Today at New to Haiku, let’s meet Pravat Kumar Padhy. Pravat is the current haibun editor for the journal Under the Basho, and recently served as panel judge for The Haiku Foundation’s Touchstone Awards for Individual Poems. His Japanese short forms of poetry (haiku, haibun, haiga, tanka, tanka prose and hainka, a fusion of haiku and tanka) have been widely published, and he has won international awards for his poetry. Thanks for sharing your haiku journey with us, Pravat!
In Advice for Beginners posts, we ask established haiku poets to share a bit about themselves so that you can meet them and learn more about their writing journeys. We, too, wanted to learn what advice they would give to beginning haiku poets. You can read posts from previous Advice for Beginners interviewees here.
Welcome to New to Haiku, Pravat! How did you come to learn about haiku?
I still remember, during my early teens after writing an essay, I used to conclude it with a proverbial one-line poem. I started writing free verse during my college days, initially in my mother tongue, Odia, and later in English. One of my short-verse sequences, “Satyameba (Truth Alone),” was published in 1978 in the quarterly literary Odia journal, Deepti, edited by Shasidhar Pattnaik. The translation of one of the poems, “Jibanata (Life),” is as follows:
half-moon in the sky
her body veiled in mixed
colours of clouds
Deepti, Vol.8, Issue III, Oct-Dec 1978
I had written an article in one of the leading Odia journals, Manas (edited by Dr. Krishna Prasad Mishra, February 1980), on “Ezra Pound ebon Tankara Kabita (Ezra Pound and His Poems),” enumerating his haiku-like short poems namely: The Encounter, The Tea shop, ALBA, Ite and others. For the first time, I chanced to come across the word ‘haiku’ by Urmila Kaul, a distinguished bilingual Indian poet. These poems were featured on the opposite page of my long poem “A Part of Civilization,” published in Skylark 47/48 (edited by Baldev Mirza, 1982). But I did not know anything about haiku by then though I wrote many haiku-style micro-poems (3-4 lines) in English during the eighties and nineties and later published a book, Tiny Pebbles. The actual idea of haiku poetry I learned while reading a review article on “Indian English Haiku and R K Singh,” by Razni Singh in the e-zine Got Poetry (December 2007). I posted a four-line poem, “Pretending,” in PoetBay in September 2009:
They speak of volume
In reality it fills
Shells appreciated it and suggested to me to condense the poem into a three-line in the form of haiku. Tai, a poet from the UK, commented, “This makes a perfect haiku in three lines. Wise words, all the same. Really liked the imagery of thin hopes of vacuum.” I was inspired by their comments and tried to learn more about the haiku genre.
I still remember the email from Werner Reichhold (23rd September, 2009) accepting my haiku for the prestigious journal, Lynx. I wrote this 3-line poem, “God,” long ago and it was published in World Poetry Anthology (edited by Krishna Srinivas, 1992):
Dog is misspelled
the child discovered
World Poetry Anthology, 1992
Republished: Lynx, XXV: 1 February 2010
Later my haiku was published in the print journal Ambrosia (Modern English Tanka Press, USA, Summer 2010), edited by Denis M. Garrison:
Do you have a haiku mentor? What advice did they give you? Did someone else’s haiku greatly influence your own?
I wish to record my deep gratitude to Werner Reichhold, Editor, Lynx, and Alice Frampton, Associate Editor, The Heron’s Nest, for inspiring me and sending me references on haiku books, websites and scholarly essays during my formative stage of writing. I do not have any haiku mentor as such. Initially, I posted some of my haiku in Poetry Pages, Poetbay, Akita Haiku International Network, Critical Poet, The Four Seasons Haiku, Haiku Bandit Society, Dreamer’s Reality, Lit Org, and others. I participated in the European Kukai, Shiki Monthly Kukai, Sketchbook Haiku Thread and SHH Contests etc and read various articles archived at various websites such as the World Haiku Review, Haiku Reality, Simply Haiku, Aha Poetry, World Kigo Database, Graceguts, NeverEnding Story, The Haiku Foundation, Modern Haiku, Frogpond, New Zealand Poetry Society, etc.
I received valuable suggestions from eminent poets from different forums and e-zines. I read the scholarly articles by A C Missias, Jeanne Emrich, Jim Kacian, Jane Reichhold , Robert D. Wilson, Elizabeth St Jacques, Ken Jones, Martin Lucas, Michael Gunton, George Marsh, Michael Dylan Welch, and others.
