December 1, 2023


Connecting Asian writers with global readers

Book Review: The Forest I Know by Kala Ramesh

1 min read

Kinshuk Gupta reviews Kala Ramesh’s The Forest I Know (HarperCollins, 2021) calling it a forest of Thumri, Osho, & Chitale Bandhu.

  • ISBN-13 ‏ : ‎ 978-9354227585
  • Publisher ‏ : ‎ HarperCollins India
  • Publishing Date: 7 August 2021
  • Paperback ‏ : ‎ 164 pages
  • Price: INR 299/-

The forest that Kala Ramesh explores in the book through tanka, lush with flapping banana leaves and blood-red moon, is of a lady wading through the loneliness of her last days, as she looks back and contemplates upon her chequered life.  

Tanka, sung in the royal courts of Japan and thatched huts of fishermen alike, is a short form of poetry, composed of 31 syllables or sound notes divided into 5 unrhymed and unpunctuated lines. Starting from Manyoshu in the 7th century, an anthology of lyrical poems comprising a considerable number of waka (Japanese for tanka), tanka richened the texture of Japanese poetry by creating a room for human emotions, as the haiku remained preoccupied with nature and its evanescence. 

Despite including Japanese aesthetics of wabi-sabi and yugen, the English adaptation of tanka is quite malleable, as the poets have been experimenting with the alignment, line spaces, and themes. However, Ramesh experiments with the form further in the book, with her tanka doha inspired by Kabir’s verses, and tanka prose where a tanka is coupled with short prose, based on a haibun’s link-and-shift.  

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