Updated: Aug 19, 2021
First National TRIVENI VIRTUAL MAHOTSAV 2020 August 15 & 16DD
— Priti Aisola, Lakshmi Iyer and Teji Sethi poster Rohan Kevin Broach
Om poornamadah poornamidam poornaat poornamudachyate Poornasya poornamaadaaya poornamevaavashishṣyate Om shaantih shaantih shaantih
(Shanti Mantra, Isavasyopanishad.
It says: Poorna is fullness of the Divine Consciousness.
When poorna manifests from poorna, the poorna remains!’)
Triveni Virtual Mahotsav 2020 began with a chanting of the Shanti Mantra by Tapan Mozumdar. It set the tone for the entire festival: celebration of creativity in a spirit of openness and harmony.
While a community of people make an event a reality, the moving force behind the Mahotsav is Kala Ramesh. A poet and editor, an anthologist and a festival director, she has contributed phenomenally to promote and foster haikai literature and make it accessible to all age groups. In her words, ‘Haiku is an experiential poem; it should come from within. The teacher can guide the students with ways to leap, but it is they who have to take the final plunge!’
The two-day TRIVENI VIRTUAL MAHOTSAV 2020 was held on August 15-16. Eighty- six poets participated virtually with excited anticipation.
The first session, impressively titled INhaiku & TRIVENI utsav: presence. goal. purpose., was ably moderated by Vandana Parashar, ‘a haiku enthusiast’, who has been widely published in many journals. She was in conversation with the other veterans of INhaiku – Sanjuktaa Asopa, Arvinder Kaur, Vidya Venkataramani, Vinay Leo from India, and Quamrul Hassan from Bangladesh. These poets shared stories of their initiation into haikai literature and gave glimpses of their poetic journey – truly invaluable for all newcomers.
Vinay Leo spoke about the introduction of Indian Kukai, his association with it for four years as one of its organizers, and how it helped him to continue writing and honing his craft. Though two other senior poets are organizing it now, what sustains it is the passion and zest of the poets involved. Arvinder spoke at length about the regular features of Triveni: my signature haiku and thinkALONG. She also praised Kala's initiative of sharing documents in the file folders of Triveni – a precious resource for newcomers. Vidya spoke of how the haiku scene has changed over time – there is more experimentation and exploration of different forms. In particular, she warmly appreciated the introduction of the feature, Way of Haikai: Today's Find; it introduced poets to ‘classic, timeless haiku’, thereby motivating them to learn the craft better and write better. Sanjuktaa firmly pointed out that feedback and critical appreciation by peers should be taken in the right spirit as this helps to ‘smoothen the rough edges’ of a poem and shape it better. Quamrul Hassan spoke of his dream to have a similar utsav at a future date in Bangladesh.
The second session was by Shloka Shankar: The Road Map to Getting Published. In a conversational tone, with wit and humour, she discussed the entire process of how to go about getting published, while recognizing that it can be a time-consuming and overwhelming task. Dividing her presentation into manageable segments, with clearly elucidated points, she led the poets methodically through the various steps of the submission process. She underlined all the aspects that need focus and clear comprehension. For example: understanding each journal’s aesthetics, going through its archives, becoming familiar with an editor’s predilections, attentiveness to submission guidelines, and so on. What appealed most was her observation that ‘the haiku moment is sacred’. One must write and share only when one has a lived experience to share. The concluding quiz, where one had to guess the journal where a particular haiku was published, was well conceived and wrapped up her educative session successfully.
haikaiSLAM, ably moderated by Vadivelrajan Balakrishnan, was an exciting and energizing session. The fourteen slammers belonged to different age groups and it was such a pleasure listening to each poet’s recitation of his or her work. This session gave each participant a chance to give a distinct voice and atmosphere to their work. Critical appreciation by Shobhana Kumar followed. It was done with sensitivity, compassion and attention to detail – basically to help each poet progress better along his/her poetic journey. What made it resonate so beautifully were her observations, not only on the art form, but also on the demeanour, the rendition, voice modulation, and the impassioned hard work of each presenter. All of the above combined to make this session a unique experience.
