1. How did you get started with haiku?
I was writing long verses in my mother tongue, Punjabi, as well as in English before I came to haiku. Somewhere along the way I felt that, because of their length, my poems could not sustain the power that I desired. Around this time a colleague suggested that I should check out haiku, which I did. I started reading about the genre, which I found fascinating and very powerful. Its connection with nature and with life was soothing to the soul. I wrote my first haiku in Punjabi, as a tribute to my mother tongue. I was influenced by Amarjit Tiwana and joined his Punjabi Haiku group on Facebook and later many others—including NaHaiWriMo, where I read more about haiku and learnt from other poets on the job. I have been strongly influenced by the works of the four Japanese masters. Books written by Lee Gurga, William.J. Higginson, Abigail Friedman, and many others have left a deep impact on my sensibility. My late friend, Angelee Deodhar, also influenced me extensively during the early years of my haiku journey.
2. Tell us more about yourself.
I have worked as an associate professor in English literature and media studies at Punjab University Chandigarh and in its different affiliated colleges. I later became the principal of Government College Dera Bassi in Punjab, from which I retired in 2017. My first work assignment was in 1981 as an assistant professor at a college in Chandigarh, which I joined after my Masters and M. Phil. in English literature. During my career as an educator I acquired my Masters in media studies. Besides haiku I love to do features that have appeared at frequent intervals in Indian national daily newspapers. I am also fond of translation. One of my collections of haiku, Dandelion Seeds, is bilingual and presents my own Punjabi translations of my English-language haiku. I have translated ai li’s selected cherita into Punjabi and Hindi for Under Raintrees, a book published in 2018 that aimed to introduce this form to Punjabi and Hindi readers and writers. I also have a collection of Punjabi haiku to my credit, published in 2013. I also enjoy travel, lilting Hindi music, literature, and films. I live in Chandigarh, India, with my family.
3. What does NaHaiWriMo mean to you?
NaHaiWriMo has a special place in my haiku journey. It’s a very engaging Facebook page for all enthusiasts. I have always enjoyed writing in response to the prompts, especially during the official haiku writing month of February. The page connects me to the worldwide haiku community and gives me a sense of belonging.
4. What one piece of advice would you offer to those new to writing haiku?
Observation is the single most important factor when one is learning haiku. It gives haiku an immediacy of experience that makes each poem alive and fresh. It also strikes a chord in the hearts of readers when they identify with your experience. Reading fine haiku also helps you to better articulate your poems.
5. Please share three of your favourite or best haiku.
ceasefire . . .
a soldier comes home
wrapped in moonlight
dandelions . . .
how i learnt
to let go
a scribble of starlings
in the evening sky