Short Verse Delight


Short Verse Delight
Aju Mukhopadhyay.

Prasoon Publishers, 168 Swapnil House, Housing Board Colony, Sec-7 Extn., Gurgaon 122001 (Haryana), India.
2010. 64 pp. ISBN: 978-93-81032-01-5.

Reviewed by Patricia Prime

This is Aju Mukhopadhyay’s seventh book of poems in English and second of this variety of haiku, tanka and relevant essays.

The book opens with twenty-five pages of haiku. It contains several haiku that are “personal” rather than “particular”: the writer is positioned as subject/object, and this makes it difficult for the reader to enter those poems from anything other than the writer’s perspective. Many of the haiku contain first person subject or object pronouns or possessive adjectives:

Many hued winged dreams
Flash in the garden of my heart;
Myriad butterflies

You go
I stay
We live apart.

Very few poets can use pronouns and still leave the haiku open to the reader.

That said, there is a lot of variety in Mukhopadhyay’s haiku and, of course, some are interesting. The sequencing of this section as a whole is good and although the pauses are predominately after the first lines, because he varies the second two lines, there is no sense of repetition in terms of rhythm:

a round leaf
twirling in space for long
fall it must

lake water
wind whipped waves sparkle in the Sun –
squirrel stops to see

The use of capital letters is unnecessary and often a distraction in some haiku; some of the parallel phrases do not quite work, and some examples of experimenting with language do not appear to be organic to the content:

wasps buzz
in the heart of the lotus
usurpers be aware

with its offering abundant
dream spring recurs every year –
how can the haggard welcome it?

Other haiku read more as statements of fact and do not have the kigo (season word), nor kiriji (cutting word) necessary for a good haiku.

riding on the
wings of eternity,
we dwell on earth

Bridges of hope and
Despair across life’s curved path;
We cross them to live.

But there are many haiku that ring true:

A crane flies
ahead of others –
dividing the sky

a shy girl –
jasmine buds open
slowly in twilight

In the tanka section, Mukhopadhyay uses a restrained voice, clearly vigorous and talented but persuaded by the virtues and the power of calmness:

along the lakes and dales
walks the poet –
calm and serene Cambria;
an osprey swiftly dives in
and lifts a prey in its talons

field after fields
dykes with stubs
harvest over;
silver moonlight focuses on rats –
under the autumn sky

Mukhopadhyay revels in simplicity, connecting small moments of perception and experience to wider feeling, even philosophical statement, without needing to editoralise. The poems speak a clear, passionate language of acceptance:

those rosy cheeks
benevolent eyes
how many times I see
waking and in dreams –
my neighbour she is!

golden clouds
drifting toward the sea
merge with the eternal blue,
souls absorbed in Tao.

In these tanka, Mukhopadhyay demonstrates control of his material, mood, subject matter and situation, and perfect modulation of tone. He inhabits the world clearly and cleanly, engaging in traditional and modern dimensions with equal ease.

The four essays are entitled
“The Wonderful World of Dazzling Short Verses,”
“Introducing Haiku in India Tagore wrote Haiku like short poems,”
“Was Rabrindranath influenced by the short poems of Nishikanta?” and
“Finite or Infinite: A Haiku Point.”

In these essays, Mukhopadhyay writes of his creative ideas, the place of the Japanese short forms of poetry in the modern world, the introduction of tanka to India by Rabindranath Tagore and recent trends in writing haiku.




. Aju Mukhopadhyay   


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