CHENNAI:Three lines, few words and no adjective or figures of speech. These are the striking characteristics of haiku poems, a short form of traditional Japanese poetry. Well-known haiku poet and anthologist Kala Ramesh takes it one step further with her latest experiment- integrating meditation (dhyana) with haiku. The 80-minute interactive spiritual session, with a focus on silence, was a mix of Japanese aesthetics and Zen stories. As we take our seats, mellifluous music begins to play. Chirping birds, music from a flute, rippling sounds of a stream - the music sets a serene mood.
The session begins with a discussion on five poems, mainly the works of master poet Matsuo Basho. English translations help us understand. We reflect upon the emphasis on simplicity and intensity of expression of these poems. While it might be difficult to convey the thoughts in just three lines, haiku is known for its brevity and minimalism. As you read the lines, you can visualise the imagery — transient and ephemeral — for nature is never static. "A haiku might take hours to write. It’s not easy to show several strong images in a condensed form. People tend to forget themselves during the process of writing the poem,” says Kala.
She highlights the essence of practising haiku. "It helps children improve their editing skills, establish a sense of space and teach them how to be concise with words. Influenced by the Japanese aesthetics of space, haiku can be of great help in architecture, urban planning, and for students from all fields too," says the Pune-based poet, who takes a four-month course for undergraduate students at the Symbiosis School for Liberal Arts. Kala's own works comprise of haiku, senryu, tanka, kyoka, haibun, tanka prose and renku, all penned down during her 12 year experience with the art.
How did she decided to bring two art forms, haiku and meditation, together? "I believe each art form needs its own breathing and dreaming spaces and should retain its own voice. What I have attempted is 'Saath Sangat' — two art forms weaving in and out of each other, each designed to capture the undivided attention of the audience while the other remains subservient, until they exchange places,” says Kala.
We also learn about the Japanese art of decluttering - 'ma' , pronounced 'maah'. It symbolises the void around things, signifying that when there is too much, nothing stands out. We wrap up the session with Omkara chants and breathing techniques.
When nature meets poetry
What is the connection between trees and a haiku trail? This was the question Kala Ramesh was confronted with when she pitched the idea for her latest poetry-cum-nature walk in Chennai. This was another of her first-time experiments. "Participants were taken for a walk around Kotturpuram park. They penned down their thoughts about anything that caught their attention - a small dry patch on the ground, or a tree that has a colourful bloom," says Kala. She says it might also help the residents of Kotturpuram to get more involved with their park.
For Kala Ramesh haiku was serendipity. Likewise, for many out there, it is a medium of catharsis or expression of thoughts. "There are haiku poets around us but they take time to come out of their shells," she concludes with hope to take haiku to larger crowds.
Innovative sessions initiated by Kala Ramesh in the past ten years:
haikuWALL - getting graffiti artists to paint haiku on city walls.
haikuTRAIL - a walk through a chosen area, keeping our five senses open.
haikuYOUTH - exposing children to haiku and encouraging them to get their poems published in excellent haiku journals worldwide.
haikuUTSAV - organised five utsavs so far to enjoy the beauty of haiku and allied genres in India.
haikuDHYANA - highlighting the silences that govern both these practices. Something that has never been explored before in India.
haikuSAATHSANGAT - the marrying of an art form like dance, drama, mime, music or painting with haiku, tanka and haibun. It's a stage performance.