I cherish the inspiration and encouragement received from Robert D. Wilson, Don Wentworth , Sasa Vazic, Karina Klesko, John Daleiden, David McMurray, Hidenori Hiruta, Jim Kacian, Bruce Ross, Patricia Prime, Lorin Ford, Francine Banwarth, Isamu Hashimoto, Fay Aoyagi , Bob Scott, Gabi Greve, Don Baird, Steve Wilkinson, Katha Abela Wilson, Bernard Gieske, an’ya, Dick Whyte, Luca Cenisi, Tom Clausen, Tom Sacramona, Dave Read, Richard Grahn, Eric Lohman and many distinguished editors. The interactions with the editors have left a great imprint on my haiku journey.
I like reading haiku by the Masters: Basho, Buson, Issa, Shiki, including the woman haikuist Chiyo-ni. I have not been influenced by any specific poet as such.
But I do keenly observe the haiku spirit manifested by poets belonging to a wider cross-cultural world. Some haiku simply left a lasting impression on me:
The thief left it behind:
at my window.
(Tr. Stephen Mitchell)
out of the water …
out of itself
First prize in American Haiku’s 1963 haiku contest
sharing an umbrella
your wet left shoulder
my right one
HSA Members’ Anthology, 2001
paddy field by the river …
the voice of a farmer
speaking to the bulls
Modern Haiku 40:1, 2009
the ocean in a raindrop inside my womb a heart
Modern Haiku 43.3, 2012
Where do you most often write? Do you have a writing process?
I don’t have any fixed time or specific place as such for writing haiku.
Poems come to my mind as a fragrance to flower… When I see a small grain of seed, I feel
it is tiny
because it nests with care
the mightiest in it
I told this to Prof. Atma Ram in 1992 during the interview for his book, Interviews with Indian Writing in English. Anything I see, it creates a symbolic frame in my mind with a spark of poetic thought and I often try to link it with the human aspects. I sense a flow of ideas while walking in the garden, sitting on the balcony or viewing through the window. While even in flight, I simply scribble down haiku on the boarding pass. I still remember on a couple of occasions, I penned haiku on a paper napkin and on my palm! I had written the following haiku while on the flight:
a gap takes me
to the ocean
Modern Haiku 46:2, 2015
There is no specific process that I strictly follow. Poetic flash comes to me while listening to music, viewing a TV programme, reading books, in the conference room or during a journey. I remember them and sometimes scribble on a notebook or a piece of paper by simply transforming the image into the art of words! Of late, I prefer to write directly on my laptop and do a bit of editing.
I wish to share a funny experience in the early dawn hour (around 4 AM) of 24th December 2022, as if I were dreaming about monoku as “Poetry of Words” and suddenly I woke up in a half-dream and wrote the following one-liner:
sound of a plop receding silence
How do you approach reading haiku?
I read haiku published in various online journals and some selected print journals. I often love reading the theme-based haiku, and focus on the words, the art of juxtaposition and more importantly the “white space” (ma). I search for originality, phrasing of words, poetic manifestation of the images, linguistic fabric, rhythms and resonance. Quite often I enjoy reading the commentaries featured at re:Virals (The Haiku Foundation), Nicholas Klacsanzky’s Haiku Commentary website and others on the selected haiku.
I could avail an opportunity to read plenty of haiku nominated worldwide from different cross-cultural quarters while serving as a judge of the Touchstone Awards for Individual Poems. I could sense the aesthetic beauty of haiku embodying the wide spectrum of flora, fauna, cultural association, habitat, human feelings etc. I used to read every word of haiku very carefully and evaluate the dimensions of originality, aesthetic merits, cultural and spiritual importance and literary contribution to the haiku spirit.
For those just starting out, what advice would you give?
Haiku is different from conventional mainstream poetry. It is not a sentence. For the beginners, I sincerely advise them to understand the fundamentals of haiku, its basic elements such as fragment, phrase, pause (kireji), juxtaposition (complementary or contrast), usages of seasonal words and phrase (kigo), sensory and human aspects etc. They can read haiku published in online and print journals, anthologies archived at various websites namely Lynx (Aha Poetry), The Living Haiku Anthology, Mann Library’s Daily Haiku, etc. They can participate in podcasts, workshops, seminars etc to enrich their knowledge.
Lastly, never feel disheartened by rejections which could be attributed to various editorial reasons. Positively accept them as a record for opportunity and introspection for revision. Edit them, and try to be the editor and critic of yourself before submitting. I advise new haiku poets to concentrate on the acronym enumerated by Francine Banwarth and Michele Root-Bernstein, former editors of Frogpond, for a good haiku: LIFE (language, imagery, form, and elusiveness of expression).
What are your favorite haiku that you have written? Can you share a story behind one of them?
