A Journal for Linking Poets
NEW HAIKU LOOMS SMALLER
Recent research shows the familiar, still young haiku is no longer energy efficient or economical . Even though the haiku is a short form, the 17-syllable, 3-line poetic form as imported from Japan deceptively extracts a price that is not only costly, it is environmentally unwise as well as a black mark in literature. While it's true that rhyme and meter required by the formal sonnet, for example, are much more time consuming than the simpler haiku form, it is also true that traditional formal verse is practically disappearing from the modern literary stage.
Here are a few examples of the new “eco-haiku.”
Dr. Adzee is the founding chair of the Graduate School of Extemporaneous Physiognomy at the University of San Onofre (CA). She is a leading proponent of many modern psycho-semiotic causes and other unprintable results. She currently resides with her husband, Arthur, in the charming North San Diego area along the coast.
This spring Chen-ou Liu has been conducting a discussion on the AHAforum about senryu. Not only has this become a popular and deeply debated subject, it has also influenced my own thinking about senryu.
As some may already know I have campaigned widely, and wildly, that since there seems to be no difference between the form of an English Language haiku and an English Language senryu they are the same genre. My position has been that since in English both genres look alike, have no typographical or grammatical markers of their differences, they should be seen as one.
However, it seems there is a group of persons that persists in advocating for a sub-category to haiku called senryu. The magazine of Prune Juice, edited by Liam Wilkinson, has become the standard bearer for this position. Also the Haiku Society of America continues their tradition of sponsoring a senryu contest.
I am not blind to these attempts and am willing to ask myself, “If so many people want to have a poetry genre called senryu, what can we do to make it more noticeable – more visible – to give it a shape and form that defines the senryu to be different from the haiku in more than the nebulous attributes of humor, satire, or self-pity?”
We are aware that the Japanese senryu does use a marker to distinguish it from JL haiku – senryu are not supposed to have a kigo (a season word or reference to the season). This ‘rule’ is not always observed so the Japanese have also used the argument that whatever a senryu writer writes is senryu. Both of these concepts pose problems for EL writers.
In addition, the idea that if one publishes senryu one is only a senryu writer simply cannot apply to EL writers. Unlike the Japanese, we writers use all the Japanese genres. We do not specialize or limit ourselves to just one form. Because of this, it would feel like poetic racism to find ourselves categorized by the name of one genre. It becomes even more odious if, because one published some poems in a senryu magazine, one instantly was known as a senryu writer. Especially with the dubious history of senryu in Japan, and the use of the term senryu writer as a pejorative in early EL haiku (in the 70s a senryu was touted as a failed haiku), I cannot image many persons wishing for this label.
However, there are persons who feel their own work, their own take on life, is less haiku-like and more in tune with the historical attributes of senryu. Okay. If you want to have a separate form / genre then you have an obligation to find a form or create grammatical markers that will set the senryu apart from the haiku. We cannot tolerate only opinion or taste or tone to be the deciding factors because, due to our different tastes we judge these factors differently.
There are several options open to senryu writes to create these markers of their form by instigating certain EL senryu rules. I see it as a matter of choosing what best fits the senryu as a form.
Some options are:
1. Write all senryu in one line.
I would be very glad to see other ideas to make senryu noticeably different from haiku in its form. Surely senryu writers are not so bereft of ideas that they cannot come up with concepts to make their poems look different from the haiku?
There is another reason I would like to see senryu writers differentiate their works from haiku. One of the objectives in the last century is to get haiku accepted as a poetical form by mainstream poets. We are making steps in this direction, but when other poets see our community fussing with each other over whether a haiku is a haiku or an unpronounceable senryu, it makes us look like what we are – unprofessional, undecided, and still groping to separate ourselves and our work from the Japanese.
THE HAIKU SCENE IN TAMIL
The origins of the Tamil people, like those of the other Dravidians, are unknown, although genetic and archaeological evidence suggests a possible migration into India around 6000 BCE33 . Tamil is the 17th largest spoken in the world, with over 77 million speakers #1- including 60 mio from India 34. Tamil is the official language of the Indian state of Tamil Nadu and a classical language of the nation. It has official status in India, Sri Lanka and Singapore.
Tamil belongs to the southern branch of the Dravidian languages. It has 2200 year history #2#3#4, though its origins are not that transparent #2#7. Literary works in India were preserved through oral transmission or via written palm leaves which made dating doubtful; one has to rely on external records and internal linguistic evidence. The oldest extant works are estimated to have been done by the 2nd century BC and the 10th century AD #8#9#10. Of the epigraphical inscriptions found by the Archaeological Survey of India in India, over 55% (i.e. about 55,000) are in Tamil language e#11. This attestation of Tamil includes the rock inscriptions of the 2nd century BC; the earliest epigraphic records found dated to around 300 BC. As for literature, Tamil has a tradition of over two thousand years. [#15] and the Tolkappiyam, oldest known treatise in Tamil, has been dated variously between second century BC and tenth century AD [#12] [#5] [#13] [#14] [#9] [#10].
