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Subtitle: A bilingual anthology of Haiku by 105 Poets from India.

Chandigarh, India: privately printed, 2008; 70+5 pp., 4.5×7″ (115×177 mm), US$2.5 + s&h from the editor, 1224, Sector 42-B, Chandigarh, 160 036 India.

With thanks to the editor.

With this modest collection, the initial attempts of Indian poets to grasp Japanese haiku and make something of their own from that understanding appear outside the realm of single-sheet newsletters and the like. The majority of these poems originally appeared in Hindi, and have been presented here in two-page spreads with an English translation on the left and Hindi on the right, with each opening showing three poems in the two languages. (And, confusingly, both pages bearing the same number, though one’s in what we call “Arabic” and the other in Hindi.) Toward the end of the book, some haiku written originally in English are included, along with Hindi translations. As I have no competence in Hindi, I cannot vouch for the translations, but knowing Angelee, I imagine that they are fairly accurate to their originals, going either way.

Here are some selected from random openings:

thundering, again
it breaks the burden of silence
—the downpour

Dr. Satyapal Chugh (3)

This strikes me as interesting on a couple of levels. The “burden of silence” may seem a little hyperbolic, but brings across the notion of human relationship and the ways nature can be found as T. S. Eliot’s objective correlative for the “thunder” of human feelings. And, we might suppose, the “downpour” may also refigure some crying that preceded or went along with that silence. A poem more interesting than I thought at first glance.

mountains weep
a thousand tears
a stream flows

—Dr. Manoj Sonkar (14)

This seems just a rather trite metaphor. Unfortunately, several of the poems in this collection exhibit similar triteness and failures of imagination, or, perhaps more accurately, failure to find fresh language for their perceptions.

The next poem has the virtue of genuine simplicity, as do a number of the poems in Indian Haiku:

waves came
and went back again
with the sand

—Ajay Charmam (21)

These are three of the poems apparently translated from Hindi. Indian Haiku also contains a representative of Gujarati and one from Marathi. As India has many native languages, we may hope for more haiku from these and other languages in the near future.

The next two I believe are English originals:

moonbeams—
on the veena strings
her fingers

—Dr. Vidur Jyoti (34)

The veena is a stringed musical instrument featuring a round sound box or bowl and fretted neck, usually four feet or more long. In this poem the moonbeams and playing of the veena echo each other in a not-uncommon haiku manner, effectively becoming mutually metaphorical while, of course, also carrying their literal meanings as primary. A similar technique occurs in the following, last poem, by the book’s editor:

stars adrift
in the chill of night
the last diary entry

—Angelee Deodhar (35)

While it seems to me that the last dozen or more poems—those apparently written originally in English—do the best job of fulfilling my personal sense of the haiku genre, the overall effect of the collection will hopefully encourage existing and new Indian poets to take up the haiku and make it their own. As we’ve noted here before, Angelee Deodhar will undoubtedly be one of the main reasons this happens.

Bill

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