Poetry Centre

Sketches from the Poem Road

  • (after Matsuo Bashō’s The Narrow Road to the Deep North)
    25 June - 15 July 2016, Glass Tank, Oxford Brookes University

    A collaboration between Japanese artist Isao Miura and poet Chris Beckett, presented to the Glass Tank by the Oxford Brookes Poetry Centre. Shortlisted for the Ted Hughes Award for New Work in Poetry, 2015.


  • In spring 1689, Matsuo Bashō 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, with 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 journeying process the Japanese call ‘uta makura’, literally ‘poem pillow’, but more accurately translated as ‘the poem road’. This exhibition explores the rich legacy of Bashō’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’ Bashō’s text not only into English words but into sketch, plaster, and bronze.

    Sketches from the Poem Road was first shown in the Poetry Cafe at the Poetry Society in 2015. There is a book, published by Hagi Press, to accompany the work by Isao Miura and Chris Beckett, and more information about this and the ongoing project can be found at: http://afterbasho.weebly.com/

    The exhibition was accompanied by a number of free events, listed below. These included: a discussion at the Daiwa Foundation about Bashō and the artistic journey; a walk around Oxford emulating Bashō’s pilgrimage to different places associated with famous writers, ending with the writing of a collective haibun; a translation evening; and a visit to the Ashmolean Museum in Oxford to examine artefacts related to Basho and the Narrow Road.

    Tues 21 June, 6-8pm: Daiwa Anglo-Japanese Foundation, London

    ‘Artist Talk’ with Nathalie Aubert, Isao Miura, and Chris Beckett discussing the exhibition and the influence of Japanese calligraphy in modern art. You can watch the talk on the Daiwa Foundation’s YouTube channel.

    Sunday 3 July, 2-5pm: A Walk on the Poem Road

    A chance to emulate Bashō’s type of literary pilgrimage and write your own haiku and haibun (a combination of haiku and prose) along the way.

    Wednesday 6 July, 10am: Bashō at the Ashmolean

    A special workshop in the Ashmolean Museum and the Glass Tank at Oxford Brookes.

    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, 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 Jane Draycott and Robert Seatter, and a collective haibun by the Poem Road group (Wendy French, Chris Beckett, Niall Munro, Isao Miura, Inigo Purcell, Robert Seatter, and Dorothy Yamamoto). You can read the haibun by clicking on the download link on the right-hand side of this page or here.