on the cusp of dawn, 25 tanka poets from India

Edited and introduced by Kala Ramesh


I am very happy to present the special feature of Kei’s Atlas Poetica – 25 Poets from India.

Poetry in India began several thousand years ago with the Vedas. The first known text, the Rig Veda, derives its name from the word ‘rik,’ which means verse. But as a country we are new to tanka, this thousand-year-old art form from Japan. Except for a few poets whose tanka you have read, the majority of the poets featured here are riding on beginner’s luck—or maybe not, for they show great promise and are just raring to take off!

At first, the goal of 25 seemed daunting, but we’ve managed well. The poems have been arranged as in renku—using the link and shift method to form a collage, a montage, a kaleidoscope of sorts, with glimpses of life’s ups and downs. Most of the tanka chosen are quintessentially India with a good dozen that have a more global feel.

I thank Kei from the bottom of my heart for having this faith in me, and thank all our Indian friends who so graciously lent their poems for this special feature on India. Happy reading!

Kala Ramesh
18th September, 2014

1) Sanjuktaa Asopa

a blackbird
on the cusp of dusk
. . . and I,
too earthbound
to answer its call

2) Shloka Shankar

ruches of pink
ruffle the setting sun . . .
you look at me
one last time before
saying goodbye

3) Kala Ramesh

footprints on sand,
words spoken in transit,
to claim they were ever there—
I’m left with memories

4) Safiyyah Patel

a crack
on the frozen lake . . .
she waits
for him to call
after the night’s quarrel

5) Raamesh Gowri Raghavan

a leaf whirling
in a pond’s eddy . . .
my daily trip
from bed to work desk
in the new metro

6) Anitha Varma

an oil lamp
and an unknown deity
beneath the banyan
the spent traveler rests
before the day’s journey

7) G. Akila

wedding vows
in our ancestral home . . .
how deep are the roots
of this coconut tree

8) Shernaz Wadia

a rainstorm
pelts the roof and windows
through the din
this loudening song
of a whistling blue thrush

9) Aruna Rao

yesterday’s rain
today’s humidity
my heart
erratic as Delhi’s monsoon
each time I think of you

10) Samar Ghose

the thorn
that drew my blood
made you laugh
were I to seek revenge
would you be so tickled

11) B. Vadivel Rajan

out in the mist
to draw the morning kolam
silhouettes of young girls
bend and rise
to the tune of bhajan singers

Kolam – a design made at the entrance of the house using powder of rice or limestone
Bhajan – song sung by a group of devotees of Hindu Gods, daily in the dawn of Margazhi Month, corresponding to mid-Dec to mid-Jan in the Gregorian Calendar.

12) Paresh Tiwari

the roar
of a fishing trawler . . .
a seagull
picking up a splash
on her wing-tips

13) Pravat Kumar Padhy

like clouds
seagulls float in the air
I return
leaving the rain, the dance
of the gentle waves behind

14) K. Ramesh

I stand
at the window listening
to Chopin . . .
a yellow butterfly decides
to settle on a blossom

15) Ramesh Anand

across the border
everything feels fresh
this loneliness in me . . .
being without you

16) Prachi Bhutada

I’ve this memory
holding my mother’s hand
in the hospital
not knowing if I support her
or she supports me

17) Vinay Leo R

lone dandelion
floating in the breeze
saying goodbye
so much harder
when it is you

18) Jayashree Maniyil

cerulean dreams
all morning
the coo of a spotted dove
riding the southerlies

19) Yesha Shah

the winds
whistling through the half
open window
an old photo finds itself
in my hands again

20) Aju Mukhopadhyay

compared to fossil-trees
in existence for 20 million years
Egyptian mummies
are yesterday’s children—
stones at Tiruvakkarai

21) Neelam Dudhwal

the buoyancy
of puris between air
and oil
my daughter asks again
for the secret recipe

puri is a form of bread cooked by deep-frying and often eaten with vegetables and curries.

