By Zafar Anjum

Hiroshi Kato
Hiroshi Kato

Haiku is a globally popular literary form. The earliest westerner known to have written haiku was Hendrik Doeff (1764–1837). He was the Dutch commissioner in the Dejima trading post in Nagasaki, during the first years of the 19th century. However, haiku entered the English language through Ezra Pound in 1913. Since then, it has become a global phenomenon in poetry, transcending barriers of geography and language.

30 years ago, as a kid growing up in India, I would often come across haiku written even in my mother tongue, Urdu. Interestingly, it was Nobel Laureate Rabindranath Tagore who contributed a great deal in introducing haiku to India. In the early 20th century, he composed haiku in Bengali and also translated some from Japanese.

Clearly, this quintessential Japanese form of poetry has had a great influence on global literature. In Singapore too, where poetry is a very popular form, we find a Japanese haiku poet Hiroshi Kato who is devoted to the genre and actively promotes it in this part of the world.

Meeting Hiroshi Kato

It was a rainy afternoon in November when I met this tall and lanky Japanese poet and art dealer in his gallery, Kato Art Duo (http://katoartduo.com/) in the Raffles Hotel Arcade. He had just moved into that office space and the décor of the room was still incomplete. A pile of cartoons was lying in a corner of the room. Large picture frames wrapped in newspapers stood by the wall.