Meet Pravat Kumar Padhy
A very warm welcome from the whiptail team. Tell us a little about yourself - your family, your hobbies, your dreams, or anything else you want the readers to know about you, apart from being a haiku poet.
Thank you, Vandana and the whiptail team, for offering me an opportunity to speak about my poetry and especially, monoku, or one-line haiku.
I feel sublimely close to nature and the scenic beauty of the landscape and the science behind it. The impulse finally led to my education in Master of Science and Ph.D. in Applied Geology, at the Indian Institute of Technology (ISM)-Dhanbad.
I feel arts and science dwell together. The beauty of a flower is a divine art, the colour is the physics, the aroma is its chemistry.
After retiring from the state-owned public sector, Oil and Natural Gas Corporation, India, I reside in Bhubaneswar with my wife, Namita. My two daughters, Smita and Rupa, are working with multinational companies in India.
I devote time to writing scientific papers on Planetary Geology, listening to classical songs, music, and exploring poetry behind a painting.
Recalling the psychological impulse, once I simply transformed the word “retirement” into a one-liner:
a piece of chalk in my pocket first day of retirement
Frogpond 41:2 Spring –Summer Issue, 2018
Mann Library’s Daily Haiku, 15th February 2021
What is something that people don't know about your poetry or poetry practice, process, or inspiration that you'd like to share?
At the early age of around thirteen or fourteen, I used to write single-line proverbial poems in my mother tongue, Odia, or in English at the end of the essay juxtaposing the essence of the article. Way back in the seventies, I started writing poems, both longer and shorter versions in Odia and also in English. Some of the micro poems are identical to haiku and tanka though I was not aware of the genres during that time:
neither a pine nor a fir
I am a tendril
laying on the surface
A stanza from the Odia poem, “Sindura Topae” ( A Vermilion Mark, early 1970s);
Black Bamboo, Better Than Starbucks Haiku Anthology, 2020
The beauty of nature, socio-economic spectrum, poverty, superstitions, human values, and occasionally, mystics with sublime metaphysical expressions, occupy my writings. I had written an article in one of the leading Odia journals Manas (edited by Dr. Krishna Prasad Mishra), February 1980 on “Ezra Pound ebon Tankara Kabita (Ezra Pound and His Poems)” discussing his haiku-like short poems namely, The Encounter, The Tea Shop, Alba, Ité, and others.
My poem, “How Beautiful,” published in 1983 in the leading newspaper, Indian Express, has been included in the Undergraduate English Curriculum at the university level.
In the volume, edited by Atma Ram, Interviews with Indian Writing in English (1992), I candidly expressed, “Poems come to my mind as a fragrance to flower. Anything I see, it creates a symbolic frame in my mind... When I see a small grain of seed, I feel ‘it is tiny / because it nests with care / the mightiest in it.’”
I was thrilled when I got an e-mail from Werner Reichhold about the acceptance of my haiku poem, published earlier in 1992, for featuring in Lynx-Aha Poetry, XXV:1 Feb 2010:
Dog is misspelled
the child discovered
(Original poem, “God” first published in World Poetry Anthology,1992, Editor-in-Chief: Krishna Srinivas)
In 2016, I experimented with a genre of poetry, “Hainka,” which is a poetic fusion of haiku and tanka. The prime idea is to use the “fragment” of the haiku as the “pivot line” (kakekatoba) in the following tanka to manifest a moment of “image linking,” a process for the assimilation of objective and subjective entities of poetic structure.
What made you decide to try out haiku and/or tanka on one line versus their more popular enjambed formats? How does it feel different to you?
I have read scholarly articles by William J. Higginson, Alan Summers, Jim Kacian, Jim Wilson, and others. In a normal three-line haiku, I reflect on the observation in the background of nature/seasonal reference and correlate it with the essence of human feelings incorporating the basic elements (teikei) of haiku. When I feel to code the inner urge forthwith, it turns out to be a one-line poem of expression. Indeed the monoku releases your feeling instantly with much liberty. It is a manifestation of more freedom with compressed poetic insight. The three-line haiku needs a systematic structural framework for positioning imageries. In contrast, monoku communicates to the readers with a different pulse in its brevity. Monoku is the braided stage of a river when it flows fast downhill with more velocity. The modulation of word phrases and syntax elements of monoku needs more precision in its content and expression. I attempt to compress the illustrations for the readers to bloom. I feel it enhances the “thoughtful space” for the readers.