22) Kanchan Chatterjee

this morning
I’m at it again . . .
sending a bio
a pic
and some tanka

23) kashinath karmakar

settling dusk . . .
in the prayer room
my maa trying hard
to blow the conch
without her false teeth

24) Shrikaanth Krishnamurthy

my first steps
as you held my hand
in your hand
each spoonful of rice
totters today amma

25) Gautam Nadkarni

people corner
the fleeing king cobra
and kill it—
and I ask, how venomous
can a human being get

Short profiles of the poets:

Though Sanjuktaa Asopa has been writing haiku for the past few years now, she has only very occasionally dabbled in tanka, some of which have appeared in Moonbathing, Ribbons and included in Take Five.

Shloka Shankar is a freelance writer residing in India. She holds a Master’s degree in English Literature, and turned to poetry in her twentieth year. A contributing author in two dozen anthologies including The Traversal of Lines, The Dance of the Peacock, Emanations IV, Family Matters, Chronicles of Urban Nomads and Gems, among others, Shloka has also seen her poems published in online journals such as Ekphrasis, Urban Confustions, Miracle e-zine, Café Dissensus and others. Since having fallen in love with Japanese verse forms, Shloka’s haiku, tanka and haibun have appeared in journals of repute like World Haiku Association, Issa’s Untidy Hut, Under the Basho, cattails, World Haiku Review, Daily Haiga, A Hundred Gourds, Haibun Today, Atlas Poetica, Prune Juice, bottle rockets, Acorn, The Living Haiku Anthology, and The Heron’s Nest.

On the Board of Editors of Modern English Tanka Press’s anthology, Take Five: The Best Contemporary Tanka for the years 2009/2010/2011, Kala Ramesh has more than a 1000 poems comprising haiku, senryu, tanka, kyoka, haibun, tanka prose and renku, published in reputed journals and anthologies, both online and print editions in Japan, Europe, United Kingdom, Australia, United States of America and India. Kala is presently the Modern Haiku Editor for Under the Basho & the Editor of Youth Corner, Cattails (UHTS). Kala is the external faculty member of Symbiosis International University, where she conducts a 60 hour module on haiku and allied genres like senryu, tanka, haibun, renku and haiga.

Safiyyah Patel has recently taken interest in tanka. She also dabbles in haiku and free verse poetry. Safiyyah is a learning enthusiast and is keen to learn with a curious disposition.

Raamesh Gowri Raghavan moonlights as a copywriter by day and daylights as a poet by night. He is interested in short fiction, poetry and haikai as well. He also writes travelogues. He thinks he is funny, but his friends vehemently disagree.

Anitha Verma says: a native of Kerala, a love of languages led to a post graduation in English Language and Literature. I came to seriously understand haiku through the secret Facebook group IN haiku, under Kala Ramesh’s guidance. My haiku have appeared in The Heron’s Nest, Wednesday Haiku, Under the Basho, A Hundred Gourds, Cattails, Presence, Bottle Rockets, etc.

Akila Gopalakrishnan says: poetry keeps me sane while multi tasking family, home and profession. Introduction to new forms like tanka only extends that umbrella where I breathe life!

Shernaz Wadia is a retired primary school teacher, and lives in Pune, India. She was educated in St. Joseph’s High School Valsad and Wadia College, Pune. Her articles, short stories and poems have been widely published in web journals and anthologies. She has also published ‘Whispers of the Soul’, a collection of some of her poems and “Tapestry Poetry”—a genre of poetry composition in partnership, developed by her and Israeli poet Avril Meallem.

Aruna Rao is primarily trained in the Visual Arts. Her practice has diversified from paintings to digital and vocal manipulations. Fiction and poetry has been a convergent interest where haiku and tanka have helped her shape the formless moments. She grew fond of Japanese culture through her love for anime. She has had three short stories and one poem previously published in the online magazine Apostrophe-O, and one haiku in the online journal Clouds Peak, both currently defunct. Her tanka have been published in the Undertow Tanka Review.

