Here is a book review of the Taste of Sea Breeze, the anthology of our INhaiku group.
Since we published the anthology a while ago, it has been selling a few copies and been borrowed as well. Copies have been sold in five countries on Amazon.
Poetry – and haiku – is doing better than I expected.
And now it has a review, a sensitive and unbiased review. Do take a look at the blog A Bookworm’s Musing.
The review is here.
The anthology is available here.
Thank you, Vinay Leo R.
This interview was published in the online blogzine GLO-TALK on Monday, June 30, 2014.
Haiku by Angelee Deodhar originally published in Mann Library’s Daily Haiku, March 2013, reproduced by permission of the author.
Haiku has been as misunderstood around the world as it has been famous. To most, it is a 5-7-5 verse in 3 lines. In a series of interviews with haiku poets from India, I’d love to break the myth, and bring to you the depth and beauty of this form, expressed in just three lines.
I begin with Dr. Angelee Deodhar. An ophthalmologist by profession, her first passion has always been writing. A chance reading of Potpourri, the American poetry journal, brought her to haiku in 1989. Like a poet who finally found her calling, she took to it immediately. Besides haiku, she is also an exponent of the haibun – a form that brings together the experiential essay and the haiku into a symphony of emotions.
She has led from the front in translating the works of Japanese poets into Indian languages, and has promoted the development of the form in the Hindi language. Interspersed with the questions are Angelee’s haiku (reproduced with her kind permission).
RGR: What made you think haiku was your calling? How were your initial years writing haiku? You state in your interview with contemporary haiku master Robert D Wilson (Simply Haiku, Winter 2006, vol 4 no 4) that you struggled with the perception among Indian writers that it was no more than a 3-line poem, ignoring its unique semantic construct, objectivity, and sense of the moment?
AD: I had never heard of haiku till I was in a hospital bed in 1989-1990. So if it was a ‘calling’ I certainly didn’t know it existed. I was familiar with English language poetry and had written longer poems and short stories, but then I discovered haiku – It was love at first read and that affair has continued.
I wrote to the Japanese Embassy in Delhi to get an idea of what haiku was. They Xerox-ed a couple of pages in which I found Mr. William J. Higginsons’ address and wrote to him. He very kindly sent me a signed copy of his Haiku Handbook. Then I got a copy of Lucien Stryks book ‘A cage of fireflies’ as a gift from my husband. Many months later I was fortunate to come across Ms. Liz Fenn who ran an international haiku library (at the Haiku Conservatory, USA) from which one could borrow a book, read it, and send it back by post. She was very kind to me and sent me several books free of cost. I studied from them, noting down passages and haiku and then sent the book back.
Meanwhile, I tentatively started sending out my three liners to various journals. Those days one had to correspond by snail mail and send a SASE (self-addressed stamped envelope) and wait for several weeks for a reply. Here I would like to mention several editors who published my work: Patrick Frank of Point Judith Light, David Priebe of Haiku Headlines, Ken C. Liebman of Frogpond, Robert Spiess of Modern Haiku and several others. There was no one in India whom I could turn to, write to or discuss anything as ELH was unheard of.
Then in 2000, came the World Haiku Festival organized by Mr. Susumu Takiguchi in London and Oxford which is where I met a number of wonderful haijin from several countries. My haiku world blossomed and I heard of R.H. Blyth for the first time from Ms. Ikuyo Yoshimura. I met Jim Kacian, Max Verhart, Ion Codrescu,Visjna McMaster, Phillip D. Noble,the late Martin Lucas and several others. Still there weren’t many books to consult. I bought one book here, one book there and added to my haiku library as best I could. Some haijin were kind enough to give me their books.
On my return from England, I met Prof. Satyabhushan Verma the exponent of haiku in Hindi, who had published several haiku in an inland format from 1979. Many Hindi haiku groups sprang up,subsequently, but the credit for the first haiku club in India goes to the Late Prof. Satyabhushan Verma and to think I knew nothing about Hindi haiku either! Such ignorance!
meeting new friends
a flight of pigeons
RGR: We all evolve in our writing, as we do in life. From 1989 to 2014, do you notice any changes in your writing style? Looking back at your early work, would you think of revising it now?
