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Book of the Week: 75 Haiku – A Collection of Haiku from Indian Poet Manu Kant

Many of Manu’s poems are observations about the lives of wastepickers who scavenge in landfills for garbage that can be sold and recycled. A review of Manu’s haiku by Dimitar Anakiev states that Manu’s “poetry is personal and fresh, full of fascinating ideas linking the most paradoxical worlds. He is radically human as a poet must be. We can say he is a new, contemporary jiyuritsu poet, or even left-wing Gendai, but before all he is unique Indian haiku poet who brings a completely new dimension to haiku. A great poetry coming from a great poet of a great nation. This collection shows that humanity will have a second chance if it is seen from the perspective of the so-called third world.”

a pregnant ragpicker
carrying a sack
filled with waste

in a poor neighbourhood
their laughter
a different ring to it

summer drought
the whole world
bonsai

you swear by your Santa
I have seen kid rag pickers
giving our world a second chance

You can read the entire book in the THF Digital Library and please share your favorite poem from the book with us.

Do you have a chapbook published in 2016 or earlier that you would like featured as a Book of the Week? Contact us for details. Haiku featured in the Book of the Week Archive are selected by THF Digital Librarian Dan Campbell and are used with permission.

Manu Kant

This Post Has 9 Comments

  1. I understand what you say Ingrid when you talk about the “lost in translation” aspect from your native language writing into English. I write in my native language mainly (French) but as I live in Ireland for 14 years now, I start to practice writing my haiku in English too. I think every language has its own dynamics and therefore if a translation work has to be done properly you would need at least two persons, both having a very good knowledge of each language and of haiku writing.

  2. Many thanks Keith, Gabriel and Ingrid for your interesting comments, these make doing the Book of the Week feature worthwhile!

  3. If I may comment on Ingrid’s comment, please: the solution it seems to me is to write in your native language, or in a literary medium of choice, IF you have near-native ability in that other language. If you do not have near-native ability in English, there are many in the Anglophone community who would be happy to edit the English versions so that they sound natural and unstrained.
    I have read atrocious haiku from Eastern Europe which could have been vastly improved by careful editing. So, there’s a solution to this!

    1. Agreed, Gabriel. However, translating and/or editing work by non-native speakers is a complicated skill, which, along with literary ability, requires in depth understanding of many different aspects.
      My mother, brought up by bi-lingual parents, could not bear to read English translations of the Russian or German classics because, although the language and the grammar were near faultless, and the meaning clear, she always felt there was something missing of the ‘soul’, if you like . . . the authenticity of emotional resonance coming from living those languages, along with the historic background, and literary and cultural nuances which bring any language to life. We all know how even humour can lose its impact in translation. How much more difficult, then, would be the conciseness and brevity of haiku, I imagine.

  4. Thank you yet again, Dan, for the wide-variety diet you offer us. It makes a change from cherry blossom and Grandma. With your first three picks, I think you have the best in this collection of unforgiving senryu. I warmed towards:

    his mother’s death
    unfazed
    the coffee house waiters’
    all day long smile

    but feel it might have been better without the heavy-handed explanatory “unfazed,” leaving space for the reader.

    Several of the others, with statements that might strike some as sententious however heartfelt, seem more at the zappai or sarasen end of the continuum:

    her stately looks
    in our feudal-capitalist set-up
    she is just a scavenger

    poetry pours forth from me
    well, this soil has been watered
    by the sweat & blood of the toiling masses

    …and hark back heavily to the era of Soviet sloganry. But, it might be the future.

  5. Thanks for comment Dan. We best serve haiku, I believe, by maintaining a critical eye and a critical ear. Tendencies towards
    back-slapping must be checked and we must always be aware that all literary activity, haiku included, can be subject to
    the virus known as coterie consensus. With that in mind, anybody with an eye or an ear in his head will notice that the author is
    not 100% at ease in his Anglophone skin. I will refrain from giving an example from his book: the evidence is there.
    Why so many talented haijin in Asia and Africa are rejecting their native language in favour of an English that doesn’t always convince is one of the tragedies of our time.

    1. Interesting comment, Gabriel…I believe you have talked about this before. The problem is that THF have relatively few Asiatic language speakers, so one is either forced to write in the majority language of its readership, or refrain from contributing in the first place.

      Conversely, just today, one of my English language haiku was published, in English, in a Spanish speaking country but altered dramatically with the editor insisting upon correcting what he thought was a grammatical error, resulting not only in a change of my meaning, but sounding as if I was unfamiliar with my mother tongue!

      On a different note, I’m uncertain where Kant stands in relation to his subject. Some of his work seems uncomfortably condescending, and that could, indeed, be something to do with writing in a foreign language.

  6. Thanks for the comment Gabriel. I agree with Andrea Cecon’s comment, former vice president IHA and Haijin, that Manu Kant’s poetry can certainly be considered as a new and strong voice for the future.

  7. I think his book is uneven. Some of the lines are too long.
    He makes striking statements, however, which are badly needed in those haiku circles
    that are dominated by bourgeois sensibility:

    my neighbours seated on the chairs
    & the maid on the floor
    two world views

    I agree with some of his political views. Inequality, described above, is the cause of many of the world’s ills,
    but a haiku is much more than a political statement.
    I recall reading somewhere that he likened Vivekananda ‘s mission in America to the fanaticism often seen
    in Hindutva today. However, Vivekananda said: “I am firmly persuaded that without the help of practical Islam, theories
    of Vedantism, however fine and wonderful they may be, are entirely valueless to the vast mass of mankind.” (In a letter to
    Mohammed Sarfaraz Husain of Naini Tal, 10th June, 1898))

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