Samar Ghose: Like most people who discover the Japanese short form poetry, I am attempting to write some too. I grew up in India but live in Australia with my wife and two daughters.

Hailing from Chennai, a city in the southern part of India, B. Vadivel Rajan says: I have had a penchant for literature and poetry from my young ages. I am a student of Kala Ramesh and had been writing haiku from 2005 under her guidance. Published in Mainchi Shimbun, Japan. My haiku have been included in the First Katha e book of Haiku, an anthology of haiku poems and Indian Spring haiku: in ‘Wah’ a bilingual haiku journal from Canada. Some of my haiku verses have been included in the India Saijiki -World Kigo Data Base of Dr. Gabi Greve at Daruma Museum, Japan. I also love writing poem in Tamil which is my native tongue.

An electrical engineer by profession, a creative writer and illustrator by choice, Paresh Tiwari is currently based in Hyderabad, India. Growing up with art and culture, he has indulged in various creative outbursts from time to time. He took to haiku and its various associated forms in the winter of 2012. His works which include haiku, haibun, haiga and tanka have been published in various reputed journals, and print anthologies.

Scientist and Poet. Pravat Kumar Padhy’s haiku, tanka and haibun have appeared in The World Haiku Review, Lynx, Four and Twenty,The Notes from the Gean, Atlas Poetica, Simply Haiku, Red lights, Ribbons, The Heron’s Nest, Inner Art Journal, Shamrock, A Hundred Gourds, Vancouver Cherry Blossom Festival, Magnapoets, Bottle Rockets, Mu International, Frogpond, Kokako, Presence, Issa’s Untidy Hut, The Bamboo Hut etc. Recently his tanka have been anthologized in Fire Pearls 2 and Bright Stars, edited by M Kei.

K. Ramesh writes haiku, tanka and free verse. His poems have appeared in magazines and anthologies published in India and abroad. He is author of two collections of haiku titled, Soap Bubbles and from pebble to pebble.

Ramesh Anand authored Newborn Smiles, a haiku book. His short forms have appeared in 15 countries and translated to 8 foreign languages. He has over 200 publications to his credit including tanka and haiga. Publication includes Anthology, Print and e-Journals, News Papers, Print and e-Magazines. He has been interviewed by Youth Magazine and Spotlight. His works has won many prizes and have been included in distinguished anthologies. Akita Sakigake Shimpo President Award, Honorable mention in International Matsuo Bashō Award, Dr. Sandeep Chauhan Commendable Prize by RLP Award 2013 and the third prize for autumn and winter haiku by DIOGEN are his latest awards. His tanka has won a third prize in DIOGEN tanka contest and an honourable mention in cattails journal. He is a member of IN haiku group.

Prachi Bhutada studies Psychology and Anthropology at Symbiosis School for Liberal Arts in Pune. She was introduced to haiku and related genres in an academic course under Mrs. Kala Ramesh. Ever since, being able to express herself within the constraints of these condensed art forms fascinated her. She loves to paint, watch movies, read books and would rather live in the fantasy world than the real one. Old Hindi songs keep her company and she is probably listening to them while you are reading this.

Vinay Leo R. is a poet from Bangalore, India. He has been published in haiku journals such as Frogpond, A Hundred Gourds, Modern Haiku and Cattails. He loves to write poetry and short fictions. He also reads and reviews novels.

Jayashree Maniyil currently residing in Australia. I stumbled upon haiku by accident about three years ago, and have never turned back. Writing a haiku, reading about it, learning and reading from others—all these have become an immensely satisfying activity these days, consuming most of my free time daily. Through this journey of haiku, I have been fortunate to know and meet some very beautiful people, mostly online. Poetry was never something that I took to, but when haiku happened to me, it opened a completely new world before my eyes, and I have been experimenting since then. I have been lucky to have a few poems published in journals. Off late, my experiments extend to writing tanka as well. This journey is teaching me how to be thankful for every little gift I receive.

