridge with the langur leaping is perfect, creating the right bit of tension in the reader’s mind. Although there is a liberal use of alliteration, the ambience and the aspiration created is fantastic. This haiku grows on you. Makes me want to write a story on it.
This haiku by Arvinder Kaur, is a very visual piece of poetry. And a lovely one at that. When I first read this haiku, I could actually see the scene unfolding right in front of me. Wooden rickety bridges are a common sight in the north of India and so are langurs and of course fog.
But my concern while trying to dissect this haiku was what does it give me beyond the pretty picture. Beyond the first wow generated by a haijin deftly weaving her words. In other words the vertical axis. And here’s when I thought that may be the rickety bridge is something more suggestive than just being a convenient presence. Is it that the poet wants us to walk on that journey with her, the one which each one of us walks . . . unsure of where we are heading over a creaky uncertain path, while life itself just keeps moving on. One leap after another.
May be. May be not. I for one would like to believe so. But even if that’s not the case the haiku works as a great example of shasei.