The shape of hope

Bush fires, an almost-war, an impeachment trial, more hate, more weird weather, more inaction – could this year have got off to a worse start? Here in India, led by the young, people are out on the streets protesting a divisive, communal citizenship law. They tell us, in no uncertain terms, that however bad it gets, there will be people who will resist, who will dissent and who will fight for what is right and just and beautiful. They are our shape of hope.

Poetry is another matter altogether. 2019 was a great year, personally – I was lucky to publish a collection and to get a pushcart nomination. They were the shape of my hope. But January brought the cold and thick grey walls that words cannot penetrate. Instead, I have been working on a new chapbook. The compilation plays grave tricks on my mind – screaming at the pointlessness of the effort, even as I soullessly move words around the page. But that’s the thing- it has to be whipped into a shape that even hope will acquiesce to wear. Right now, it is all formless and uphill.

So, it is with no surprise that I found that another publication that carried my work, shut shop at the end of 2019. Haibun Today, that published a little Tanka prose I wrote has gone off the air and am only glad its archives are still accessible. Here’s the piece they carried:


Perhaps your leaving was meant to be. One day there was the crunch of our footsteps on splashes of colour and the next the white expanse of a winter that mandates a quick indrawn breath even though the snow had been foretold. Even though the emptiness had been sung. Even though the last chinar leaf had danced through the space between us as if farewell is not a broken word but a private ritual of bough and dusk and wind that we watch from the bedroom window. Safe. Warm. For a while.

drop by drop
a hesitant light
fills the monk’s bowl—
night withers
into a small shadow



If you remember, a few weeks ago, I told you that another publication, Calamus Journal, had wound down as well. How many more, I wonder. Now, I hope your year has had a better start. If you have inspiration to share in the form of a new poem you wrote or just kind words to cajole the muse, bring them here, they are much needed and very welcome.


50 thoughts on “The shape of hope

      1. So many closings. It makes me happy, then, that some things are emerging–like the protesting youth, like the new book that “has to be whipped into a shape that even hope will acquiesce to wear.” Please do not do too much violence to your words and lines … maybe a firm reprimand mixed with a lot off compassion? This would be a new kind of strength.


  1. Beautiful work, as usual, Rajani. As we say in my country here, when one door closes, another one opens. So, don’t worry, there are more publications out there waiting for your lovely work. 🙂

    Happy New Year. 🙂


  2. Lovely to read you, Rajani. Yes, January has been tough. I am thankful for those who rise up, too, not that leaders care, or listen. Lots of closing doors, but we write on. Congratulations on the pushcart nomination. That’s awesome!


  3. Rajani,

    Please know that my soul finds great comfort in your poetry, always beautiful, always taking me away to a magical place. I often listen to your recording of “How Far is the Temple,” and hope you will offer more such readings of your writing. Thank you for what you do to make life in this world beautiful.

    tio stib


    1. Dear TioStib, that is so very kind. Am so grateful. What more can a poet hope for than to gladden another’s heart. And you do make me think about doing another reading. Thank you so much.


  4. It seems our minds were surfing the same troubling waves. The world is on fire, democracy is screaming, loss, loss, loss… I hope February brings a breathe, even if just a small one… before the next storm.

    I really like the prose, but the tanka part was exactly what I needed right now. It feels like a reminder, a chant that says, “Keep on going, good things–and things that must be–often happen slowly.”


    1. So true, change has to come, will come… though it will be a hard struggle from the looks of it. Am glad you liked the Tanka Prose. Am focused on my chapbook now and I remember you were working on a book as well… so hopefully there will be something to celebrate in that respect as the year goes on! Thanks so much!

      Liked by 1 person

  5. “Even though the emptiness had been sung. Even though the last chinar leaf had danced through the space between us as if farewell is not a broken word but a private ritual of bough and dusk,” … Such a poignant write, Rajani!


  6. “it has to be whipped into a shape that even hope will acquiesce to wear. ”
    Luv the purposefulness of these lined
    Happy Sunday Rajani



  7. Your title got me wondering what shape hope might take, Rajani. Any poem shape will do me. Good luck with the new chapbook!
    At the moment, everything looks grim. I can only see disaster on the horizon.
    Although we have the same problem in the UK, with publications frequently disappearing, I have found some new ones looking for submissions, and competitions are still popular.
    I enjoyed your piece immensely, especially the juxtaposition of sight and sound in ‘the crunch of our footsteps on splashes of colour’ and ‘the white expanse of a winter that mandates a quick indrawn breath’. I love the tanka, especially the ‘a hesitant light [that] fills the monk’s bowl’.


    1. Thank you, Kim. Yes there are still new ones that seem to be flourishing but I’ve more or less stopped submissions. Am not sure it makes a big difference unless you are in the academic circle. Though with blogging dying out, a new avenue for poetry is much needed.

      Liked by 1 person

  8. We climb one hill after the other but it’s worth the view at the top 🙂
    Loved your Haibun and was in awe with this line
    “Even though the last chinar leaf had danced through the space between us as if farewell is not a broken word but a private ritual of bough and dusk and wind that we watch from the bedroom window.”


  9. A compelling post … as always, your writing is masterful. Congrats on the Pushcart nomination. And that tanka prose piece is so-o-o-o incredibly good. I read it … and then, I read it again. Awesome … Awesome … Awesome … You are a very talented writer!


  10. Congratulations on the pushcart! I often wonder why I continue to write. My audience is small, and does it matter? Yet, I can’t know who will come upon my words at exactly the right time they need them. You are a beautiful writer. Press on…Someone needs to read your words.


    1. Thank you, Susie. That’s very kind. I love that thought that someone may come across one’s words at a time that they might make a difference. A perfectly lovely reason to keep at it even though it is pretty dark and lonely at times!


  11. Congratulations!!! At the end of 2018, I stopped writing for a number of reasons. The big reason was I felt neglected by my peers. After writing with people for decades, all of the website changes (places closing, changes to personal, etc.), happenings in the world affecting me, people getting published when I didn’t (my fault), and more just got me down. Took me to a place of “why not me?” I started to question my work big time. Was I just clever with no feeling? Was rhyming poetry (which I love to write) out? Was my poetry flat with no texture? So much to consider and with the depression, a few years flew by. Luckily, I had my bike riding to sustain me but my soul was aching. I was never asked to host a prompt and I felt Mr. Linky must have been erasing my links because although I read other people’s links, mine got few responses the majority of the time. Anyway, I’m back to try again and decided 2020 would be the year I submitted and published a book. I realized just how insecure I am about my work and this year I will not be that woman! Hope you don’t mind my thots.


    1. Thanks so much for sharing, Bekkie. You speak for so many of us who go through phases of self-doubt and wonder if we should be writing at all. But am so happy you’ve decided to press on and do a book. More than anything, one has to write and publish for one’s own self and I wish you all the strength and success this year as you go about it. I went through the drill last year and got a book out, so feel free to reach out anytime here or on instagram and will be glad to help if I can. Appreciate so much you sharing your journey.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. I appreciate your love! This went to spam (which surprised me) so it’s late but I will do so. I am still working on the book it’s going very slowly but maybe someday. It’s not easy picking the work and everything else as you know. Hugs!


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