There are hundreds of haiku published over the decades. Indeed it is difficult to sieve them. However, the following haiku remain close to me:
every one crosses
also a cat
Bottle Rockets #27, August 2012
the morning enters
without a knock
Frogpond 35.3, 2012
Mann Library’s Daily Haiku, February 1, 2021
the scent bridging
the long river
Honourable Mention, Vancouver Cherry Blossom Festival Invitational, 2013
the bereaved girl holds
a palm-full of water
Editor’s Choice (Sample Poem), Acorn Issue #33, Fall 2014
I rearrange flowers
of the garland
The Heron’s Nest, Vol. XVIII, Issue 3, September 2016
of her talk
Iafor Vladimir Devide Haiku Award (Runner Up), 2017
moonrise the sky from the oncology wing
Presence #61, 2018
a hole in the light: The Red Moon Anthology of English-Language Haiku, 2018
a deer as if in Schrödinger’s cat
The Pan Haiku Review Issue 1, 2023
Once I was travelling by flight on an official tour. I was viewing the clouds, and sparkling of the sunlight through the window. Correlating the clouds with that of cotton flowers I wrote the following haiku on a piece of paper:
the sky blooming with
Shamrock No. 27, 2014
In Bangalore city in the morning, I was relaxing on the balcony and enjoying the birds flying and chirping around the trees. Suddenly an image of a one-liner struck me:
friendship day how thoughtfully birds live with the trees
Presence #73, 2022
What haiku-related project are you currently working on that brings you joy? What do you like about it?
I try to make people aware of the aesthetic importance of haiku poetry. In this aspect, I published essays on haiku, senryu in journals in India, namely Literary Vibes, Rhyvers (with Neena Singh, Guest Editor), The Wise Owl and others. Recently my long essay “History and Development of Haiku Poetry of India” was featured in the prestigious print journal, Indian Literature, of Sahitya Akademi publications. This is the first of its kind exhaustive essay classifying the development of haiku literature in India and its growth post-2000. I appeal to include haiku in the curriculum at the school level. It would serve as a reference for many academicians, research scholars and students of literature augmenting the popularity of the age-old Japanese literature in India. I enjoyed much by completing this project.
India is a country with a wide spectrum of cultural and social diversity, language and literature. The country’s ancient history, heritage, tradition and way of living have influenced haiku in the form of its linguistic and aesthetic splendors. I am working on showcasing the flavour of “Indianness” in haiku writing. This will serve as a vehicle to transcend the nation’s boundary for literary assimilation across a multicultural world.
As a scientist, I feel we can explore haiku literature in the light of logical awareness and scientific pursuits. Once delivering a lecture to the school students I said:
Arts and Science dwell together. The beauty of a flower is a divine art, the colour is the physics, the aroma is its chemistry.
With this perspective, I wrote an essay “Haiku: The Poetry of Science and Soul” and it is under consideration for publication in Presence. I plan to translate my writings, particularly articles, into my mother tongue, Odia, jointly with Bidyutprabha Gantayat, a haiku poet, writer and translator from Odisha. This would give a broader idea about haiku and its aesthetic literary value for the people of my state, and allow them the opportunity to read haiku in their regional language.
What are some of the fun ways that you have used or experienced haiku?
On the occasion of the 150th birth anniversary of Mahatma Gandhi, as a tribute to him, I wrote a sort of biographical haiku sequence, “Mahatma,” on his life and principles of non-violence, universal liberty, peace and love for mankind. Later the accomplished artist Masood Hussain made a video film on it with illustrations. Similarly, to commemorate the Azadi Ka Amrit Mahotsav (75 years of Independence of India), I wrote a haiku on Hemanta Misra’s (1917-2009) ink and pastel on paper titled “Guwahati (Boatmen on the Brahmaputra)” 1947 and it was exhibited at the Indian Museum, Kolkata, August 2022. I often enjoyed taking part in the Renku Sessions of The Haiku Foundation. It was indeed fun participating in the Rengay Workshop with Sherry Grant, Michael Smeer, Keith Evetts and other poets. Also, as a geologist, I find it amusing writing haiku and tanka about different stones for the Viewing Stone Association of North America (VSANA).
Once I was listening to the Poetry Pea Podcast by the editor, Patricia McGuire. A striking image suddenly flashed to my mind when I came across scenic photographs during the presentation and out of fun I wrote the following monoku:
streamflow of another milky way
Heliosparrow Poetry Journal, 27 October 2020
Working with John S. O’Connor and his student, Daniel Angel, of the New Trier High School, Northfield, Illinois was an interesting experience. As a part of the school curriculum, I recorded my selected haiku in an audio file. Daniel and Logan Rando synthesized the poems with images and wonderful scenic music. The Video Project is archived in Walks of Life, April 2022, The Haiku Foundation.
