For the month of December, our guest editor Sonam Chhoki has collected 31 poems on the theme of Children. This is what she offers by way of an introduction to her collection:
“The literary scholar, Roberto Calasso (1941) says, ‘The gods are fugitive guests of literature. They cross it with the trail of their names and are soon gone. . . .’ (Literature and the Gods 2001). I am struck by how conversely true this is of children in literature and for our focus this month, in haiku.
“Both Dostoevsky (1821 – 1881) and Basho (1644 – 1694) place children at the very heart of aesthetical understanding and beauty:
‘The soul is healed by being with children.’ (The Idiot)
‘Who knows no love
For his children
Has no wisdom to enjoy
Cherry blossoms’ (Basho)
“To extend this thought further, from the earliest times myths have been a part of the human civilization. Jung saw myths as providing the blueprint for our quest of self-realisation. Myths also express our contemporary consciousness (Eliade and Campbell) and help us make sense of the natural world. (Frazer). Children embody these mythical aspirations for our origins. Rabindranath Tagore (1861 –1941), the Bengali Nobel Laureate, showed how children ask frighteningly complex questions:
‘WHERE have I come from, where did you pick me up?” the baby asked its mother.
She answered half crying, half laughing, and clasping the baby to her breast, — “You were hidden in my heart as its desire, my darling. ..’
“The Russian writer, Yevgeny Zamyatin (1884 – 1937) also celebrated this inspirational role:
‘Children are the boldest philosophers. They enter life naked, not covered by the smallest fig leaf of dogma, absolutes, creeds. (On Literature Revolution, Entropy, and Other Matters)
“It could be said that children are close to the raw nature of things where poets seek poetry. They are direct and immediate. They are innately revealing and reveal more of what it is to be human. In this sense they exemplify Shiki’s principle of shasei (‘sketch from life) that haiku should be free of contrivances. The Tibetan Buddhist term Mabcos (MA-TSO) also expresses a vision of freedom from all mental complexes.
“The spontaneity and lack of contrivance that children show are close to the Hindu concept of Lila or cosmic play. Lila celebrates the uninhibited and creative exploration of the world of nature or Prakriti. Krishna’s childhood exploits in Vrind?van embody the youthful and mischievous exuberance of a child. In a fundamental sense the terms child and play are interchangeable. Along with Issa there are several delightful haiku by contemporary writers which celebrate this aspect of the child.
“There is however, a more sombre aspect to children – that of mortality. Mallarmé (1842 –1898), wrote movingly on the death of his son Anatole:
Dead in autumn
– the sun
(Fragments – Anatole’s Tomb)
“Even in the first decade of the 21st century child mortality is a social reality in many countries. The deaths of his children inspired some of Issa’s most haunting poems.
“The haiku in this per diem collection by poets, past and present, touch on all these various aspects of children.
“My grateful thanks to all the poets who generously contributed their work.”