Rogha Haiku & Tanka PDF Print E-mail

Rogha Haiku & Tanka
by K. Ramesh
Translated into Irish by Gabriel Rosenstock
Published by Original Writing Ltd © 2013
ISBN 978-1-78237-345-2

A Review by Robert D. Wilson

 

K. Ramesh a well-known Indian poet and a teacher from the Krishnamurthy School Chennai, India.

Although his book is an enjoyable read, it is uneven. Though oftentimes, beautiful, all too often, Ramesh confuses haiku with Imagist descriptive poetry and senryu. One doesn't become a professional poet overnight. Japanese short form poetic genres are lifelong paths.

A few examples:

evening traffic . . .
rubber lizards for sale
still on the pavement

This is not an activity-biased poem in the tradition of Matsuo Basho or Yosa Buson. It is a senryu. The poem's foci are objects having nothing to do with nature:

traffic
rubber lizards
the pavement

Ramesh's poem tells us nothing about the becomingness (koto) that is indigenous to zoka (nature's creative force) which Basho admonished his disciples to center their hokku around. This poem also leaves little for readers to interpret, unable to evoke a surplus of meaning.

 

drift of a leaf . . .                  4
students pray in silence         6
in the courtyard                  4

"drift of a leaf" is a beautiful line, well suited to juxtapose against lines two and three. An activity-biased poem, Ramesh unveils to readers the similarity and symbiotic relationship between acts of nature and human beings. The scene he paints via the seen and the unseen, the seemingly heard and the unheard, evokes a surplus of interpretation, making use of the Japanese aesthetic styles: yugen (depth and mystery) and ma (space and time).

 

paddy field by the river 7
the voice of the farmer 6
speaking to the bulls 5

This poem is a word painting, nothing more. By the river paddy a farmer is speaking to the bulls.  Ramesh's use of a metric schemata not indigenous to hokku and post-Shiki haiku hinders the song that haiku is meant to be. By not following the traditional S/L/S metric schemata, his poem loses the song-like sound, and sounds awkward.

"paddy field" isn't really needed. I have taken the liberty of editing Ramesh's poem, removing three THE's, omitting unnecessary words, and conforming it to adhere to the S/L/S metric schemata:

by the river . . .
a farmer's voice speaking
to bulls

 

sound of a coin 4
the gypsy's monkey 5
looks into the bowl 5

This poem is an object-biased senryu. Hearing the sound of a coin, the poet sees a gypsy's monkey looking into a bowl. Nature's creative brush strokes aren't evident. This poem tells us nothing more than what is pictured in it with words, a shasei-style sketch.

Again, his meter is off. Here is the same poem using the S/L/S metric schemata:

sound of a coin . . .
the gypsy's monkey looks
into a bowl

 

Vedic chants . . . 3
a heron glides to a rock 7
in the misty lake 5

This is a well-written activity-biased hokku. Via juxtaposition and ma, Ramesh equates Vedic chants with a heron gliding to a rock in a misty lake. His poem displays a symbiotic, mimetic relationship between zoka and human spirituality: an intertwining of becomingness (koto), the creativity of that which never ends, and is always evolving. Lines two and three utilize the aesthetic styles: makoto (beauty) and yugen. The two lines can be interpreted as a metaphor for the mystery inherent in the metaphysics of spirituality, reflected in line one. The poet's meter flows, song-like, aided by not using "the" more than once.

 

her crayons . . . 3
the red one smaller 5
than the others 4

This is not a poem. It is an observation. There is little to interpret that evokes a surplus of meaning. It is an object-biased (mono) focused on objects:

crayons
red one
others

 

K. Ramesh includes in his book a sampling of tanka.

Take for instance:

the kitten and I 5
stand silently 4
at the door 3
watching the darkness 5
settle among the trees 6

This is neither a tanka nor a poem. It is one sentence; a beautiful shasei-style word sketch. Writing about something utilizing a five-line format does not make what you write a tanka. A tanka is much more, with breaks, aesthetic styles, a concatenate of the said and unsaid. In addition, his meter is off, hindering the song-like quality indigenous to the genre.

the kitten and I stand silently at the door watching the darkness settle among the trees

Here is an edited version utilizing the S/L/S/L/L metric schemata used by Japanese poets prior to Shiki's Westernized reformation:

the kitten and
I stand silently
at the door . . .
darkness settling
among the trees

 

with a camera 5
I walk around the lake 6
to the other side 5
where the swans are 4
outside the water 5

This too is not a tanka, let alone a poem. It is a long sentence: a shasei style word sketch that leaves little to remember or interpret by readers.

with a camera I walk around the lake to the other side where the swans are outside the water

Mozart's symphony
at thirty thousand feet
from the ground
I float with white clouds
around me

This is a well-written tanka. Although no punctuation is utilized signifying a break (the Japanese used cutting words), the break comes after line three. Ramesh juxtaposes lines 1-3 with lines 4-5, effectively, the two parts complimenting the other like melody and counter-melody in a musical composition. It is not a run-on sentence. There is ample room for reflective interpretation by readers.

K. Ramesh's book of haiku and tanka, although uneven, is a pleasant read. One of my favorite of his poems is:

dew drops . . .
a snail too on
the grass blade