Welcome to re:Virals, The Haiku Foundation’s weekly poem commentary feature on some of the finest haiku ever written in English. This week’s poem was
the ocean in a raindrop inside my womb a heart — Kala Ramesh, beyond the horizon beyond (2017)
Lakshmi Iyer details the revelation:
This is a perfect example of “zooming in and zooming out”!
Among the five elements in nature, water is one of the main life forces. Seventy percent of the human body is made up of water and, coincidentally, more than seventy percent of the earth is covered in water.
Water takes various forms, and the most poetic form is the “raindrop” that effortlessly drops into every threshold and into every heart. The poet has beautifully woven a monoku, with a beginning and end that summarize water, as either the liquid rain in the ocean or amniotic fluid in the womb. What a perfect juxtaposition!
This poet has taken the reference of nature in the broadest sense and presented that moment where she experiences a revelation. Kala Ramesh has truly laid out a revelation of a “heart in a womb.” No wonder, then, that the poet’s perception and connectedness to nature makes this ‘ku all the more beautiful. Seeing the whole in a molecule and a life in the whole, it’s a deeper dimension of oneness that stays between the raindrop and the heartbeat. Both are important in their own space: The raindrop that evaporates and comes down as rain and the heart that grows in the womb and bears another heart in the days to come.
The voice of the poet is conveyed with brevity and subtlety about the magnanimous — the Pancha Maha-Bhoota: earth, fire, water, air and ether, and the balance of the five senses (touch, sound, taste, sight and smell) are all conveyed in this haiku.
Priti Aisola reflects on a world-picture:
Kala’s remarkable monoku may be read in different ways to allow different ways of viewing the world-image and life-picture presented there. However, I will limit myself to one particular way of reading it and interpret it based on that – the juxtaposition of two singular images – “the ocean in a raindrop” and “inside my womb a heart.” The first image places the macrocosm in the microcosm (the whole is contained in the part that reflects it, encapsulates it), and allows the ocean to burst forth out of a tiny raindrop. The second one cocoons within the womb the beating heart of a fetus, and this beating heart, as an individual later on in life, has the potential to grow and connect with other hearts and minds. Basically, to move out of the limited and limiting confines of the self and touch other selves or lives. And surge forth like an expansive ocean – of possibilities for creativity; or an ocean of love and compassion. (Who knows?)
Within a raindrop swells an entire ocean, and within a womb throbs a heart that can reach out to other hearts and make an ocean of a difference in the lives of other people. Hence, in an oblique yet strong way, this very “thought-ful” monoku reminded me of William Blake’s memorable lines:
To see a World in a Grain of Sand
And a Heaven in a Wild Flower
Hold Infinity in the palm of your hand
And Eternity in an hour
In one’s moments of pause from activity, Kala’s monoku will continue to offer food for quiet reflection.
Shalini Pattabiraman sifts through the layers:
I have often found haiku a friendly, meditative practice that allows for reflection. I think a monoku takes it further and deeper by showing the world that knowledge is often a matter of perspective and the world can be read differently.
Kala manages to create a stunning monoku here, which can be read in three different ways from my perspective, offering a layered and complex interpretation.
the ocean/ in a raindrop inside my womb/ a heart
the ocean in a raindrop / inside my womb / a heart
the ocean / in a raindrop inside / my womb a heart
The reading allows one to take notice of how vast the ocean is, and this vastness with its immense depth is juxtaposed against the miniature ocean that lies in a mother’s womb. Just like the ocean is life-sustaining, so is the womb where the heart beats in sync with another. This beating of hearts, this synchronic rhythm, is universal and elemental, one that can be (if the ear is tuned thus) heard everywhere. But this in itself is not what makes the ‘ku stunning. I think it’s the choice of the phrase “in a raindrop” that creates this exceptional resonance. An ocean births from a raindrop, the “heart” is akin to a raindrop and the raindrop is life-sustaining as is the ocean in the womb, as is the heart that beats and births from this ocean.
As this week’s winner, Shalini gets to choose next week’s poem, which you’ll find below. We invite you to write a commentary to it. It may be as long or short, academic or spontaneous, serious or silly, public or personal as you like. We will select out-takes from the best of these. And the very best will be reproduced in its entirety and take its place as part of the THF Archives. Best of all, the winning commentator gets to choose the next poem for commentary.
Anyone can participate. A new poem will appear each Friday morning. Simply put your commentary in the Contact box by the following Tuesday midnight (Eastern US Time Zone). Please use the subject header “re:Virals” so we know what we’re looking at. We look forward to seeing some of your favorite poems — and finding out why!
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where snow meets sea the weight of our imprints — GRIX, Trash Panda, Summer 2021 issue