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learning: Haiku in Indian Languages - Malayalam

Updated: Sep 12, 2021

HAIKU IN MALAYALAM editor: Geethanjali Rajan ariyaatha bhaashayil how sweetly you sing kelkaatha shabdathil in a language I don’t understand ethra madhuramayi and a voice I can’t hear. nee paadunnu —Thachom Poyil Rajeevan (Pranayasatakam, bilingual edition, 2010) Malayalam literature has always been vibrant and thought provoking. This holds good for Malayalam haiku, as well. There are many poets who write haiku in Malayalam. The topics range from nature to reminiscence and love, from society to political commentary. Malayalam haiku seems to follow the Japanese haiku in ethos, more than English language haiku. For instance, some of the haiku are poignant and meditative without restricting itself to the phrase and fragment format. Here, personification, metaphor and simile are not taboo. Malayalam haiku draws inspiration from a wealth of ethnic factors indigent to Kerala—flora, fauna, culture and customs. However, this does not restrict the readability in any way. In fact, it offers a great insight into the life in Kerala. Many of the practitioners live overseas and this too, is seen to influence their haiku (usage of desert kigo, for instance). In 2012, many haiku poets who write in Malayalam organised themselves into a forum called Haiku Association of India (HAI) and published a collection of Malayalam (and English) haiku, Kaikkudannayile Kadal (sea in the cupped palm). The haiku that appear here have been selected from this book. The translations are mine. By translating these poems, I hope a larger readership will have access to the wealth of haiku in Kerala. This does not mean that the tradition of writing haiku is well-established in Malayalam. On the contrary, it is in a nascent state, much like a chrysalis—on the threshold of becoming a captivating, enchanting butterfly. Each poet has to nudge it on, like tightening the wires on a bonsai—slowly, but surely. I quote another gem from Thachom Poyil Rajeevan (Pranayasatakam, bilingual edition, 2010) to sum up my hopes for the future of haiku in Malayalam: ninnilekkullathaayirunnu all the ways innollam enikku thettiya I lost so far vazhikallellaam ... have been to you

choru pothinja I open the leaf ila thorannappol that holds my meal ammayude mannam mother’s fragrance —Abhay Jayapalan

mannal kaatu sandstorm aakashachumbikalkkidayil searching for an address melvilaasam thirayunnu among skyscrapers

—Shameer N P kathir choodi paadam rice field at harvest time

kaatil mohiniyattam

mohiniyattam in the breeze

—Padma Thambatty

ormayude fingerprints

viralpaadukallumaayi laden with memories

vayassan piano an old piano

—Soya V N

ellum, poovum, sesame seeds, flowers, oru urullachorum. and a ball of rice, achante ormakal memories of father —Manoj Attingal

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