Sketches from the Poem Road

The Poetry Café hosts a lively programme of art exhibitions inspired by poetry and literature. Many of the exhibitions tour to other venues and have resulted in publications.

Even the Eyes of the Wet Fish 2014 by Isao Miura. © The artist.
Even the Eyes of the Wet Fish 2014 by Isao Miura. © The artist.

Sketches from the Poem Road
Drawings & Poems by Isao Miura & Chris Beckett

Mon 2nd March – Sat 25th April 2015

In spring 1689, Matsuo Basho sold his riverside house in Edo (now Tokyo) and set off with his friend, Sora, on a long risky journey to the north of Japan, mostly on foot. He travelled light, with just a paper coat, light cotton gown, his writing brush and ink. His aim was to see the great northern sights like Matsushima and Kisagata Bay which had inspired poets before him, a process the Japanese call uta makura, literally ‘poem pillow’, but more accurately translated as ‘the poem road’.
This exhibition, Sketches from the Poem Road, after Basho’s The Narrow Road to the Deep North, marks the beginning of Isao Miura’s journey in Basho’s footsteps, back to his roots in the ‘deep north’ of Japan. Isao left his village near Mount Chokai, the volcano in Kisagata Bay, to study painting in Tokyo, later moving to London to continue his studies. Now he is on an exciting journey to translate Basho’s Narrow Road into visual images, to explore its enduring emotional power, its culture-defining charm, through paintings, drawings, calligraphy and sculpture.  For Isao, recently awarded a Fellowship in the bronze foundry at Chelsea College of Art, London, these drawings represent the point of departure of an artistic and emotional journey, which is also a kind of return.

Basho’s journey was a collaborative adventure with his friend, Sora, also a stylistic collaboration of poems and prose (Haibun). This exhibition and the accompanying pamphlet, Sketches from the Poem Road (Hagi Press, £10, on sale in The Poetry Café during the exhibition), are the result of Isao collaborating with poet Chris Beckett on an interpretative journey from text to image, and often back again.

About the artists

Isao Miura is a London-based painter and sculptor from Akita in the “deep north” of Japan. He studied Fine Art in Tokyo, then at Chelsea College of Art and the Royal College of Art in London. He has exhibited widely in Japan, Europe, UK and USA. In 2014/2015 he is pursuing a Fellowship in the Foundry at Chelsea College of Art.

Chris Beckett lived in Tokyo in the early 1980s.  He won the Poetry London competition in 2001 and his latest poetry collection, Ethiopia Boy, was published by Carcanet/Oxford Poets in 2013.

Events programme

The exhibition is accompanied by a series of events celebrating Basho’s legacy and the inspiration he offers writers and artists.

A Walk on the Poem Road, Sat 7th March, London, 11am-3pm, FREE. Meet at The Poetry Café (limited numbers).
Haibun Evening, Mon 23rd March, 7.30pm, FREE. At the Poetry Café, London, with Ken Jones, David Cobb, Anna Robinson, Karen McCarthy-Woolf, Lynne Rees, Valerie Josephs, Andrew Shimeild & others
Basho at the British Museum, Wed 15th April, 11am (tbc), FREE. Study visit with Isao Miura
For full details, visit

Opening launch: Thu 5th Mar, 6.30pm-9.30pm. At the Poetry Café, London.
Closing celebration: Thu 23rd April, 6.30pm-9.30pm. At the Poetry Café, London.

Photos from the closing celebration, The Poetry Café, 24th April 2015

Photos from the Haibun Evening, The Poetry Café, 23rd March 2015

Photos from the exhibition hang and launch party for Sketches from the Poem Road