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TANKA MEETS WESTERN ART:
Poems Add New Slant on Museum Collection
September 25, 2000
The aim of the exhibit, which came together with the help of the Modern Tanka Poets' Association, is to communicate a new world view. Japanese poetry and Western art may seem incompatible at first, but the poets contributing to the exhibit, say museum organizers, see this meeting of East and West as an invaluable opportunity to express native-Japanese sentiments on Western themes. In short, the exhibit might better be described as "art criticism" through the medium of a traditional poetic form. Some of the museum's most famous pieces--the works of modern European artists like Monet, Renoir, and Millet--serve as material for tanka and a medium for expressing Eastern sensibilities.
The Poets' Approach
The poets approached the works of art in different ways. Some glanced at a work only once before producing a poem, while others repeatedly visited the museum to study it closely.
The tanka these poets contributed for the exhibit generally fall into two categories: "realistic" verses that adhere strictly to the theme and content of the pieces they were written for, and "impressionistic" tanka that speak less to the work itself than to the impact it exerted on the poet. Typical of the former category is Yuko Kawano's poem on Monet's Water Lilies: "So tranquil the pond / For one hundred timeless years / It remains unchanged / Still its surface-water hues / Immutable purple-blue." In the other category is the tanka written by Takashi Okai on the same painting: "The water lily / Is the water's ladylove / The lily petals-- / Her alizarin eyelids / Fluttering delightfully." Also in the impressionistic category is Hiroshi Homura's poem, which was composed for Aristide Maillol's sculpture Ile de France: "Where now does she gaze / As the big navel orange / And the swarming flies / Sink below the horizon / And night descends in their place."
The Tanka-Art Relationship
The present exhibit, which runs until October 29, 2000, boasts some famous names on its register of participating poets. But the real value of the project may lie in the encouragement it gives to everyone--not just celebrated poets--to compose haiku and tanka for artwork they see at museums and elsewhere. This would add breadth to the range of subjects suitable for traditional poetic forms and enable people to appreciate art in new and unexpected ways.
Copyright (c) 2000 Japan Information Network. Edited by Japan Echo Inc. based on domestic Japanese news sources. Articles presented here are offered for reference purposes and do not necessarily represent the policy or views of the Japanese Government.