In the fourth session, Haiku Samvaad, Ashish Narain, a well-recognized haikai poet, was in conversation with experienced haijins, Kala Ramesh, K. Ramesh and Geethanjali Rajan. The conversation centered on the theme of ‘how to write haiku’. One also got glimpses of Ashish’s personal poetic journey as he connected with each panelist and took the discussion forward by sharing reflections, anecdotes, and a few memorable haiku. As one listened to the poets who have a profound understanding of the form, technique and essence of haiku, a meaningful way of connecting with nature, with life, with the everyday world, unfolded before the listeners with fluid ease.
Through references to the Bhagavad Gita, Hindustani music, Zen philosophy, Japanese theatre tradition and aesthetics, Indian seasonal references, what came through are these precious insights about haiku: ‘it is not an intellectual poem’, but based on experience of a certain moment, it is a ‘processed emotion’, but it has art (needs to be crafted); one has to engage with a given experience but also keep one’s distance in order to write a good ku; one has to cultivate ‘a beginner’s mind’, be open and eager to receive impressions from the world around and then use the right words that are not highfalutin or contrived to write one’s ku, where the effect and resonance comes from the concrete image.
It was a beautiful session because each of the senior poet’s has a unique style, voice and presence.
A novel introduction to the Mahotsav was an unusual, stimulating session – cinē ku: howzat! Conducted by a creative set of cinematographers and writers, this session was a peek into the milieu of filmmaking from the perspective of a writer. Video clips from a few aesthetically acclaimed films were screened during an hour-long session. Small shots of the films were shared on the screen to give poets a mise-en-scēne experience, where the focus was on the ambience (lighting, props, sounds, costumes and emotions), which then served as stimuli for writing haiku. This invited enthusiastic participation from the poets, thereby making it an exciting and enriching experience. It not only provided an insight into the warp and weft of a scene (showing how myriad elements are woven into a single frame), but also opened up a whole new dimension to poets in search of an inspiration to write. What Abraham Verghese said about the award-winning documentary, A Walk to Beautiful, ‘The incredible cinematography makes “A Walk to Beautiful” almost like a poem; there is tenderness on display that seems to emanate from the camera’, emphasizes the essence of this session where the perceptible blended with the sublime.
The movies screened during the session were:
The Mirror, Andrei Tarkovsky
Cinema Paradiso, Giuseppe Tornatore
Really, I do not know whether my paintings are surrealist or not, but I do know that they are the frankest expression of myself.’
~ Frida Kahlo
The event’s last session your haiku :: your voice was all about expressing oneself – an inclusive session where each participant got a chance to share his or her poems. Recitation by each poet, along with a brief comment about his or her introduction to haikai literature, made it a very fulfilling listening experience. In this ‘one of its kind’ session, participants were provided an exclusive space and spotlight to share their creations with the audience. A mélange of creations – haiku, tanka, haibun – was presented over three hours, drenching the atmosphere with the haikai spirit and positivity. This session gave an opportunity to the debutant poets to share their work, which was critiqued and applauded by seasoned haijins. Excellently moderated and skillfully maneuvered by Aparna Phatak, Yesha Shah and Akila Gopalakrishnan, it was indeed a Sangam of Voices!
A technical team of young haijins, Quamrul Hassan, Niranjan Navalgund, Rohan Kevin Broach and Ustat Kaur Sethi, navigated the Mahotsav. The team made sure that the sessions were conducted without any technical glitches. Rohan, an artist, was the creative mind behind the splendidly designed posters of the Mahotsav. Quamrul and Niranjan took care of the live streaming of the Mahotsav while Ustat captured the pictures of the sessions. It was their technical competence that made this first ever Virual Mahotsav a memorable reality.