Om Namah Shivaya

Om Namah Shivaya

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Aug 26, 2016

10 Tips on Writing Haiku - Story Mirror Creativity Workshop

I have had recently shared my “Ten Tips on Writing Haiku” in Story Mirror Creativity Workshop which was organized in association with Story MirrorApparao Galleries and Aspiring Authors Group along with the famous Author, Timeri N Murari, who shared his insights on Writing for Plays. As many of aspiring authors and writers present in the workshop asked me to share my thoughts and tips on Haiku, I am writing this one post so that it is convenient for all to read and share.

Poster : Story Mirror, Haiku by Shashi

What Haiku means to me...?

I have been reading and writing Haiku for a long time and over the period, I have realised that it has more depth than some interplay of words, seasons or cutting words known as Kigo etc. For me…

It is painting pictures with words…
It is also a way of living with awareness…
It is also a kind of Meditation for me….

But before I go on to elaborate the above statements, let me give you a brief historical perspective on Haiku. It will help you to appreciate the beauty of the world’s most popular poetic form.

Haiku - A Brief Introduction
(For a detailed discussion, please read ‘UnderstandingHaiku - A Beginner’s Guide’)
As per The Haiku Society of America, a dictionary definition for Haiku is that these are the world’s smallest poems, consisting of 17 syllables arranged in sequence of 5-7-5. 

The classical poems were known as Waka meaning ‘Japanese poem or song’ in the 9th century which were mainly of two types – a long form called Choka and a short form known as Tanka. The opening 17 syllable stanza of Renga Session was known as Hokku which, later19th Century poet, Shiki gave the name as Haiku.

Basho - acknowledged as the supreme master of Haiku, believed to have said to his Zen Teacher that “Haiku are description of what is happening at a particular ‘haiku moment’.

Finer Points…
There are many elements that are intertwined within the verse to create a beautiful haiku. Some of the them are… 

Mystery and elegance (Yugen)

Stillness and solitude –
Sinking into stones,
The trill of cicadas
- Basho

Melancholy sadness and tranquility (Sabi and Shori)

On a withered branch
A crow has settled.
Nightfall in autumn.
- Basho

Or in the spirit of poetic madness (Fukyo)

Let me show you,
You market people,
This hat filled with snow.
- Basho

After Basho, there have been many great poets who took Haiku to the greater heights …

The bite of my axe.
Sudden revelation –
There is life in this tree!

As Buson accepts his death quietly in this farewell poem

White plum blossoms,
Night turns to dawn –
The time has come

Masaoka Shiki
A river in summer
There’s a bridge here, but
My horse prefers water

Now coming back to what Haiku means to me…
I believe that everything that comes in a flash of insight is potential Haiku. Holding on to that seed and then putting words around it in order to paint a picture; to make it a complete thought which forces a reader to reflect upon it, is what I feel ‘writing’ a Haiku is.

Here is a Haiku that I have had written years back, when in the backwaters on the outskirts of Chennai, I saw Herons, standing for hours together…

Under my feet
Path disappeared
Am I the destination?

Painting pictures with words…

Pain is
When you feel like
Stopping the sunrise

-This is the first line from my book “Songs of the Mist”, where Ashutosh, having lost his brother’s entire family to an epidemic, went deeper into despair. And one night, love of his life also leaves him sinking into hopelessness on the banks of Ganges. And as he opened his eyes, half submerged in the sand and silt of the the river, he felt that this dark night should not come to an end…

Living with awareness…
Over a period of time, Writing Haiku changed me; it gave me a deeper sense of things all around…

In the process of writing Haiku, I move into a deeper level of awareness, just like in Zen Meditation or by Mantra chanting


TIP 1: Be aware of your surroundings and the little happiness’s in life. Experience it fully and then the words would form automatically.

TIP 2: Look deeply and then with what you see as well as feel within, you should find words to paint a vivid imagery.

TIP 3: A Haiku becomes more powerful if it contrasts or aligns the nature with your own thoughts and feelings.

TIP 4: Use simple words. Words those come naturally to you. A haiku reflects your own personality in a vivid way.

TIP 5: Write, whenever a thought or words come to you as you are going about your daily life.

TIP 6: Write daily. Haiku for me works like a mantra chanting. Over the years it has slowly transformed me. So I write daily.

