Praniti Gulyani — Her life, poetry, and heart.
by Don Baird
"I am Praniti Gulyani, a 14 year old girl from New Delhi." This concise introduction is part of the first correspondence I had with Praniti. She offered her submission to Under the Basho. I was surprised by her raw talent and pleased to read her haiku — and to immediately accept a few. She has now become a regular contributor to UtB for several different styles/divisions.
Then, to my surprise, I received an interesting, creative tribute to Under the Basho of which I enjoyed reading very much:
the shadow of
her uncurling toes
I stumbled onto the first platform, the darkness of the stage wings colliding with the rectilinear beams of light. My eyelashes blinked as my vision struggled to stabilize itself. My first few haiku were clasped between my palms and I held onto them because they were everything I had.
my scribbles catch
Getting published was a vague possibility. The mirrors of my mind were clouded and I felt as though I had taken a step way ahead of what I once was.
the sea through a
A trail of thought stumbled through the twilit clouds of my mind. I watched the haze hobble away, leaving a mere raindrop. I gazed at the raindrop, as it settled into the fog-- till it cling to the wispy clouds. And then-- I thought of my first haiku.
I watch Syria slip
from between my fingers
I don't know what intrigued me so much after that. Seeing that solitary crystal of a raindrop, I began to look deeper into it, till I noticed how easily and beautifully it held the moon.
my thoughts lean on
arcs of stars
Stringing my moonlit raindrops together, I began to discover haiku. A month later, I felt as though my toes which had curled in reluctance had begun to uncurl.
how scattered the sky
in all those puddles
I had three published haiku in the Modern Haiku category of Under The Basho. They say that success on the first platform propels you towards the second platform. I was young, uncertain and immature--yet my dreams were frothing restlessly on the shores of my mind. Putting it poetically, I'd say that Under The Basho was the energy that converted the restless white foam of my dreams, to soft, serene, yet fast flowing ripples.
Truly, the moon that had rested in my raindrops had started to glow brighter.
the shadow of
a woman's whisper
I was overwhelmed with Praniti's talent and desire to produce such an open composition about her journey as a young poet. I immediately contacted her, after a few discussions with my partner, Stephen (Hansha). Her mother granted us permission to interview her in regards to her haiku aspirations and journey into the world of poetry.
The following is our brief, yet enthralling collection of exchanges:
I understand that you live in India? Tell us a bit about yourself and your life there.
My life in India is colourful. I mean, 'colourful', is a word, which is synonymous with our Indian identity. I'm a regular school--going ninth grader with lovely teachers and great friends. My teachers and friends make my life colourful, so to say. It's a warm, cozy world here--where snowflakes do fall, but these snowflakes are wrapped in sunlight. My teachers at school are synonymous with the sunlight I've spoken about. My role models-- Sanya ma'am and Kavita ma'am, have always read and appreciated my haiku. Kavita ma'am taught me in class five, and yet she's one of the first readers of almost every haiku I write.
At what age did you start writing haiku? How did you discover haiku as a poetry style and what attracted you to write it?
I started haiku when I was thirteen years old. It was a beautiful morning, the day of 25th June 2017, when I first stepped into this wonderland. Kala Ramesh ma'am, an amazing person and such a good teacher took me into this wonderland. What attracted me to haiku was the direct images. As in, when you read a haiku, the direct image that strikes you is stunning. I remember the haiku, which I read on the first day of the workshop, works by Matsuo Basho. "A whitefish with an inch of whiteness..." and "A wild duck's call faintly white".
I wanted to be an observer and creator of the zoka, of this creative force of nature — the principle of zooming in, telling the extraordinary and yet being immensely truthful; it was zoka, which pulled me in.
After all, before haiku, I would just stroke the tree branches. Now, I feel the sap thumping within. They're two more people who deserve credit for my journey getting successful. Ashish Narain---a very encouraging person who attended the workshop with me, and Gautam Nandkarni---a very generous person who is constantly knocking my haibun into shape.
Do you follow any particular format or set of "rules" when writing haiku? Otherwise, do you believe that it has form or is it, to you, a free form poetic art?
When I write haiku, I feel as though I am writing bits of my surroundings and attempting to encapsulate small situations and events which seem so ordinary, yet are extraordinary. These ‘’small situations’’ and ‘’events’’ are a part of me, and make up the person I am. They form my perspectives and perceptions, and maybe the haiku I write, are my interpretations on them. When I write haiku, I present my interpretations on truth without actually changing the truth. Like, for instance, when I look into flowing waters, I see a ‘cloud sliding off a fish’s fin’. When we look into the water, it seems as though the clouds are moving, because the water is flowing and this is, after all, the ultimate truth. Speaking of a ‘cloud sliding off a fish’s fin’ is just my interpretation.
I do adhere to the basic rules of writing haiku, like keeping it within 12 words and not exceeding a certain syllabic count because I believe that these basic rules make haiku the ‘’beautiful poetic breath’’ it is known as today.
