Conversation 67: THE DAILY HAIKU Interviews: Neetu Malik

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Hi, I’m Neetu. I live in eastern Pennsylvania, USA. Mother of two now grown children, I have a very affectionate dog, Beau, who is my constant companion.

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I always find it difficult to talk about myself because being a mother full-time for 2 decades is essentially what I considered my “occupation”. While I often forget what my pre-motherhood life was, there was indeed one. I was very fortunate to have had the opportunity to live in 5 countries: India (my origin), Austria, United Kingdom, Canada and the US. That fact has influenced my writing very deeply, both at a conscious and a subconscious level. It has also instilled in me a nomadic spirit which refuses to be confined within borders or boundaries. All people, regardless of their geographic location, have more in common at the essential human level than different: our emotions, feelings, and instincts are intrinsic qualities within all of us.

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I began an intense writing process of poetry and short stories ten years ago when my oldest left for university. Pangs of separation anxiety led to a walk back into my own past, my childhood, growing up and leaving home. As I made that journey back through the tunnels of time, I found tremendous release in words that connected me to myself, my relationships, and the larger world.

I have about a dozen publications in journals, magazines and anthologies in the US as well as abroad.

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As for haiku, it is a new indulgence for me. Brevity is my hallmark in all the poems I write, but I had never really given a serious thought to haiku. For one thing, I defy the constraints of form in general, not just in writing, but pretty much everything in life. I endeavor to capture moments, emotions, and the transient, yet remarkable experiences of life in short span. I use nature metaphors; as I get older, I have become more aware of myself as a particle in the universe. Since most of my poems are visual, and inspired by images, I approach the process of writing haiku similarly: absorbing a mental or physical image and letting it percolate until it generates words.

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So here I am, among you all, much less skilled at this form than the vast majority of you, learning to take my love of brevity into a process of distillation in 17 syllables. I’ll see where that takes me!

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From the haiku I have so far composed, these two might be my own favorites:

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Journey

 

from fresh, tender buds
we journey to wilted blooms
the earth continues

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Sea

 

I am not the sea

but I flow and ebb like it

I am a woman

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Having experienced all sorts of writing groups and communities online and in life over several years, I realized I was fed up with the dynamics within almost all those workshops and groups. Then The Daily Haiku showed up on my FB page. I clicked on it, and to my skeptical self, it seemed to be a very pleasant, engaged and creative group. I thought, why not join and give myself a chance to be more structured in thought and words than I have hitherto allowed myself to be? And I have found a very supportive environment in this group and find myself spending more time here than elsewhere on Facebook or any other platform. If it feels positive, it’s good for me!

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I’ll be honest. I am a novice at haiku. As I refine the process of condensing thoughts, feelings, and impressions in my mind into a few short words, I learn something new with each haiku I read or write. Simplicity of language is also one of the things I strive to achieve. Garbled, obscure or confusing metaphors are something I have always steered away from. Minimalism and transparency are important to me. I hope to apply the same process to writing haiku.

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There is a moment I experienced in 2019 while standing at the edge of Cape Reinga in New Zealand which affected me profoundly. The image I have attached here is where I stood. I drifted into a trance as I watched where the Tasman Sea merged into the Pacific Ocean. I still can’t fully describe the sensation, but it was a freeing of everything I had been holding on to in my mind. This was it. It’s what I am in the grand scale of existence. A ripple, not even a wave. And when I’m gone, all this magic will remain. How wonderful! I still marvel at the memory and it has become part of my being. My challenge will be to express it in haiku form.

12 Comments on “Conversation 67: THE DAILY HAIKU Interviews: Neetu Malik”

    1. Thank you, Penny. I have been reading the previous interviews of other poets and truly find each journey remarkable. Still haven’t got through all of them, but will do!

  1. Lovely interview – really enjoyed reading this. I can relate to the separation anxiety of a child leaving home… and the creativity that can grow from that. Loved too the story of your time at Cape Reinga and the profound meditation you experienced on our tiny place in the scheme of things. Thank you Neetu 🌻

    1. Oh, Vivienne, indeed we mothers experience quite intensely the separation from our children when they grow up! I loved the immensity of the “tiny place” and the feeling of being so small in the grand scheme of our universe, small enough not to make a big deal of ourselves. Thank you for reading and commenting on the interview. 🙂

  2. I love this interview Neetu and the sentiments you express close to my own heart. I am new to this website and haiku too and I think your word brevity says it all! Loved reading your haiku you share in this piece. I’ve changed career in lockdown and become a funeral celebrant and the words expressed about the ripple and the wave ( at the end of your piece) would be good to use in a ceremony near the commendation. Would you mind if I rephrase it there or use it? It’s a bit of a cheeky request I know. Stay safe and thank you; I’m a mum too of grown-up children what a lovely read. Thank you 🙏

    1. Thank you, Gina, for your lovely comment and I would be delighted if you used any of my pieces with whatever modification you choose to suit your purpose. 🙂 It’s not a cheeky request at all and I am so happy to meet you!

  3. Neetu your interview really spoke to me as a mother and writer, such tender moments shared here. Your epiphany while watching two seas meet is breathtaking and poignant. I especially love your second ‘I am not the sea…’ it is arresting, full of clarity and purpose, strength and vision – deeply inspiring. Your adventure into haiku is my own, I relate to your thoughts on this fascinating form and am also enjoying its ability to distill, still and expand my own writing.

    1. Amanda, thank you. That we are connected, no matter where on earth we live, is something I have become aware of through my own life. The universal qualities of us, as women, mothers, wives, daughters, all of the roles we perform originate from nature, as bestowed upon us. In a world so rife with division and artificially created and perceived differences, we lose sight of who we are as humans. That, to me, is tragic and truly avoidable, but sadly, the ego and thirst for control imprisons us.
      You have created this lovely space in TDH where I find differences melt away. I think that may be what drew me to it and to Haiku!

  4. Oh, Neetu! A beautifully written ‘conversation’! I was immediately brought into your world, and warmed by your description of your life and how you see it. I’m very new to haiku, too. Isn’t it wonderful to be a part of a group who invites you in to explore a new way to play with and go as deep as you dare with the fewest of words? I look forward to more of your haiku!

  5. What a wonderful interview, Neetu. I so identify with your experiences as a mother and a woman. I found the incident of the meeting of the seas very poignant and moving. In this noisy, busy world it is heartening to hear stories of these magic moments. I shall look out for more of your haiku. ❤👩‍🦰🧡🦊💛🌻

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