The conventional three-line haiku is characterized by a single pause or kireji–or juxtaposed polarity that acts as psychological “betweenness” (in the words of Richard Gilbert). Unlike three-line haiku, a monoku can be interpreted more than one way by switching different syntactic elements:
the zero-shadow moment I am with myself
Pravat Kumar Padhy
The Heron’s Nest, Vol. XXI, Number 3, 2019
the zero-shadow/ moment I am with myself
the zero-shadow moment/ I am with myself
Haiku is essentially a poem of nouns braided with correlative images. If I try to write the following monoku in a conventional way, perhaps the compactness and spontaneity of the reaction would have been diluted.
sun, sea, sand and the footprints
Modern Haiku, 50:3, 2019
Once I visualized a picture of a river streaming down the hills in the Poetry Pea Podcast sent to me by the editor, Patricia McGuire. A striking replication of the image suddenly flashed to my mind as if the streamflow is that of the milky way:
“[The] streamflow [is like that] of [an] another milky way” and I articulated the following one-line forthwith:
streamflow of another milky way
Heliosparrow Poetry Journal, 27 October 2020
Here the word arrangements have been articulated in such a way, that the use of the simile “like” has been kept as an implied sense so as to impart the haiku spontaneity and brevity.
Many poets still struggle with the dilemma of whether a particular poem will work better as a one-line poem than the enhanced form and vice-versa. What is the deciding factor in your practice?
Writing monoku appears challenging to express imagery with a concise style, yet it is greatly fulfilling. Jacob Salzer states:
“I find that haiku reminds us to use caution with our words, and also helps us realize the value of a single word. In terms of ‘economy of language,’ one-line haiku makes full use of very few words, even more so than three-line haiku. The depth, and layers of a single word often really come alive in one-line haiku, as it's presented in a refined format, making familiar words both fresh and insightful.”
The following is an example where I try to write the monoku in the form of a three-line haiku and exemplify the distinct difference between them. I have used a hyphen, though it is seldom applied to infer a pause in monoku. Alan Summers defines it as an “unfulfilled hyphen technique.”
melting away my pain-- garden dew
The Heron’s Nest, Vol. XV, No. 4, December 2013
tinywords, 18 January 2018
Mann Library’s Daily Haiku, 26 February 2021
The seasonal reference and human aspect have been well juxtaposed in the above monoku. The patient feels solace after the disappearance of pain like dew. There is no mention of sunlight for the gradual disappearance of dew. It is poetically embedded that the warmth of love and care might have caused the reduction in pain. Here the transmission of images is compressed and polarized.
Now, let us try to put it in the form of a three-line haiku:
the warmth of the sun
melts away my pain
The middle line is introduced to express it in a conventional three-line format of haiku having a fragment and a phrase with juxtaposition (renso). One can visualise the structural style and the intensity of poetry in both cases. The monoku is more expressive for the readers and it renders enough space to visualize and expand the sublime poetic beauty in its brevity. The conventional structural format of three lines is more of an expanded poetic style with enriching resonance and elegant juxtaposition.
In my case, I sense an inner psychology drive the feeling, and accordingly, the structural architecture takes the shape of monoku:
moonrise the sky from the oncology wing
Presence # 61, 2018
a hole in the light: The Red Moon Anthology of English-Language Haiku 2018
It would be a great help to our readers if you could walk us through your writing process from conception to the eventual birth of a one-line poem. Do you have any tips for aspiring poets of one-line forms?
If I come across a specific object or an event, a flow of poetic thought rushes to my mind and I try to correlate it with the life sketch with human reference. I write it in my notebook or on a piece of paper. I still remember, on a couple of occasions, I jotted down the words on a paper napkin and even on my palm while travelling! I briefly work on it to give a perfect shape to the poem. The birds chirped and flew around the tree in the morning hour. I imagined for a moment, and suddenly, an image of a one-liner sparked with a psychological impulse:
friendship day how thoughtfully birds live with the trees
Presence # 73, 2022
Once I was thinking about the agony of the refugees and migrants. I simply crystallise the insightful observation (ugachi) into a one-liner and interrelate the multiple images to create an intense feeling:
on the back of a refugee a pregnant dog thrashing the shore current
is/let, 21 March 2020
Monoku is not a prosaic sentence. The structural fabric of monoku is more enigmatic and oblique in manifestation. Techniques such as the use of effective words, the subtle use of figures of speech, sense reversal, the use of gerunds, the artful play of verb versus noun, the subtle use of the relative clause, the linking of a common word phrase, putting an image within an image in a linked sense, overlapping of words, etc., can be put in use to compose poignant monoku. Some of the techniques I have used for my monoku writings are as follows:
Word as noun and verb: This is a technique to create multilayered meanings by using the word either as a noun or as a verb.