AD: In two and a half decades of learning about haiku I have understood one thing, that all writing is a lonely calling – to write a passable haiku one must be alone much – observe and respond from a felt depth. My earliest efforts were just pretty three liners and although the editors were kind enough to publish them, I feel they lack a lot.
I have never looked back to ‘revise’ an old haiku. I write spontaneously about what I see or feel, and work/rework that haiku till I find it works for me and catches the moment. I learn every day.
bonfire festival –
all the songs of my youth
sung by grandchildren
RGR: What is your haiku secret? What keeps you going, through the hundreds of haiku you’ve written. It’s hard to choose one’s ‘best’ haiku, but were I to force you to choose, which would it be?
AD: I don’t know if there is a secret formula, but I try to live in the now of every waking moment. I listen, observe, interact and then respond with a haiku/haibun. I do not have any favourite haiku but I will share my jisei (death poem) with you
water worn boulder
so smooth now
against callused feet
RGR: The environment has changed too – there are many more journals today, and haiku publishing (like all else) has moved from print to web. Has the resultant abundance of journals made it easier for people to write and publish haiku – or do you think it has led to compromises, as editors scramble to fill volumes within the deadlines?
AD: Yes, in the last couple of decades things have changed drastically, some for the better some for the worse.
Firstly, the web presence of haiku-related material has mushroomed, to say nothing of Facebook groups, personal blogs, etc. While this plethora of haiku-like material is available at a click to everyone, it has led to just about any short thing – one word, one line, two lines, or three lines – being passed off as a haiku. This is distressing.
Secondly, neophyte haijin are not responding to genuine experiences, but are writing desk-ku. Their absolute desperation to get on to any blog or site is obviously detrimental to the quality of the genre, which deserves deeper study and contemplation.
Thirdly, however, there are some fine, erudite free resources (too numerous to mention here) from which one can learn a lot. Online haiku, haibun and tanka journals are excellent places to learn from and the editors are trying their best to give a fair representation of the work they receive, most of which is very good. In that way present day haijin are very fortunate indeed. Still a book is a book…now Amazon, Flipkart etc are carrying haiku books which one can get easily.
in sudden squall
the gently swaying
RGR: Not content with being merely a masterful poet, you have made translation a mission of your literary career to translate ELH and Japanese haiku into Hindi. When did you conceive of this idea? Did you have any qualms and insecurities as you started on your journey?
AD: I wanted haijin writing in Hindi to understand the basic concepts of ELH, going beyond the 5-7-5 form, and hence the translations, the bilingual site of Haiku Sansaar and the English pages of Haiku Darpan.
As regards my jump into the bilingual haiku pond of translations, with my first book about Masaoka Shiki I was filled with trepidation. But it was favourably received specially by Hindi haijin even though the translations were not in the 5-7-5 pattern. I conceived of this idea in Ogaki, Japan when I met Ms. Minako Noma who had translated Shiki’s haiku from Japanese to English.She very kindly arranged to get me the permission to translate Shiki’s work into Hindi.
The funds for this book came from my aunt, a saadhvi and the credit for assistance in translations goes to my late husband Dr. Shridhar D. Deodhar who had excellent Hindi.
-in the monastery
rising above the plainchant
a warbler’s half note
RGR: You have made publishing an act of selflessness – giving away precious works such as Ogura Hyakunin Isshu and The Distant Mountain to students who seek them. Why have you chosen not to profit from your work, even as many haijin in the West and Japan have opened successful haiku publishing houses?
AD: Since I had had a rough time trying to get books on haiku, I decided to make my six bilingual books available to everyone in India and abroad. Here again the generosity of finances and time given to my efforts in translation go to my husband and the secretarial work/editing to my son. I was given emotional support by a lot of haiku friends worldwide. I must mention the generosity of Jim Kacian who sent me a sack full of books which I shared with friends.
sharing an umbrella
your wet left shoulder
my right one
RGR: Looking back at your quarter century, what are the mistakes you made? What did you do that you would advise a beginner (like this interviewer) to not do?