TIP 7: Try to write haiku in 3 lines, 5-7-5 syllable forms as it is generally accepted as the norm.

TIP 8: Count your syllables; there are many sites that will count the same for you.

TIP 9: There is a list of Kigo, known as Cutting word as well as seasonal words to be used in classical Haiku, available on the net. Use them as often as you can.

TIP 10: In the beginning, write with a picture. Try to capture the essence of it in words as I usually do. It helps.

ॐ नमः शिवाय
Om Namah Shivaya

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Understanding Haiku - A Beginner's Guide              Writing Fiction - Workshop II            

My book "Songs of the Mist" journey across India...

One of the reasons, I am writing the three book series, "The Monk Key" of which "Songs of the Mist", is the first part, is to share the story of one young man's journey to 'find the divinity within'. As the series was conceived on the banks of holy river Ganges, in 1987 and firmed up across my travels to Rishikesh  Varanasi, Ganga Sagar. So it has been my deepest desire to offer it to that divine sources from which it draws its stories, energy and its blessings. 

The another purpose of writing this book has been to reach out to the young generation who, in my opinion are alienated from the deep source of our culture, heritage and thoughts - our ancient scriptures. When asked, if they have read our Vedas, Purana's and Upanishad's etc., they typically reply "What is the point of reading them" due the certain biases rooted in modernity. The book "Songs of the Mist" is one such attempt to share the knowledge and thoughts of Karma Yoga, based on Bhagwat Gita; in order to inspire them to connect proactively with our cultural heritage. At the book's launch at Chennai's famous book store, I shared my thoughts on the same.

My book "Songs of the Mist" was published in Dec, 2016 and within 9 days it reached two thousand ranking amongst millions of books at Amazon. In April 2016, it breached double digit ranking. Within a period of 6 months, I have been blessed with opportunities to fulfil my desire to dedicate the book to its sources of inspiration. From the Himalayas to plains of India, I have had few opportunities to dedicate the book to Holy Ganges, at Rishikesh, Varanasi, Kolkata; Goddess Durga of our ancient temple in the eastern UP village and Buddha Shrine at Kushinagar - a place where Buddha attained Nirvana. Through book readings and launches, I have also been blessed to reach out to the readers of young India.

It gives me a great pleasure to share some of the images and few video clips, chronicling my book's journey across India. Hope you will enjoy it.

Parmarth Niketan - Rishikesh
Sivananda Ashram - Rishikesh

Durga Ji, Buddha at Kushi Nagar and friends from Varanasi...

Book Reading at Leela Palace Hotel organised by
Apparao Galleries

Here is an introduction to my book by the Famous Author, Journalist and Writer, Timeri N Murari at the Leela Palace Hotels, organised by Apparao Galleries in an event called "An Evening of Art, Music and Writing".

"Many of us here yearn for something more in our life. Shashi has provided a spiritual release in beautiful book, Songs of the Mist. It’s unusual and thought provoking book. The book answers questions that we struggle to frame in our daily lives. Shashi’s descriptive beauty of the mystic nature of Himalayas interwoven with sufferings and the heartaches, and struggle of each protagonist, provide eloquent and thought provoking read. Not a book to browsed at glance and to reach books full potential demands commitment and investment of time to savor its subtlety and do grows." - Timeri N Murari
Odyssey Book Launch

At the Odyssey Book Launch, the popular Rapper - Blaaze (Baba Rap, Hosanna Rap, Slum Dog Millionaire, Delhi 6 etc.) and Keshav Ji - The Famous Cartoonist of the News Paper Group Hindu, who is foremost Krishna Bhakta echoed my thoughts about our ancient Indian Heritage and culture...

“When you just listen to it (Shlokas etc), …the sanskrit syllables are enough to get you positive energy, without knowing anything about it. … it can only bring peace in a world like this”. – Blaaze

“Our Purana’s (Ancient Vedic Scriptures etc.) give you how to deal with life, how to deal with situations and predicaments, as they have already analyzed and laid it out on platter so that you don’t have to think.” – Keshav ji

Chennai and Kolkata Book Fair
Hope you have enjoyed the journey with me amongst holy places of India as well as my thoughts shared within the video clips. If you would like to read my book "Songs of the Mist" it is available at the following places. || || Amazon.UK || Flipkart || Google Play || Kindle ||

ॐ नमः शिवाय
Om Namah Shivaya

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