December 2003, Volume 1, Number 6

Dr. Angelee Deodhar: Interview
by Robert Wilson

Q) Who introduced you to haiku and how has it affected your life?

A) My introduction to haiku was an accidental one. In 1989, I was very ill with a life-threatening pulmonary embolism which called for repeated hospitalizations. It was during one such episode that I discovered haiku in a magazine. I was intrigued by this form and started searching for material related to haiku. The standard books on poetry did not list it and, in those days, information about haiku was not available on the internet. Somehow, I managed to find Mr. William J. Higginson's address and wrote a letter to him. He very kindly sent me his Haiku Handbook as a gift. So in a way it was Bill (Mr. Higginson) who introduced me to haiku and a remarkable journey into healing. Now, fourteen years later, writing haiku for me is a way of life, of living in the now. I observe the day to day unfolding of my own nature in tune with the changing seasons. I try to capture something each day, the essence of that day in one or several haiku. It helps me to simplify my life and live more fully and peacefully.

Q) You have said that if more people turn to writing haiku, there would be more joy and less strife in our lives and in our world. How is this so?

A) Yes, I believe if more people turn to writing haiku, there would be less strife in our lives and more joy in the world. Each one of us is responsible for the quality of our lives. Only if we are at peace with ourselves can we be in harmony with those around us. The practice of haiku gives us an ever-fresh opportunity to look at nature and our own nature. Once we have this approach to life in general, and nature in particular, it will help us to be more understanding of those around us. We will be able to make friends and interact through sharing haiku.

Q) Is the writing of haiku alive and well in India?

A) I would like to say Yes, but unfortunately this is not so. Haiku is still a relatively unknown poetic form in my country. As you know, we have our own very rich poetic heritage. English is our official second language and is taught all over India beginning in kindergarten. In school, we learn about various poetic forms and the lyric poem, the sonnet, the ballad, and the epic poem. Amongst the shorter forms, we are taught about the limerick, the cinquain, the quatrain, but not haiku. Efforts are now being made to popularize this form of poetry in various parts of India mainly through the regional languages. Unfortunately, these are difficult for others to understand. English language haiku journals and books are still almost impossible to get in India. What is being written as haiku are just three line poems.

Q) Your aim from what I understand is to put India on the World Haiku map via the sharing of your haiku and the haiku of your fellow haijin from India with internationally renowned poets.

A) Yes, it is a rather ambitious aim but slowly and steadily I plan to do this by bringing together more interaction between poets from India with poets from other parts of the world. There are some good Indian haiku poets who have been published in some of the best haiku journals abroad. I hope that each of these poets will further the cause of haiku by introducing others to this marvelous form, and if we communicate with each other by sharing our haiku, we can put India on the world haiku map. There are many haiku journals/clubs online which encourage poets to send their haiku in and to discuss ways to improve one's writing/understanding of haiku. Translating from regional languages into English is another point which has to be considered before one can begin to share haiku internationally.

Q) What haiku master has had the greatest influence on your haiku and why?

A) This is a very difficult question to answer in the four great haiku poets (Basho, Issa, Buson, Shiki) have all affected me in different ways. When I read Basho's travelogue in the famous Oko-no-Hosimichi, I felt very close to him as I have always maintained a travel diary. The childlike simplicity of Issa's haiku and his fascination with insects parallels mine. Buson's picture like images flow smoothly for me. And Shiki's haiku have an immediacy which has had a profound affect on my writing. I feel closest to Shiki since his illness brought him to haiku and mine did too. Of the other Japanese haiku poets I have several whom I admire. They are far too many to name here. I also have a great affinity for the women poets from the Manyoshu, and Kokinshu.

Q) Do you have any advice for those new to the writing of haiku?

A) It would be a good idea to write everyday, to keep a haiku journal, and share these with family and friends. But before doing this, one must get a good guide for understanding what a haiku is. In the words of Robert Speiss in his Speculation 817, "The study and practice of haiku encourage one to move from a narrow, ego-centered venue to one that is limitlessly open. It is an awakening to the dynamic suchness of the world's entities." And in 805, "A genuine haiku poet is one who has not lost the heart of a child."

 


Angelee Deodhar is a well-known Indian haiku writer and artist. Her bio statement follows:

Born just before the partition in India, schooled in the best "English" tradition I grew up in sylvan surrounds amongst the foothills of Himalaya, and fell in love with them. My father was a doctor in the India Army, and our home was full of books and music. Even during medical school (graduate and post graduate studies) I wrote short stories, articles poems - but never thought of "writing" as a career.

After working as an ophthalmologist in remote villages for almost 18 years, I developed a life threatening recurrent pulmonary thrombo embolism with repeated prolonged hospitalization. This is when writing became a lifetime and a second career. Now, a decade later, my poems, stories and haiku have been published in USA, UK, Canada, Australia, Japan, Greece, Croatia, Romania, Finland, Poland and India. I owe a lot to those who have encouraged me along the Haiku Path: Liz Fenn of the Haiku Conservatory who sent me my first copy of HAIKU HEADLINES (#63/JUN'93), Patrick Frank, Elizabeth S. Lamb, Ken Liebman, Bob Spiess, Bill Higgison, Gerald England, Ion Codrescu, Jim Cacian, Season/Carolyn Thomas, and of course, Rengé/David Prieb, who has given me this opportunity to share my work. I am indebted to my husband, a physician, and my son, for their support through many emotional storms of chronic illness.

Of all the poetic forms I find haiku most appealing. Throughout their deceptive simplicity one can share moments of absolute awareness, of truth, of images, or depths and heights of the spirit which transcend time, cultures and continents-bringing about universal peace and understanding. I believe that if more people turn to writing haiku, there would be more joy and less strife in our lives, in our world.


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