AD: I would have liked to learn Japanese and also come to know about haiku in my school days. To this end I have tried my best to get haiku into the Indian school syllabus.
My advice for what its worth, would be to write every day, everywhere, about everything – a phrase, a fragment, a word and not worryabout its publication. Read, read, read every day.
an I.V. line
anchors me to the monitor
thoughts still wander
And lastly, we wish you a long career still ahead of you.
Journeys 2015: An Anthology of International Haibun, ed., Angelee Deodhar, 255 pp., 6×9, perfect bound, from http://www.amazon.com in print and e-book formats or contact firstname.lastname@example.org.Price – US $ 20(Print edition) and US $ 4.99 (e-book edition)
In his book ‘Looking at the Overlooked’, art historian Norman Bryson talks about the distinction between Megalography and Rhopography. Megalography, ‘is the depiction of those things in the world which are great – the legends of the gods, the battles of the heroes, the crisis of history.’ Rhopography–‘ is the depiction of those things which lack importance, the unassuming material base of life that importance constantly overlooks.’
Haibun, definitely is a hard-to-categorize genre. Is it in essence poetry or prose? Is it written from personal experience or the result of a fanciful flight in a fabulist world which is but the creation of a poet? Questions such as these, do not really matter for someone writing free form poetry, a novel or a short-story, but you write a haibun and more often than not even the practitioners of the form will ask you – ‘It’s nice, but is it really a haibun?’
And then one comes across a landmark work in English-language haibun, with unprecedented scope and focus, Journeys 2015 (The second book in the series, edited by Dr. Angelee Deodhar). The anthology celebrates the evolution of English-language haibun and in the bargain gives us a book to cherish. Featuring one hundred and forty five haibun, the anthology highlights and explores the work of twenty-five contemporary and six pioneer haibun writers. And after reading the book, I am happy to report the question remains unanswered. If there is one thing I have learnt reading the works of these magnificent poets, it has to be – It is futile to attempt to straitjacket something as sublime and as vast as haibun. Sure there are definitions (In fact the first issue of Journeys in 2014, began with a mini anthology of haibun definitions), but once you finish reading the book cover to cover, you would agree that there just might be as many definitions of haibun as there are haibun writers. And that is good news, for it means that haibun as a genre is mutating, growing, evolving and thus is here to stay.
Haibun editors across the globe have rued the fact that not enough is being done for the genre, that unlike other forms of writing there just aren’t enough good books, journals and anthologies to invite the reader in. It is in these circumstances, that Angelee Deodhar, herself a gifted haibuneer, decided to take the matter in her own hands and now for two consecutive years has given us anthologies that deserve a place of honour on your book shelf. Like a magician she knows how to pull the rabbit out of the hat – well in this case, haibun writers and their works from across the globe (a few who are no longer amongst us).
So, where to begin reviewing a book whose scope is as wide as it gets? The beginning may be as good a place as any, the book opens with a preface (by the editor), an introduction by Bob lucky, A brief history of English language haibun by Ray Rasmussen, which delves into the journey of haibun itself in a wonderful and insightful manner and moves on to Section 1, which contains work of six early adapters of haibun. The pieces in this section provide a feel for the evolution of writing in haibun style. The names in this section have been at the forefront of Japanese styles of poetry from its earliest adoptive days and yet their works vary in style content and pitch. Consider this, from ‘Santa Fe Shopping Carts’ by William J Higginson:
The occasional cart, borrowed temporarily to wheel groceries, ends up in a nearby arroyo, where its baby seat becomes the base for a birds-nest. When the rainy season hits, midsummer, the cart sinks into the silt and catches debris, thus ensuring its permanent place in the landscape.
a shopping cart rolls past
the end of the lot
Unlike most of the haibun being written today, this piece is quite long and equally fascinating in the way it takes the help of anthropomorphism, to give us a glimpse of the life and death of shopping carts. An unusual subject for a haiku pioneer, I must say. But the haibun so subtly creates a parallel with our lives that it all just falls into place beautifully, especially when punctuated by Higginson’s usual brilliant haiku.
