Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Haiku Comes to Edinburgh

Over the last couple of weeks I’ve been to a few live poetry events, none of which I’ve written about through lack of time, so here goes with the first one, an unusual event at the house of Japan’s consul-general in Edinburgh. It featured a lecture by Madoka Mayuzumi, a woman who has become one of Japan’s most celebrated exponents of the contemporary haiku.

She spoke for just over an hour on the haiku, with translation, and was really quite engaging. Her most memorable comment, for me, was when she compared haiku to Japanese flower-arranging. The combination of flowers isn’t what’s most important. Some flowers are given short stems and some have long stems, and the success of the arrangement is found in the distance created between the flower-heads. Haiku is like that, said Ms Mayuzumi – it’s the space created for the reader’s imagination, not the images in themselves, which really matters.

The other thing I found memorable is that she didn't read any of her own work, not until the question and answer time when she was coaxed by the audience into reading a single haiku. I guess this was out of modesty. I wonder how many poets could similarly resist...

Afterwards, there was wine and a magnificent buffet of Japanese food – simply outstanding hospitality. And time for a quick pint afterwards in the hotel bar down the hill before slinking off home

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