Qualified as a pharmacist but now a mom, poetry has always been a passion for Yesha Shah. She started dabbling in haiku & allied forms about a year ago, loving the brevity of this form and trying to learn a bit more each day. Her haiku and haibun have been featured in online journals like The Heron’s Nest, Creatrix, Prune Juice, Haibun Today and some others in the pipeline. She resides currently in Surat, India.

Aju Mukhopadhyay, Pondicherry, is a bilingual award winning poet, essayist, fiction writer and critic. He has published two books of poems in Bangla and eight in English including two books of Japanese styles of short verses. His poems have been widely published, translated and anthologised in large numbers of Indian and International journals and Ezines in several languages. Seven books contain discussions on his poetry. His poems are published in 21 anthologies, national and international. Besides several poetry awards he has recently been awarded Albert Camus Centenary Writing award. His short stories have been published in several journals and anthologies. His essays are published in more than 50 books besides magazines and ezines. He is in the editorial and advisory board of several magazines and Ezines. He guest-edited Indian edition of the twenty20 journal, an American Ezine. He is member of several literary and environmental institutions.

Neelam Dadhwal is a poet from Chandigarh who started writing poems in 2013. She has four books published so far of free verse poems and short stories. Her haiku has been showcased by reputed online and offline journals. She also won Under the Basho 2014 honorable mention for her haiku. Besides she is keen to experiment and regularly posts her view on her blogs, “Prism of Joy” and “Further The Bridge.”

Kanchan Chatterjee is a 46 year old male executive, working in the ministry of finance, government of India. He is from Jamshedpur, Jharkhand India. Although he does not have any literary background, he loves poetry and scribbles as and when he feels the urge. His poems have appeared in various online and print journals, namely, Eclectic eel, Mad Swirl, Shot Glass Journal, Jellyfish Whisperer, Bare Hands Poetry, River Muse, Decanto Ygradsil, Off the Coast, Red Booth Review Electric Windmill Press Under the Basho, Oddity, Coldnoon, Randomly Accessed Poetics, Cease Cows, A hundred gourds etc. He was one of the nominees of the Pushcart Awards, 2012.

Kashinath Karmakar (kash poet) lives in Durgapur,India. An electrical engineer by profession he came to know about haiku and tanka in 2011 through a poetry site called poetrysoup. His works have appeared in various online and print journals like Frogpond, Tinywords, The Heron’s Nest, Prune Juice, A Hundred Gourds and Creatrix. In 2013 he won third prize in Kusamakura International Haiku contest and an HM in the Mainichi International Haiku Contest. He has over the years placed among the top in several kukai. He is the organizer of Indian Kukai.

Shrikaanth Krishnamurthy is a psychiatrist from Bengaluru (Bangalore) India. Living in Birmingham, UK, Shrikaanth is a trained vocalist in Karnataka music (South Indian Classical music). He worked as the music critic for The Times of India for a period of two years when he reviewed live concerts. He regularly contributed articles to music journals. He is also a songster-lyricist-composer (Vaggeyakara) of Karnataka Music and has 2 CDs to his credit. Well versed in several languages, Shrikaanth writes poetry in four languages: Kannada, Sankethi, Tamil and English. He often employs ancient metres for his poems. He writes both in English and in Kannada. Many of his haiku and related works have been published in various acclaimed publications. For Shrikaanth, writing is not only a means of expression, but also a form of therapy to overcome day to day stress.

Gautam Nadkarni was introduced to the world of English literature by his maternal grandfather in early childhood. He wrote his first poem at age 11 and went on to win short story competitions and have his essay, The Prodigy, read out on All India Radio when still in school. Writing then took a backseat as he studied for his Bachelor’s degree in Chemistry; and it wasn’t until age thirty that he took up the pen again. Then followed magazine articles, columns and free verse till, in 2006 he stumbled upon haiku on the internet. Having his early haiku attempts accepted and published internationally, he was encouraged to foray into senryu, and then tanka. He has not looked back since and has won the Shiki Monthly Kukai twice till date.

© 2014