Children express their observations and feelings emanating from the cleanest mind and they sketch them with joy and elation. I wrote a series of haiku about the fun-filled drawings of my 5-year-old granddaughter, Aditri. Ron Moss, Haiga Editor of Contemporary Haibun Online (CHO) fondly accepted with a special mention: “We all seek that beginner’s or child-like mind, especially when we create, and this father-granddaughter team has found it. I was enchanted by this collaboration from the first moment I viewed their haiga….” and published them under Special Haiga Showcase, CHO, Issue 18.3, 2022. Later the haiga below, ‘watchful …”, was featured in Contemporary Haibun, Volume 18, 2023, published by Red Moon Press. It has been a fun-filled experience.
Your article, “Experimentation with One-Word Haiku” appeared in Frogpond 45.3 (Autumn 2022). What would you like beginning haiku poets to know about one-word haiku?
One-word haiku can be a stand-alone poem if written with a creative background or associated with relevant references to gain its literary prominence. It has to imbibe the spirited manifestation of consciousness and poetic courage. Referring to the one-word poem, “tundra” by Cor van den Heuvel, and “shark” by Alexis Rotella, Jim Kacian says, “In both of these examples, a single word is arrayed against the solid whiteness of a whole page. Both depend upon context (or lack of context) for their impact and so are more visual than one-line in function.”
I feel the background or the context symbolises the visual manifestation of the one-word poem. The following is one of the specific examples of one-word haiku.
t o g e t h e r
Roberta Beach Jacobson
This one-word haiku was published in the anthology, behind the mask: haiku in the time of Covid-19, edited by Margaret Dornaus, 2020. Here the context and reference of horrifying experiences during Covid magnify the importance of the above one-word haiku. Please observe the theme of the anthology and structural novelty with ‘gaps’ (inferring social distancing during Covid-19) between the letters!
I think poets with great conviction can coin such effective minimalistic one-word haiku. I advise the beginners to concentrate on the conventional 3-line haiku to start with.
I enjoyed reading your recent interview in whiptail, in which you discuss techniques in one-line haiku, or monoku. Could you explain to our readers the best way to tell if their haiku would read better in one line or three?
Thank you, Julie, for your kind words and appreciation. I feel humbled. I sincerely feel, notwithstanding the visualisation of the image, the spontaneity of expression takes the form of a one-liner and a gentle oscillation of thought process modulates into the form of a 3-liner. This happens in the cognitive level of the poet as to how to release or portray his thought energy. If we try to write purposefully a one-liner into an enjambed 3-line format, at times we have to introduce additional images to appropriately juxtapose the fragment and phrase sections. In this process, the originality of the monoku will be compromised. Let us enumerate it with an example:
sun, sea, sand and the footprints
Pravat Kumar Padhy, Modern Haiku 50:3, 2019
Here in a compressed way, every word is interlinked with each other and the monoku sublimely expresses the psychological awareness of the poet at that moment and at that place. But if we experiment the same with a 3-line format, we have to introduce some additional imagery to build an analogous logical juxtaposition as suggested below:
sun and sea
the footprints of memories
buried under the sand
Monoku is more of a compressive manifestation of ideas that are expressed in one breath in the crystalline language and grammatical phrasing. One-line haiku also render a display of different versions of meaning with multiple pauses, kireji “multi-stops” as denoted by Jim Kacian, in syntax whereas a normative 3-line does not reflect these poetic varieties.
Anything else you’d like to share?
I record my indebted gratitude to the esteemed Touchstone Award Committee of The Haiku Foundation for selecting me as a judge of the Touchstone Awards for Individual Poems. I acknowledge the inspiration rendered by Bruce H. Feingold, Robin Smith, and my learned co-panelists. It was a challenging but fulfilling poetic journey. I could read haiku written by wonderful poets hailing from a wider cross-cultural background. It has been an amazing experience!
Pravat Kumar Padhy, Scientist and Poet, hails from Odisha, India. He holds a Master in Science and Technology and a Ph.D from Indian Institute of Technology, Dhanbad. He is a mainstream poet and a writer of Japanese short forms of poetry. His poem, “How Beautiful”, is included in the Undergraduate English Curriculum at the university level. Pravat’s haiku are featured at Mann Library, Cornell University and tanka included in the Kudo Resource Guide, University of California, Berkeley.
A short collage of videos featuring his haiku has been included in the school curriculum, The Trier High School, Northfield, Illinois, USA. His haiku have won The Kloštar Ivanić International Haiku Award, the Vancouver Cherry Blossom Festival Invitational Award, IAFOR Vladimir Devidé Haiku Award, the Setouchi Matsuyama Photo Haiku Award, and others.
He served as the panel judge of The Haiku Foundation Touchstone Awards for Individual Poems. Presently he is on the Editorial Board of the journal, Under the Basho.
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