ink spots the colour of cleanliness
Otata 14, February 2017
In the above monoku, “spots” can be used as a noun or a transitive verb to portray different meanings.
Use of gerund: A gerund is a non-finite verb (the “ing” form of a verb). The artful use of gerund makes one-liner a one-breath poetic expression.
obituary column messaging silence into the sky
Under the Basho, 28 August 2017
Subtle expression of relative clauses: The relative clauses, such as who, whom, which, whose, etc., can be used in an implied way.
a stone in her tiny hand once a mountain
Wales Haiku Journal, Summer 2022
The one-liner is read as a stone [which] is in her tiny hand [was] once a mountain. Here the technique of “narrowing focus” (mountain to stone) has been applied with poetic resonance.
Sense reversal: The technique of an image with opposite senses at the beginning and at the end of the one-liner can be an innovative way of writing monoku.
bright sky still holding half of the darkness
Bloo Outlier Journal, Winter Issue, 2020
The words “bright” at the beginning and “darkness” at the end of the monoku portray a sense of opposite images and exhibit disjunction in haiku.
Image within the image: This is an interesting style of expression to create the image within the same image by repeating the words.
dune after dune the migrating songs
Presence 60, 2018
The detailed techniques have been enumerated in my article: “Monoku: Historical Perspective and Experimenting with Structural Style,” published in The Wales Haiku Journal Blog, September 2022.
The poet needs to elicit the reader to visualise the journey of growth of a beautiful tree out of a tiny seed. The precise use of words, simplicity (iki) and infusion of the poetic spell are the touchstones of writing monoku. The “shape and size” of words are very important. Metaphorically, the “shape” denotes the poetic flair and the “size” indicates compressibility or conciseness. To create curiosity, it is desired that certain imageries are to be kept concealed for the readers to search. In the following monoku spectrum of “time” has been veiled in a poetic style:
the dinosaurs we have come a long way
MahMight Journal, October 2021
In a one-liner, poetic imagery, clarity, musicality, brevity, language, and rhythms are to be aesthetically crafted with sensibility and prudence. It is advised that imageries of internal juxtaposition/disjunction are to be focused with poetic resonance as James Longenbach defines poetry this way, “Poetry is the sound of language organized in lines.”
who I am the body contours who I am not
whiptail, Issue 4, 2022
Monoku is perhaps one of the articulate manifestations of an imagistic spell in its brevity. It engages the readers to celebrate the hues of the rainbow and unfold the petals one by one to breathe the aroma. Let us explore the possibilities as metaphorically written by Emily Dickinson:
I dwell in Possibility--
A fairer House than Prose--
It has been a memorable interview with one of my favourite journals, whiptail. Thank you, Vandana, for your kind gesture.
Pravat Kumar Padhy (he/him) is an awarded Indian English-language poet, haikuist, and essayist. He has obtained his Master of Science and Technology and a Ph.D. from the Indian Institute of Technology, ISM Dhanbad. His Japanese short form of poetry has been widely published and anthologized including Red Moon Anthology, etc. His poem, “How Beautiful,” is included in the Undergraduate English Curriculum at the university level. Pravat’s haiku have been included in the school curriculum on the haiku project of The New Trier High School, Chicago. Pravat’s haiku are featured at “Haiku Wall,” Historic Liberty Theatre Gallery in Bend, Oregon, and Mann Library, Cornell University, USA. His tanka is included in the Kudo Resource Guide, University of California, Berkeley.
He is one of the International Jury Panel Members of The Haiku Foundation Touchstone Awards for Individual Poems. Presently, he is on the Editorial Board of the journal, Under the Basho.