Beyond words . . .

by Kala Ramesh

There is a controversy whether haiku evolved from Zen, and whether they are inter-related. I’m not getting into that here. I firmly believe that creativity in any form is to a great extent spiritual. The phrase “form is emptiness; emptiness is form” is perhaps the most celebrated paradox associated with Buddhist philosophy.

This is exactly what happens in any art form. As a Hindustani classical vocalist, nothing can exemplify this statement more than the sound of a singer’s voice as it fades into the void, and her continuing phrase in the raga expansion arising from the void again, for Indian music is not notated. It is sung and played extempore.

deep in raga –
a sudden applause
startles the singer

In Abhinaya Darpana (an ancient Indian text) we have,

Jato hasta stato drusti, Whither the hand goes, the glance follows
Jato drusti stato mana: Whither the glances lead, the mind follows
Jato mana stato bhavo, Whither the mind goes, there the mood follows
Jato bhava stato rasa: Whither the mood goes, there is “rasa” born.

In the silences between notes, between words, between lines, the emotions that arise is rasa —the aesthetic essence— which gives poetry, music or dance, a much greater sense of depth and resonance. Something that cannot be described by words because it has taken us to a sublime plane where sounds have dropped off.

The most important aspect of rasa, the emotional quotient, is that it lingers on, long after the stimulus has been removed. We often ruminate over a haiku we’ve read for days and savour the joy of its memory. Thus, although the stimulus is transient, the rasa induced is not.

What RASA does to Indian aesthetics is exactly what MA does to renku between the verses and the juxtaposition between two images in haiku. This is my honest effort in trying to understand the Japanese concept of MA in relation to my own evaluation of Indian aesthetics.

It is these silences and pauses in haiku, and what this does in the reader’s mind, that fascinate me


Haiku by Kala Ramesh, published by Katha, New Delhi 2010 December.

An ebook of haiku, senryu, tanka, haibun and haiga, an anthology of 35 poets from India, Editor Kala Ramesh, with Co-editors Johannes Manjrekar and Vidur Jyoti, with a special Afterword by Tracy Koretsky, will soon be brought out by Katha, New Delhi


• Fire Pearls, ed. M.Kei, 2006 –

• Landfall, ed. Denis Garrison, Modern English Tanka, 2007

• Red Moon Anthologies, ed. Jim Kacian 2007

• Among the Lilies – A White Lotus Anthology – Spring 2008,

• Tanka Splendor Awards – 2009

• Streetlights: ed. Michael McClintock and Denis M. Garrison, 2009

• Contemporary Haibun volume 9 , 2009 & volume 11, 2010

• Soundings, a UK journal of politics and culture, showcased Kala’s haiku in issue 38, Spring 2008 in their page: Leading Writers of Haiku: at• Tanka Take Five – 2009 & 2010

Magazines: Online and print editions.

Acorn, Aha, Ambrosia, Bottlerockets, Chrysanthemums, Eucalypt Tanka Journal, Frogpond, Gean Tree Press, Haibun Today, Haijinx, Haiku Harvest, Kokako, Kritya- a journal of poetry, Loch Raven Review , Lyrical Passion Poetry E-Zine, Modern English Tanka, Modern Haiku, Moonbathing, Muse India, Presence Haiku Journal, Red Lights, Ribbons, The Renku Reckoner, Roadrunner Haiku Journal, Shamrock Haiku Journal, Simply Haiku, Shiki Kukai, Sketchbook, Stylus Poetry Journal, Tanka Online gallery,, The Contemporary Haibun Online, The Heron’s Nest, The World Haiku Review and 3 Lights Gallery,


The Daily Yomiuri, Mainichi daily news, Asahi Shimbun and Moonset, the literary newspaper.

Featured Haiku Poet with 25 haiku showcased in Simply Haiku, winter 2009, Ed. by Richard Gilbert
_An exclusive interview on Tanka Online, January 2010

_ Member of Board of Editors of Modern English Tanka Press’s new anthology, Take Five: The Best Contemporary Tanka 2008/2009/2010.
_Haibun Editor of Simply Haiku, since March 2010
_Editor of Short Verses, Muse India, since 2009.
_Has edited three poetry books for Katha, New Delhi. One of India’s renowned publishers.