Wordsworth Trust Museum, Dove Cottage, Town End, Grasmere, LA22 9SHMonday 20th January – Wednesday 22nd January

All photos by David Unsworth

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 has helped to generate ideas for artwork (sound, 2D and 3D, calligraphy, poetry and glass) for the exhibition to be shown at Dove Cottage from May to November 2014 (opening 24 May). 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 can 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.

Mike Collier ‘set the scene’ for the symposium as follows:

“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.”

The symposium was financially supported by the Daiwa Foundation; The Arts Council of England; The Wordsworth Trust and the University of Sunderland.


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

Ewan Clayton; Ken Cockburn; Mike Collier; Jeff Cowton; Christine Flint-SatoZaffar Kunial(Poet in Residence at the Wordsworth trust, 2014); Eiichi Kono; Manny LingChris McHugh (who is liaising with Japanese Museums in securing agreements to show facsimile copies of the Basho manuscripts in the show) Nobuya Monta; Inge Panneels; Andrew Richardson; Nao Sakamoto; Richard Skelton and Autumn Richardson; Ayako Tani; Brian Thompson

We were also joined by Carol Mckay who is writing the text about each artists’ work for the exhibition catalogue; Andrew Forster, Literature Officer for the Wordsworth Trust; photographer David Unsworth, and student Madi MacKay

Minako Shirakura is currently on a residency in the USA and we were able to talk to her via Skype

The event was organised by Mike Collier and Jeff Cowton, 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

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

4.30pm: Welcome from Michael McGregor, Director, Wordsworth Trust; introduction from Jeff Cowton, Curator of the Wordsworth Trust Museum. Background to the exhibition proposal from Mike Collier

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

7.00pm: Supper and free time for conversation etc

Tuesday 21st January

9.30 – 12.30am: Handling manuscripts; research time

12.30 – 1.30pm: Lunch

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

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

5.30 – 7.00pm: Further research

7.00pm: Supper and free time

Wednesday 22nd January

9.30 – 10.00am: 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.Day for individual or collaborative development of ideas

10.00am onwards: Free time for reserach

12.30 – 1.30pm   Lunch

4.00pm 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 http://syuweb.kyohaku.go.jp/ibmuseum_public/index.php?app=shiryo&mode=detail&language=en&data_id=980&list_id=37019

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


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