Walking Poets Symposium

Walking Poets Symposium

Wordsworth and Basho Walking Poets symposium

Wordsworth Trust Museum, Dove Cottage, Town End, Grasmere


Monday 20th January – Wednesday 22nd January


This Symposium was for artists in the Exhibition Wordsworth and Basho: Walking Poets. It afforded all participants with a unique opportunity to meet and exchange ideas with the added privilege of being able to work with original Wordsworth manuscripts.   Access of this sort to these manuscripts is very rare. The Symposium helped to generate ideas for artwork (sound, 2D and 3D, calligraphy, poetry and glass) for the exhibition at Dove Cottage from 24 May to November 2014. Our aim over the three days (from 20 – 22 January) was:


a)    To create ideas for a visually stunning exhibition, bringing out the beauty and power of the original manuscripts:


b)    To look at ways in which the contemporary artwork will give visitors new ways of seeing the manuscripts – enabling them to appreciate them afresh.


Thus the handling of the documents during the symposium formed a crucial part of the process of the creation of the new work for the exhibition.


I said in my introduction for the symposium:


“A colleague recently pointed out that the word symposium derives from the Greek συμπόσιον symposion, from συμπίνειν sympinein, "to drink together". I mention this not to suggest that we will spend the whole time drinking (!), but rather to stress the intended convivial nature of the event! I hope that this will be a few days when we can share ideas and gain inspiration from the manuscripts and materials held by the Wordsworth Trust as well as be inspired by the landscape of the Lake District in winter.”




Participants of the Symposium included (please click on their name below to see more information about each artist):


Ewan Clayton; Ken Cockburn; Mike Collier; Christine Flint-Sato; Eiichi Kono; Manny Ling; Nobuya Monta; Inge Panneels; Andrew Richardson; Nao Sakamoto; Richard Skelton and Autumn Richardson; Ayako Tani; Brian Thompson


We were also joined by Zaffar Kunial(Poet in Residence at the Wordsworth trust, 2014); Andrew Forster, Literature Officer for the Wordsworth Trust, photographer David Unsworth, student Madi MacKay and artist Chris McHugh who is liaising with Japanese Museums in securing agreements to show facsimile copies of the Basho manuscripts in the show.


Minako Shirakura was on a residency in the USA and we talked to her via Skype


The event was curated by myself and assisted by Janet Ross of WALK (Walking, Art, Landskip and Knowledge), a research Centre at the University of Sunderland. Janet is also Project Director of VARC (Visual Arts in Rural Communities)




Monday 20th January


4.00 pm arrival and Welcome: look around the Museum: Tea/Coffee/Biscuits


4.30 pm Introduction from Jeff Cowton, Curator of the Wordsworth Trust Museum and Pamela Woof, FRSL, President of the Wordsworth Trust, and editor of Dorothy Wordsworth: The Grasmere and Alfoxden Journals. Pamela has written widely on poetry and prose of the Romantic period.


5.00 pm - 7 pm: five-minute presentations by each participant as a way of introducing themselves


7.00 pm Supper and free time for conversation etc


Tuesday 21st January


9.30 am - 12.30 am   handling manuscripts; research time


12.30 - 1.30 pm   lunch


1.30 - 3.30 pm    Workshop 1 with Eiichi Kono, Christine Flint-Sato and Manny Ling


4.00 – 5.30 pm Workshop 2with Ewan Clayton and Nao Sakamoto


5.30 – 7.00 pm Further research


7.00 pm Supper and free time


Wednesday 22nd January


Day for individual or collaborative development of ideas

12.30 - 1.30 pm   Lunch


4.00 pm Depart




The following are links to work by Basho and Buson that we hope to show in the exhibition:


Yosa Buson (this is Buson’s account of Basho’s journey - The Narrow Road to the Deep North): From the Kyoto National Museum


Two famous Haiku from the collection of Kakimori Bunko


Perhaps Basho’s most famous haiku:


Furuike ya
kawazu tobikomu
mizu no oto

-- Basho


Literal Translation


Fu-ru (old) i-ke (pond) ya,
ka-wa-zu (frog) to-bi-ko-mu (jumping into)
mi-zu (water) no o-to (sound)


Translated by Fumiko Saisho


The old pond--
a frog jumps in,
sound of water.


Translated by Robert Hass


Click here to see the image of this beautiful haiku


We will also be showing a facsimile copy of the ‘Milky Way’ Haiku.This Haiku was written by Basho on his journey to the deep north. It was when he reached the coast of the Sea of Japan at Sakata that he saw the island of Sado and wrote one his most celebrated poems:

Araumi ya

Sado ni yokotau





The Rough Sea –

Extending toward Sado Isle,

The Milky Way


Translated by Makoto Ueda



From Waseda University Library


Kareeda ni Kasayadori (Crow roosts in tree while monk shelters from the rain)


From the Fuji Tokyo Art Museum: Basho’s letter