I do go by the kigo words list, and work on the apt line break as well. I believe that a line break needs to be chosen carefully, because it is a line break which ultimately decides the pause, the small halt which strongly supports the moment in haiku and which eventually casts the magic on the reader. Haiku is a free form of poetic art, which at the same time has form, and it this form which makes it so beautiful. It is the many ways we can write haiku—traditionally, and even as a one line ku which adds to the lovely art form.
What is/are your favorite haiku that you did not write yourself?
I have had many, many haiku, which are my favorite, but if I had to choose the best, they would be—
the men in the audience
discuss her figure
the train evaporates into
a distant horn
after the storm…
a boy wiping the sky
from the tables
-Darko Plazanin Sambo
an eagle shadows a wheat field’s yellow whisper
If you were going to teach a student who is new to haiku, what would your first lesson be?
I'd consider myself to be immensely privileged if I got a chance to teach someone haiku. I believe that for haiku to be learnt in the way it should be learnt, it is essential for the student to feel a oneness with herself. All of us are scattered, or rather, all of our thoughts are scattered, and haiku is spirituality, which needs us to felt within us. Haiku requires immense presence of mind.
My first "lesson" would be a session where the student feels a presence within herself. When I say "presence", I am talking about a fusion of the active involvement of all the five senses which helps us emotionally connect with our surroundings, and feel a oneness with something as insignificant as the dew on the grass.....
So, I think, this could consist of walk in a natural surroundings, or even in a local area, such as a market place and I hope that this "student of mine" manages to combine all what she smells, hears, tastes, sees and touches and comes down to the conclusion of a presence within her....
Next in our journey . . .
In time, Praniti also offered an interesting view of Basho's old pond haiku. I immediately decided to flow with the natural, eclectic nature of my encounter with this terrific, young poet — chasing Praniti's thoughts from a poem about Under the Basho to her thoughts on haiku to a wonderful piece about Basho's frog hokku:
Essay on Basho's Old Pond Haiku by Praniti Gulyani
a frog jumps into
the sound of water
When I read this haiku aloud, in a silent room, I hear a splash. This splash isn't the ordinary kind of splash. It is the impactful kind of splash, which lingers in the ears, and trickles to dwell in the soul.
And, every splash that I heard from that moment onwards was a comparison against this splash. This incident coaxes me to dapple in the art of nomenclature and give this splash a unique name, which is a strong portrayal of its unique identity. "The Old Pond Ku" splash.
But, how is it that I hear the frog sound? How is it that I hear words gurgle?
It's beautiful, and breathtaking. All this while I've pondered over the intrigue element in this haiku. I've analyzed the image that these ten words weave.
Coming to the point, what is the intrigue element in here? Is it the breathtaking sound of water, or is it the resounding gurgle of words?
I feel intrigue in the mere thought of something disappearing into itself. Maybe a moon beam disappears into a moonbeam which disappears into another moonbeam and it all comes together and commences at the fixed constant of one solitary moonbeam? Or is the process of peeling off the decorative layers of free verse to see the core--which is, as they say, a well said metaphor? To me, I feel that this ku highlights the element of disappearing into one's self to see where one actually started.
I think beyond.
The frog did begin his life as a mere ripple of water in a tadpole egg. He rippled along his life as well, and totally dwelt in that sound of water. He lived in that sound of water. In this haiku, while stumbling on the conclusion, I somehow see lifelessness. I don't think the frog is alive. The frog is like a frail autumn cloud, having dwelt in twilight all his life, it prefers to fade into twilight to become a part of the twilight.
I see the 'sound of water' as something which has been split into many parts. The sound of water is made up of many frogs who thrived in the sound of water, and preferred to make their final jump into the sound of water to become a vibration of presence in this ethereal sound.
I see how beautifully Basho split up a mere sound of water, to presumably show how much emotion supposedly "insignificant" things hold within them. Jawahar Lal Nehru, a prominent Indian leader writes describes a journey of a pebble to a grain of sand by talking about the emotion in nature, about how the pebble rubs off, to gradually crumble into a cluster of sand. There's so much in that solitary pebble as well!
It is essential us to see beyond the literal meaning of the sound of water. The frog has dwelt in the sound of water, and gradually becomes a part of this sound of water as well. I believe that the frog is lifeless.
It is almost as though every word in this haiku, or rather, every syllable holds a specific sound. All those sounds, which come together to make this gurgle. The sight of an old pond with rusted waters, and yet, as the frog jumps into it, the gurgle or rather the "splash" portrays youth in nature. This youth is present as the movement, the central force in nature which represents constant motion, a direct opposition to stagnation. After all, nature is never stagnant. And, every haiku written supports the youthfulness of nature. Every haiku is the crimson breath of the autumn breeze, which ruffles a stationary pile of leaves, and guides them towards the still waters, and then, just as though heralding the completion of a fairy tale, both the leaves and the water move...
Likewise, the Old Pond Ku moves on. The "splash" isn't abstraction, but it is a direct transfer of inference from soul to soul. It's something like those old grandmother fairy tales. Even the poetic soul doesn't support stagnation.
Most importantly, a frog becomes so much more than just a frog.
In closing . . .
I offer my thanks to Praniti for her offerings, ideas, and sincerity. She is a new and exciting haiku poet that has splashed into our tight-knit scene just as Basho's frog did 400 years ago!