Japanese poets launch global symposia for peace and harmony

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Japanese poets Yumi Fuzuki, pictured, and Hiromitsu Koiso have been commissioned by the Poetry Society to write two new poems on inspiring harmony and peace, as part of the launch of six international Peace Symposia that will travel to six continents over three years.

These are the first poems to be commissioned by the Poetry Society for Japan Institute of Portland Japanese Garden’s international Peace Symposia. The Poetry Society will commission emerging poets from each continent to write a new poem and perform it at each symposium from 2022 to 2024.

Yumi Fuzuki’s poem, ‘Gathering the Voices’, translated by Morgan Giles, explores an inner peace reached after the turmoil of war and trauma. Referring to the Peace Memorial Ceremonies of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, and to Japan’s particular understanding of peace, the poem concludes with an invocation for empathy:

 

     When we think of peace,

     let us look for the wounds.

     So as not to cover over unseen injuries

     with vague, big words.

     So as not to close ourselves off

     or turn our eyes from that hurt

     in our desperation for tranquillity.

     So that above all else, we do not collude with those who cause harm.

     In belief that we can change

     our own selves for the better.

     Let us listen to the voices

     of those who survive.

     And I will speak without hesitation

     in this voice.

 

Hiromitsu Koiso’s poem ‘droning’ captures a fleeting and personal moment of peace, drawing on a memory of being captivated by his landlord’s night-time humming. Written in the Japanese form of a haibun, which consists of prose followed by a haiku, the poem shows how music, poetry and art can bring  small but important moments of solace:

 

if the night washed over us, either i would stop his humming or just watch it wash us up. if the night silenced the arc of monotone music, we would go back to sleep.

 

Both poems were premiered at the first Peace Symposium ‘Peacemaking at the Intersection of Culture, Art and Nature’, held in Tokyo in September on the United Nations International Day of Peace. It is through the Peace Symposia that Japan Institute of Portland Japanese Garden hopes to bring people together from across the world to share experiences of peace, nature and beauty.

The new poems by Yumi Fuzuki and Hiromitsu Koiso were published on the Poetry Society website to coincide with Japan Week, from 26 October – 1 November 2022. In addition, the Poetry Society’s Young Poets Network has been inviting young poets worldwide aged 25 and younger to write poems on the theme of peace. The first round of winners will be announced at the London symposium on 6 December.

Judith Palmer, director of the Poetry Society said: “Over the coming years we’ll be asking poets on every continent what peace means to them, and know that through their work we’ll discover surprising new perspectives. It’s been a true pleasure getting to know these fantastic poets from Japan, who have explored the subject via such different approaches. The focus shifts next to the UK, when the Peace Symposium moves on to London’s Guildhall in December and where we look forward to unveiling the wonderful winning poems written by young poets from our first Young Poets Network prize challenge, alongside our exciting UK commission.

"We’d like to thank Yumi and Hiro for being the first to add their voices, from Japan, in a project which will build over the next two years as it brings together new poems in international dialogue.’

Japan Institute of Portland Japanese Garden’s second Peace Symposium will be at the Guildhall in London on 6 December 2022. The remaining four symposia will be in New York and Johannesburg in 2023 and in Sao Paulo and Sydney in 2024.

Portland Japanese Garden is a non-profit organisation founded in 1963 as a place for cross-cultural understanding after the second world war. following World War II. The garden in the US city of Portland was founded on the ideals of peace and mutual understanding between peoples and cultures, and is considered the most authentic Japanese garden outside of Japan.

 

PHOTOGRAPH: KEN KATSURAYAMA

 

 

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