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Updated: Oct 3, 2021

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Priti Aisola, Lakshmi Iyer and Sushama Kapur poster by Teji Sethi

HAIKU FOR HEALING, conceptualised by Kala Ramesh, happened online on June 26, 2021. It had 30 poets who read out their poems and 52 cheerleaders, who enthusiastically encouraged the poets, empathised with their journey and celebrated their creativity.

The programme began with Sanskrit chants by Lakshmi Iyer. One of them, the Krimi Nashana Suktam, a powerful prayer to help destroy any harmful viruses or germs, was aptly chosen as all of us are still going through the nerve-wracking challenges posed by the Covid-19 pandemic.

In her welcome speech Kala Ramesh gave a splendid and insightful introduction to how haiku serves to heal. To give a glimpse of what she shared: the act of writing haiku is in itself healing; the poet goes through pain or some emotional upheaval and through the process of writing faces this and transmutes it into a work of art and regains composure; the poet witnesses outrageous acts or grievous ills in society – he or she may not be able to join the actual fight against these social ills, but through writing a haiku, or a haibun, or a tanka, he/she lends his/her voice to the protest.

As mentioned earlier, the pandemic has been a very trying time for all. Each poet spoke in his/her unique voice about his/her experience during the pandemic and read out poems that emerged during this period. The poems spoke of lockdown, self-isolation, social distancing, enforced solitude, quarantine, online classes, online shopping, zoom meets, illness, fear of death, suffering or untimely death of a loved one, grief, domestic abuse, the trauma of war or armed conflict, and other themes. It was a deeply moving experience listening to each poet’s experience and poems.

Sherry Grant’s brief piano recital was both enchanting and calming. It was in perfect harmony with the ‘haiku for healing’ theme.

Finally, Scott Mason shared his thoughts on the entire session and on haiku. It was an enriching experience to listen to an accomplished poet’s thoughts: how ‘reading and listening is as important as writing haiku’; the therapeutic nature of haiku; how haiku is ‘a poetry of discovery’ focusing on ‘what is outside of us’ which eventually leads us to what is deep inside of us; how it helps us ‘connect with our environment, connect with our fellow humans and poets and, ultimately, with ourselves’.

At the end of the haiku for healing online session, each poet and cheerleader felt that they had been through an intense emotional, but cleansing and reviving experience.

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