Geethanjali Rajan teaches English and Japanese in Chennai, India. She has been engaging with haiku for around 17 years and is drawn towards the deep and wide possibilities of the form. She writes haiku, senryu, haibun, tanka and enjoys the collaborative writing of linked verse. Her poems have appeared in online journals and anthologies. She conducts workshops and engages in discussions to help create interest in haiku and allied forms. Her interests include music, books and Japanese calligraphy. She currently serves as editor of haiku at cattails (UHTS).
“Haiku helped open out a world that lay beyond my imagination – one where everything is simply-put, fuss-free and in perfect sync with the real world around, the environment and the people. This doesn’t mean that only beauty gets into haiku; it means that the disappointments, the negativity, sad moments, loss – they all get to be there too. I get to travel to many countries and partake of people’s life experiences, sitting in my home in South India, thanks to haiku. I find many parallels in thinking, in poetic traditions, in feelings experienced by individuals across the world. My life’s journey has been towards trying to look at meeting points, building bridges between experiences and cultures. I don’t think there is one predominant way to look at poetry or to define haiku. There are as many definitions and interpretations possible, as there are people. I also believe that the world has to become more inclusive and that it is possible through a form like haiku (at least when one keeps engaging with it), where it’s best to keep everything simple.
I do write other forms of prose, essays and poetry – whatever I feel like at the time. I love writing book reviews – it ensures that I read very closely! I read more than I write (thankfully!) and enjoy reading widely. I cannot say that I have a ‘favourite’ poet but I do have many favourite poems – too many to list. Lately, I have started enjoying the struggle of reading haiku in Japanese and interpreting them – a very daunting task for a non-native user of the language. But the process helps me learn more of the craft and the heart of haiku.
I love poetry collaborations – particularly, haiga and rengay. To be able to respond to another’s images (visuals or words) and to create a weave of meaning, emotions and expressions is a thrill.
My day job(s) centre around teaching and are connected to teaching language and culture. I also help children faced with English language expression and acquisition challenges. I also do a lot of editing – a scientific journal too! At the end of a busy day, reading haiku helps me wind down and relax.
I believe that there is space for all types of haiku with the wide range of journals available now – traditional, with kigo/without kigo, without or with seasonal references, modern, post-modern and everything else. Each haiku will find a home, but that need not necessarily be the home the poet wants it to find! But find a home it will – even if it is in our own little hand-written notebooks or digital equivalents or social media platforms. If the poem is read and someone connects to it, the craft and art are alive. If not, it’s time to rework the poem or move on to the next moment.
I am grateful to the poets and readers in the haiku community for all the interactions. Thank you for the inspiration! The world is a better and more beautiful place because of you.”
Awards or other honours:
Some awards for haiku, senryu and haibun – very grateful to the judges with whom it resonated.
高潮や 取り残された 鳥の声
たかしおや とりのこされた とりのこえ
takashioya torinokosareta torinokoe
the voices of birds
(Akita international Haiku Contest, 2019 – Japanese section – Honourable Mention)
incontinence . . .
remains of rain
from the red-tile roof
(Gene Murtha Third Annual Senryu Contest – Honorable Mention, 2018)
the pre-schooler turns
into an airplane
(Sakura Award International Category – VCBF, 2017)
silent mountain path –
the continued chatter
in my mind
(Blithe Spirit, Feb 2018)
the cat and I
in a staring game
– mustard dusk
(Akitsu Quarterly, Winter 2016)
now we can talk
of what might have been –
(Sonic boom senryu competition – 2015 (second prize)
sliver moon ~
I hear they played
our song last night
(Tata Lit Live haiku contest, second place, 2014)
last night’s storm –
mother sweeps away
the broken nest
(Raedleaf Poetry India Award – First Place (haiku) – 2013)
summer evening stroll
only my shadow
(World Haiku Review, Haiku of Merit – Competition theme – Death of one’s beloved, Aug 2010)
mist smudges out
a mountain peak
(Polish International Haiku Competition – Commendation – 2019 )
Email address: engchennai2000 (at) gmail (dot) com [for haiku and teaching-related discussions]