Per Diem: Daily Haiku for November 2019 features Pravat Kumar Padhy’s collection on the theme of ‘Celestial Bodies’. This is what Pravat has to say by way of an introduction to this theme:
The reference of celestial bodies has been associated with the social and religious causes since time immemorial. The earliest Chinese farmer’s calendar can be traced back to 5141-5042 B.C when the farmers refer the cycle of the moon and other celestial bodies to determine the farming activities. In the book, “Yu Tu Bei Kao Quan Shu” the motions of the sun and moon, the stars and constellations have been depicted. Astronomy cards of Zodiacal constellations, designed by Jehoshaphat Aspin (assumed name), are dated back to the early Babylonian period, possibly to the Sumerians time. Tibetan astrological Thangka, hung in the home for protection from evil, is characterized by nine magic squares and symbols of the eight planets.
The references of Astronomy are found in the Rigveda, the ancient Indian literature (most likely 1500-1200 BCE) of Sanskrit hymns. Astronomy (Nakshatravidya) is elaborated in the Chhandogya Upanishad. The Vedic Seers in Sanskrit literature often cited cosmological mentions like the light in the sky, stars, planets, etc.
Petrus Apianus (1492-1552) described the cosmos according to the 1400-year-old Ptolemaic system and believed that the sun revolved around the earth. It was later challenged by Polish astronomer Nicolas Copernicus (1473-1543) who opined that the earth and other planets revolve around the sun. Thirty-seven years after Galileo (1564-1642) made the first drawings of the moon, the Selenographia, the first lunar atlas was published by the Polish astronomer Johannes Hevelius (1611-1687).
References of celestial objects in the poetry of Geoffrey Chaucer, William Shakespeare, John Donne, John Milton, William Wordsworth, P B Shelley, John Keats, W B Yeats, T S Eliot, W H Auden, and others have been poetically exemplified.
There was a time when meadow, grove, and stream,
The earth, and every common sight,
To me did seem
Appareled in celestial light,
(William Wordsworth, Intimations of Immortality)
The cosmic bodies related to astronomy or heavenly phenomena (tensoo) have been included in the seven Japanese categories of haiku and related kigo reference. According to Basho, there are two planes in haiku: fueki ryuko ie. Eternal and Current. The cosmic plane relates to haiku that is associated with nature and landscape. Shiki in his classification has mentioned ‘Nature and Celestial and Earthly’ aspects of haiku.
The following classical hokku by Basho has a brilliant celestial reference.
ara umi ya
sado ni yokotau
ama no gawa
R H Blyth translates it into English referring ‘heaven’s river’ as ‘The Milky Way’:
A wild sea,
And stretching out towards the island of Sado,
The Milky Way.
Issa, long ago, had referred about the concept of astronomy in the following haiku:
the milky way
through a hole in the curtain
Monoku is a one-liner poem in brevity and clarity in expression and its hybridity in origins: a Greek prefix wedded to a Japanese suffix to create a new English term as put forth by Jim Kacian. According to Jim, “Multiple stops yield subtle, rich, often ambiguous texts which generate alternative readings, and subsequent variable meanings. Each poem can be several poems, and the more the different readings cohere and reinforce each other, the larger the field occupied by the poem, the greater its weight in the mind.”
Some examples of monostich (one-line poem) were created by classic ancient Roman author Marcus Valerius Martialis (c. 38 and 41 AD – c. 102 and 104 AD). Edward Hirsh in his book ‘A Poet’s Glossary’ narrates, “As the Greek Anthology (tenth century) illustrates, the monostich can be a proverb, an aphorism, an enigma, a fragment, an image, an enigma.” Valery Bryusov, Walt Whitman, Edith Thomas, Guillaume Apollinaire, Bill Zavatsky, Emmanuel Lochac, Matsuo-Allard, Ralph Hodgson are the pioneers of early monoku poems. Valery Bryusov published the single line poem in 1894 in the Russian language. Guillaume Apollinaire is known as the first poet to write a one-line poem in his 1913 book Alcools : ‘Poems 1898-1913’ in French.
Emmanuel Lochac published one-liners in French under the title Monostiches in a literary magazine in 1929. Breunig translated it into English in 1936 and there has been a celestial reference ‘sun’ in his monoku:
Voilier emportant le soleil dans les vergues
Schooner bearing away the sun in its arms
Nobel laureate Rabindranath Tagore’s one-line poems (monoku like), “The Stray Birds” (1916) are more of proverbial expressions with poetic lucidity having occasional reference of celestial bodies:
If you shed tears when you miss the sun, you also miss the stars.
Late Australian haiku poet, Janice Bostok, also referenced celestial bodies in her early groundbreaking and influential experimentation with monoku:
first venus then star by star the night deepens
The heavenly bodies are associated with social festivals, beliefs, auspicious occasions, protections from evils, etc. The celestial entities of haiku writing can broadly be correlated to poetic inquisitiveness, human behavior, historical events, spiritual credence, and socio-cultural aspects.
The monoku have been selected to showcase the poetic spirit associated with the celestial bodies.
– Pravat Kumar Padhy