Each author, in the book has been given space for five haibun and Harriot West’s pieces easily become some of my favourites. Harriot has an unparalleled way with minimalism.She is also a great story teller and uses, each element of this delicate genre to its full potential. Her works are short, but they touch the right chord and each word somehow feels as if it belongs in the exact space that it has been put into. In the space of her five works, she muses on longing, talks about the apathy that most families are capable of, and a whole range of other emotions.
Consider this haibun by her:
We’re drinking orange juice. Not fresh squeezed but from a can. It’s slightly bitter with a metallic taste. But father doesn’t mind. He’s having his Kentucky style – with a splash of bourbon and a sigh from mother. As a treat for me, he is making scrapple, cornmeal mush with greasy sausage. I love it but what I love most is father cooking. For me. And I love watching mother push the scrapple around her plate. She barely eats a bite.
cabin in winter
the floorboards too
have pulled away
Or, on a totally different scale and feel, and brimming with otherness, is another of my favourites from the book, by Peter Butler.
Instructing Mona Lisa
Relax, Lisa. Not quite facing me, more a half-glance. Nails clean? Then hands on lap, right over left. As to expression, no laughing please without your teeth. Lips together.
Now imagine yourself in a post-coital situation – not with me, of course, nor necessarily your husband.
That is perfect, Lisa. Hold it if you can, several hundred years.
checking the time
to his next break
It is to the editor’s credit that no two works in this anthology are similar in taste, cadence or subject. At times they give you a deeper insight into a poet’s world, the places they live in, work, visit and remember, like the works by Margaret Chula, Tom Clausen, Chen-ou Liu, Stephen Henry Gill, and Ion Codrescu. At others the works are a reflection of a person’s most intimate moments, as in the works of Margaret Dornaus, John Stevenson and Terri L French. Or brim with otherness, surrealism and a need to experiment both with language and form, like the works by Alan Summers and Lee Gurga.
And yes, in case you were wondering where does a Megalographic figure in the scheme of things, all you need to do is read Mirian Sagan’s ‘A-bomb haibun’ and Nobuyuki Yuasa’s ‘Wartime Evacuation’.
As a haibun writer myself, I can say with utmost conviction that books like Journeys 2015 will play an important role in spreading the form to a wider readership. It will serve as a very good reference book too.If you are someone who frequents the Japanese short form journals, you may have read some of these works in online journals or own a print-copy where some of these works have appeared, and yet seeing all these put together with care, love and an almost eerie insight on the part of the editor, is an exciting proposition.
My recommendation? Buy the book, keep it on your bedside table and spend some leisurely time in the company of these wonderful poets.
The contributors include: Jack Cain, Vladimir Devide, Bill Higginson, Elizabeth Searle Lamb, Gary Snyder, Bob Spiess, Peter Butler, Marjorie Buettner, Steven Carter, Margaret Chula, Tom Clausen, Ion Codrescu, Margaret Dornaus, Terri L. French, Stephen Henry Gill, Lee Gurga, Graham High, Noragh Jones, Doreen King, Chen-ou Liu, Miriam Sagan, Guy Simser, John Stevenson, Alan Summers, Sasa Vazic, Max Verhart, Diana Webb, Harriot West, Rich Youmans, Noboyuki Yuasa, John Zheng, Bob Lucky, Glenn G. Coats and Ray Rasmussen
The writings of IN haiku Mumbai group
moonless sky –
not even a shadow
to follow him
XII Edition Winter 2015 – European Kukai
Raamesh Gowri Raghavan
with a hatful of sky
is my only cloak
and soon my shroud
A Hundred Gourds, September 2014
dawn cold light over crumpled sheets . . . my hand over her belly . . . over her sagging contours soaking warmth taking my time over her stretch marks, reading faded words of an old-intimate diary.
She stops me when I reach the now long-healed incision three inches below her navel.
This one was him she says.
the moon the colour
Dr Brijesh Raj
the cool breath
of Eucalyptus trees
Herons’s Nest March 2016
the bounding dog takes
a sudden u-turn
whiskers and purrs, a book of cat haiku, 2016
the sky no longer creased
by the ripples