It was such a pleasant surprise to win the first prize in the 8th Akita International Haiku Contest- 2020. Of course it’s not about winning the prize as such because contests and prizes are here today and gone tomorrow … but working on the theme of ‘Impermanence’, which is not new to our haikai world, gave me the challenge of making the ku fresh and not using images and words that have been done to death!
It wasn’t easy. So I did the next best thing, which was to show the impermanence by showing just the opposite! Let me give you an example: only when there is sunshine do you understand the beauty of shade and vice versa; lockdown vs. mobility and so on! To focus on impermanence, which in Sanskrit is anitya (nitya means eternal, permanent), I needed to show continuity, continuation and longevity. Simple! So the images in my haiku should have the brevity and impermanence that reflect the haiku spirit, but also allow the story to continue in in subtle ways.
While reading about ‘Noh’ drama, I came across the term ‘kire-tsuzuki’ or ‘cut-continuity.’ The commonest example of this is the pause between every exhalation of air from the lungs and the next inhalation. Another lovely example is our walk- we move one leg, cut the movement and move the other leg- the two actions together get us moving; there is both a cut and a continuation. For life is all about that movement and nothing in nature is stationery or static. Most importantly, nothing in life exists in isolation or is unconnected.
This naturally led me to this beautiful concept called the web of life.
“Imagine a multidimensional spider's web in the early morning covered with dew drops. And every dew drop contains the reflection of all the other dew drops. And, in each reflected dew drop, the reflections of all the other dew drops in that reflection. And so on ad infinitum. That is the Buddhist conception of the universe in an image.”
dewdrops in a dewdrop the dewdrop world
In both the Hindu and Buddhist scriptures, the image of “Indra's net” is used to describe the interconnectedness of the universe, and that is what I have tried to show in my haiku below:
scented twilight …
the reason dragonflies
pause in flight
8th Akita International Haiku Contest - Feb 2020.
Line1: scented twilight is something that continues and is carried on the gentle breeze.
Lines 2 & 3: we all know dragonflies pause in flight. I have drawn a connection between this pause and the scent riding the breeze. The protagonist suggests that dragonflies pause to take in and enjoy the scent emanating from nearby blossoms. Thus the two images are juxtaposed to show the tension between the continuing twilight and the pausing dragonflies.
in haikai spirit,
Published in Serow, Volume 3 of the haiku journal of the Akita International Haiku Network, 22 May 2020.