The earliest period of the categories into which the Tamil scholars categorize the Tamil literature and language, #16, is the Sangam period which dates between 100 BC and 300 AD and the literature contains about 50,000 lines of poetry contained in 2381 poems attributed to 473 poets including many women poets[#17][#18].
Tamil was independent of Sanskrit [#5] [#6]. Much later, Tamil was influenced by Sanskrit in terms of vocabulary, grammar and literary styles [#19] [#5] [#20] [#13] [#21] [#22] [#23] [#5]. Some words were also borrowed from Persian, Portuguese, Dutch and Arabic [#24].
The late mediaeval period saw a resistance to the Sanskrit influence culminating in the purist movement of the 20th century- tani Tami iyakkam- meaning pure Tamil movement #25, 26, and 27. Today, much of the modern vocabulary derives from classical Tamil, #28; in formal documents, it is now largely free of Sanskrit words #29. Some say that the number of Sanskrit words in Tamil is down from about 50% to 20% [#30]
Now, as to the impact of the words of Tamil origin in other languages. Some common examples in English are cash (kaasu, a small coin), cheroot (churu meaning "rolled up"), mango (from mangai), mulligatawny (from milaku tannir meaning pepper water), #32 .
According to a 2001 survey, there were 1,863 newspapers published in Tamil, of which 353 were dailies[#31].
In an essay at www.modernhaiku.org, Charles Turnbull writes: “Exploring verse forms in world literature during the early years of the twentieth century, Nobel Prize-winning poet Rabindranath Tagore translated some Haiku into Bengali in the 1920s (Dasgupta). There is an active haiku scene in India today, writing in Hindi and Tamil and other vernacular languages as well as in English”
Here are a few initial facts about the Haiku scene in Tamil before we move on to look at some Haiku.
the corners cut
· Over 220 Haiku collections
Going back to history, C Mani and Chandralekha translated some Haiku and published them in Naday and Kanaiyazhi- this is sixty years after the essay of Bharathi.
According to Tamilnaadan, it is the college professors who introduced Haiku in Tamil: he refers to a 1973 conference held at Chennai where Haiku was discussed- (an interview published by Mu Murugesh in the magazine Iniya haiku (Sweet Haiku)). Poets such as Abdul Rahman, Sujatha, Tamilnadan and Leelavathi are credited to have further introduced Haiku to the Tamil readers. In 1974 by his publication “Paalveedhi”, Abdul Rahman brought out his Sindhar written in the 1970s. In 1984, Amudhabharathi brought his Haiku collection called Pullippookkal claiming it to be the first Haiku book in Tamil. I have some Haiku from him elsewhere in this article. One can not ignore the contribution of essays of Sujatah, Nellai Su Muthu, Abdul Rahman, Tamilanban, besides the early collections of Mithra and Arivumathi.
The Tamil wikipedia haiku presents the following Haiku-
Kannaadiyai thudaikka thudaikka
Wiping the mirror
I have simply made the third line of the poet, as second in my translation.
This one from Kavibala.
Vidhavai mugam paarkkiraal
The widow looks at her face
For those who do not know, widows do not wear the red dot of vermilion which you see in the south Indian women’s faces. Bindi is the common name of that red dot, though today it is so many colours and shapes. This convention no longer stays though everyone knows about it and the orthodox still follows it.
The following one from Na. Muthukumar…
In imageless (reflection less) loneliness
Fish jumping (swimming?)
( the Tamil word salasalakkum is creating ripples/causing disturbance in an otherwise serene situation ).
Another of Sujatha
Kaaril adipattu nasiththa pin
After getting injured at the car
Asaigirathu is a gentle mild feeble physical movement- like those of the leaves in a gentle breeze.
This one caught the attention of many
Kuttayil siruneer kazhikum siruvan
There are a few sites in Tamil which talk about the history of Haiku and associated forms, the structure and proceed to explain as to how one can write. One of the popular books referred to in the Tamil Haiku world seems to be The Haiku Handbook by William J. .Higginson. Writing without rules is like playing tennis without a net – Tamil writers mention this statement of Frost; they also believe that that like Basho that one must learn rules and forget them; it is better to follow your favorite poet –but if you find on reading what you have written, that they all look the same, you should lift your bat higher.
