New to Haiku is pleased to interview Vandana Parashar. Her debut e-chapbook, I Am, was published by Title IX Press in 2019, and her haiku was shortlisted for the 2020 Touchstone Awards for Individual Poems. She is currently part of the editing team at Poetry Pea, and is hosting a blog for Triveni Haikai India. Thanks for sharing your haiku journey with us, Vandana!
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, Vandana! How did you come to learn about haiku?
I was a science teacher before I had to leave my job because of health issues. One of my former students attended Kala Ramesh’s Haiku Workshop and told me about it. I instantly fell in love with these little power-packed poems.
Where do you most often write? Do you have a writing process?
I write anytime, anywhere. My brain is constantly on the prowl for haiku around me — doing household chores, in the kitchen, while shopping, on evening walks, even when drifting to sleep (I have lost many haiku to sleep just because I thought that I would remember them in the morning and never did).
I don’t have a writing process. Sometimes haiku just appear out of nowhere like an epiphany (those are the best). When I need to write on the prompt or for a particular contest, I go out in the park and walk barefoot on the grass. I let go of the struggle of writing for the sake of submitting and just surrender myself to nature. And more often than not, I come back home rejuvenated and with two-three new haiku. Of course, I can’t do that daily and not all haiku are great, but at least I come back with ideas to work on.
For those just starting out, what advice would you give?
Thanks to the internet, everyone now comes equipped with the knowledge of basic rules of writing haiku. The Haiku Foundation has excellent tips for beginners in “Haiku Basics”.
However, I would like to say two things–
Read as much as you can.
The importance of reading haiku written by others has been stressed upon enough. What I would like to add is that reading is important – not only because you know what makes a good haiku and learn from it – but to help you stay clear of monotonous images. Haiku is about finding extraordinary in the ordinary. You can’t keep finding what others have already found. There’s no novelty in that. Find your own voice. The more you read, the more you will know what resonates with you. Go with your heart, not with what everyone is writing about.
Always choose quality over quantity.
Most beginners fall in the trap of the delicious headiness of getting published everywhere possible. I was there too once. But soon I started to feel the burnout. The pressure of submissions, the heartbreak of rejections and the self-assessed mediocrity of my work was taking a toll on my mental health. I realized that what was once a panacea has now become the cause of my stress. So, I chose to slow down and instead of churning out haiku like a machine, decided to be mindful of what I write and write about what I feel strongly about.
What are your favorite haiku that you have written? Can you share a story behind one of them?
Some of my favourite haiku are–
from a tangled ball of wool
I unpick what’s mine
(Honourable Mention, Revista Haiku Contest, 2020)
the weight of snow
on a bare bough
(Honourable Mention, Porad Haiku Contest, 2021)
first love wingardium leviosa
(Haiku Dialogue, 16th Dec 2021)
my daughter says she doesn’t want
to be like me
(Golden Haiku Contest, 2021; string theory: The Red Moon Anthology of English-Language Haiku, 2022)
The last one was written after a particularly heated argument with my teenage daughter. We both said some things which we didn’t mean, but the possibility that my daughter doesn’t look up to me hurt the most. We made up with each other within minutes and my daughter now teases me that she helped me in fulfilling my dream of being included in RMP Anthology.
What haiku-related project are you currently working on that brings you joy? What do you like about it?
Presently, I’m in the editing team of Poetry Pea. I have noticed that when you don an editor’s hat, you become a different person. It’s almost like having an alter ego. This has helped me study my own poems with an editor’s eyes. I can now stand detached from my poem, dissect it and if needed, I can kill my darlings too.
I’m also hosting a blog for Triveni Haikai India. The best part of it is that I have to read extensively to find poems to feature on the blog. It can’t get better than this.
Vandana Parashar is a postgraduate in microbiology, an educator and a haiku poet. She started getting acquainted with and writing haiku in 2015 and soon found solace in it.
Her haiku, senryu and tanka have been published in many national and international journals of repute and have won her many prizes and accolades. Her haiku was also shortlisted for the prestigious Touchstone Award in 2021.
Her debut e-chapbook “I Am” was published by Title IX Press in 2019, with her heart and soul put into the work. She currently resides in Panchkula with her husband, two daughters and her one-year-old puppy.
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