Sketches from the Poem Road (after Matsuo Basho’s The Narrow Road to the Deep North)

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Sketches from the Poem Road

Who this event is for

  • Everyone


The Glass Tank, Abercrombie Building, Headington Campus, Gipsy Lane site


A collaboration between Japanese artist Isao Miura and poet Chris Beckett, presented to the Glass Tank by the Oxford Brookes Poetry Centre.

In spring 1689, Matsuo Basho sold his house in Edo (now Tokyo) and set off with his friend, Sora, on a long risky journey to the north of Japan, mostly on foot. He travelled light, just a paper coat, light cotton gown, his writing brush and ink. His aim was to see the great northern sights like Matsushima and Kisagata Bay which had inspired poets before him, a process the Japanese call ‘uta makura’, literally ‘poem pillow’, but more accurately translated as ‘the poem road’. This exhibition explores the rich legacy of Basho’s work, both visually and poetically, and it documents some of Isao’s artistic and physical journey from the deep north of Japan where he grew up, ‘translating’ Basho’s text not only into English words but into sketch, to plaster, and bronze. The exhibition will be accompanied by a discussion event on Basho and the artistic journey, and a workshop on the haiku style of prose, called haibun, which is rapidly gaining popularity in the UK, Europe and the USA.

Isao and Chris will be available in the Glass Tank every Tuesday from 12noon to 2:00pm to introduce and discuss the exhibition with anyone who is interested.

More information on the project can be found on:

Calendar of free events:

Friday 8 July, 2-4:30pm: Basho at the Ashmolean
Please join us for a private study visit to the Ashmolean’s Jameel Centre. We will handle objects specially selected from the Ashmolean’s Asian collection, and the artist Isao Miura will tell us what they say about Bashō’s world and his place in Japanese culture.

Tuesday 12 July, 6-8pm: Bronze and the Art of Translation
A stimulating evening of talks and discussion on the subject of artistic and literary translation, with John Nicoll, Nathalie Aubert, David Constantine, Sasha Dugdale and Thomas McAuley, chaired by Niall Munro, director of Oxford Brookes Poetry Centre.

Friday 15 July, 6-8pm: Gala Haibun Evening at the Glass Tank
With readings by Kate Clanchy, Robert Seatter and the Poem Road group, introduced by Isao Miura

To attend any of these events, please contact: