Kala Ramesh: beyond the horizon beyond

In 2017, Indian poet, musician and educator, Kala Ramesh, released a book of haiku and haibun titled beyond the horizon beyond. The book was published by Vishwakarma Publications and is available from Amazon and other online sellers.

beyond the horizon beyond is a substantial collection comprising 125 pages of haiku followed by almost 50 pages of haibun. The book opens with a Foreword by Bill Kenney and a Preface by Kala.

The haibun are delightful, providing many interesting insights into Kala’s childhood and family life in India. However, the comments below will focus on Kala’s haiku.

Contemporary haiku draw upon a Japanese aesthetic with centuries of tradition; transience, simplicity and subtlety being some of the features that are valued. While modern haiku take many forms, haiku are often understated, with a poem’s impact requiring the reader to contemplate the emotional space between two juxtaposed images. The Japanese refer to this space as ma.

Indian aesthetic theory sits comfortably with this haiku tradition as both pay attention to the human experience of, or response to, a piece of art. The Indian concept of rasa refers to the nature of the emotional experience encountered in a dance, song, painting or poem. The nine experiences, or rasas, are the erotic, comic, sorrowful, furious, heroic, terrible, odious, marvellous and tranquil. Those Indian poets who are attentive to rasa, pay close regard to the type of emotional response a poem creates.

Kala Ramesh has combined the writing of haiku with traditional Indian notions of style and taste in art. The combination results in many memorable poems.

for a bengal tiger
I sense the power
of silence

Devi temple . . .
along with the ants
I enter barefoot

fish kill
they decide against

The five Hindu elements of Nature, ie Ether, Air, Fire, Water and Earth, are each associated with one of the senses such as touch, taste and smell. Kala deliberately sets out to reflect these elements in her writing. Being a musician, she seems particularly alert to sound and song in the Ether:

summer sky
temple doves somersault
into wingsong

a cuckoo sings
the darkness of leaves
before dawn

Sometimes the sound and rhythm of Kala’s writing brings its own musicality:

mild breeze breadth of the wheat field’s whisper

Kala’s haiku are concerned with creating emotional space and allowing the reader to experience each poem. As she says in her Preface:

In the silence between notes, between words, between lines, the emotional quotient that arises is ‘rasa,’ as we say in India — that which gives poetry, music, dance or any other art form greater depth and resonance.

thunder coming downhill the sound of glass bangles

soap bubbles
how softly mother
bursts into laughter

double rainbow
the day I discovered
my vagina

a dragonfly punctuating silence

I become the grandchild
I’m waiting for

my mind dreams dreams pillows let go

Whether the haiku in beyond the horizon beyond make you feel peaceful, sad, horrified, aroused or amused, they are sure to connect with your emotions – which is what should happen when you read poetry.

In combining the aesthetic of two great cultures, Kala Ramesh has not changed the essence of haiku. Rather, she has maximised the emotional range and impact of her poems by drawing on both the Japanese and Indian understanding of how poetry connects with the reader. The resulting haiku are deeply engaging.