Basically they all talk of the following 13 or some of them-
· Seventeen words in a single line or three lines, or 5-7-5 in three lines.
Tamil writers say that since it is sometimes difficult to follow some of these conventions, non-Japanese writers are not particular about following the 5-7-5 rule on account of the language peculiarities.
Here are some from AmudhaBharathi-
A huge naked figure
The poems have not been
A long talk
Prabhakara Babu published a book “Sara Vilakkugal 560” containing 560 Haiku and he says that to date no one has broken that record.
Thisaigal an ezine sponsored a Tamil Haiku blog; some haiku from there..
Mugam paarkkum nilavai
The frogs at the banks break ( disintegrate) the moon seeing its face
Here firewood is cooking food- in the smoke his mom is cooked ( boiled is the word used by the poet).
Do you also hear
The Tamil word munagum also connotes the small undecipherable sound produced by a person in pain.
Here is one by Rama
In the droplets on the leaves of the ….., the sweat reflections. The poet refers to the reflections of the workers in the fields
Puduvai Yugabharathi writes
Getting drenched in rain
Vijay from Kumbakonam writes
a friend of my youth
From Kulaththil Midhakkum Deepangal by Aarisan (an 80 page book of Haiku)-
Lightning in the sky
NilaaMuththam- by Mu Murugesh
Another… is it the poet’s feeling for life?
Social concern, poet’s explanation, similes, etc which were considered as non-haiku were often the ingredients of Tamil Haiku- on the justification that even the great Japanese masters did the same.
through the dark villages
Some may ask the poet to cutout the word “heartlessly” – that too rather questionably.
In the milk vendor’s
(K C Sivakumar)
( Thi Raa Namasivayam- Punnagai Issue 49)
sitting in darkness
Pinaththin meethu malai
garland on the corpse
( It is customary to adorn the dead body with a garland of flowers; house-ants is a Tamil usage to refer to the ants which you find in houses- as opposed to the jungle variety)
closing the book in a jerk
There are some features which are common amongst most of the poets writing in Tamil today -
· attributing the poet’s own feelings to the animals or the inanimate objects,
Even now, most of the popular large selling magazines magazines use Haiku as they would filler. There are many poets who wrote three line poetry who transformed into Haiku writers after exposure to the Japanese masters and literature on Haiku.
There could be debates and more as to whether these features are acceptable in Haiku - examples may perhaps be found from the Japanese masters for their use and non-use. The sacred rule of 5-7-5 being given a go by could be sited as another example. The trend of the haiku outside Japan breaking slowly out of hitherto accepted conventions is evidenced further by the absence of a season word by many
One of the writers while countering the criticism that there is no worthwhile Haiku in Tamil challenges the critics to read at least two books before passing any judgment – the two books cited are Mithra’s “ The conversation heard in the Umbrella “ and Arivumathi’s Last Raindrop”. As said by Mu Murugesan, as one who has been writing and compiling Haiku for over two decades- there are over one hundred poets writing Haiku; if we are to put together those which have been written with poetic and subtle insight, they would be over one thousand.
The two mind sets i.e. of Tamil/Indian and the Eastern are grounded in the fundamental belief system- both believe in “wholeness” “allness” and not in “nothingness”. The Tamils believed in “Muzhumai” (integral totality). Verumai (i.e. nothingness or emptiness) is not being. The logic of the mind is considered to be an imperfect tool to realize the essence of things and life. Swami Vivekananda asked – What is in the intellect or reason? It goes a few steps and there it stops”. The basic approach to life is “intuition”. It is no wonder that we took to Haiku so naturally and spontaneously. The only difference is in the symbols- which acquire meaning by those who use them; though, however, they are such powerful media of communication even to ourselves many times, to see oneself at our deepest and best.
Water and its myriad avatars – thunder, lightning, clouds, ponds, rivers, sea, thirst, and drop- these are the basic terms of reference for seeing, experiencing and living, for the haiku poets traditionally because of the origins. But for Indians, it is fire – agni. Our literature, life, culture, mythologies… in short we, have fire which is our reference.
After reading the Japanese masters and embarking upon writing Haiku, it looks normal that the influence of such strong a reference as water finds its place in our writers too ; in time, while we sit and pause and settle in the deepest, more of fire may perhaps be seen in our haiku.`
Indianising and harmonizing with Tamil culture and ethos can Tamil haiku stand the test of time on its own. Typical examples would be the difference in the seasonal-cycles, flora and the fauna, myths, festivals and customs.
#1. World Language. Tamil Language.
NEW HAIKU LOOMS SMALLER
THE HAIKU SCENE IN TAMIL
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