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October 2019 Vol. 15 No. 3

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Kala Ramesh

Featured Writer: The Marrying of Prose and Poetry

The marriage of haikai prose with haiku, known as haibun, is one where there is no better half!

Near the end of his life, Basho told his students that karumi is the most important aesthetic nuance to incorporate in what he called “haikai writing.” He compared karumi to “seeing a shallow stream rippling lightly on a sandy bed.” Karumi is a combination of characteristics including being natural, effortless, smooth, simple and clear.

When I was a teenager, I remember having seen the famed Ms Balasaraswati dance to a traditional ballad. In simple body language and facial expressions, she mimed the setting sun and the birds returning home as she waited on the doorstep for her beloved to return. Her dance portrayed something so personal yet so universally accessible, that it remains etched in my mind to this day. In haikai literature, karumi can be thought of as distilled emotion.


peace of m.i.n.d.

guarded secret ...
once again his hands

not easy to escape a mental prison for tears unshed don't stain the cheeks but stories kept locked breathe on pulsating thoughts — in and out and out and in of each cell in the body what and where is this thing called the mind

swollen vulva ...
in her eyes the stretch
of the border camp

Comments on my haibun:

A news story inspired me to write "peace of m.i.n.d." In today’s India, we are witnessing rapes and incest – a complete disrespect and disregard of young girls’ and women’s rights and dignity. Our newspapers and media coverage have condemned these acts, unfortunately in dramatic language. As writers, we all know it’s not easy to leave things unsaid – we want to elaborate, decorate our writing with facts and language that startle and stun our readers. But that’s what the media does – sensationalize.

This is something that newcomers to haibun writing can try to avoid. Karumi is the heart of haikai literature – let us not lose it in this race to complicate our writing. Our mission is more to show a story, not sell newspapers. In writing a piece about such serious and unsettling issues, I feel the prose should use a voice that carries conviction and yet not go overboard – a tough call. It’s like walking on a razor’s edge!

Kala Ramesh is a poet, editor, anthologist and festival director. Her collection of haiku and haibun beyond the horizon beyond (Vishwakarma Publications, Pune) was a finalist for the Rabindranath Tagore Literary Prize 2019 and received a certificate for "excellent contribution to literature." Her initiatives culminated in founding INhaiku to bring Indian haiku poets under one umbrella in 2013. She has authored four books and ebooks and co-edited seven international haiku and tanka anthologies. HarperCollins (India) has picked up her yet-to-be-titled book of tanka, tanka prose, tanka dohe and sequences for a July 2020 publication, to coincide with the Tokyo Olympics. Notes: The haibun first appeared in Open: Journal for Art and Literature, October 2018.