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Uji no Shi

Poems from Uji, Kyoto, Japan

Bruce Rimell

Poetry / General

In the late 1990s, artist and poet Bruce Rimell travelled halfway across the world to live and work in Japan. There in his new home city of Uji, just south of Kyoto, he discovered a wonderful new world of Buddhist temples and Shinto shrines, as well as evocative myths and folktales, beautiful rivers and forested mountains. 

Losing himself in this ancient landscape, where the Uji River emerges from the mountains into a picturesque cultural scene, he soon discovered the traditional Japanese artform of the 短歌 tanka, the ‘short song’ arranged in five lines of 5-7-5-7-7 syllables, and he began writing these brief poems to reflect upon his emotional life, and to note his personal impressions of the historical region in which he lived. 

After two years in the country, he decided to return home to Britain, initiating a transformative period in his life. The 短歌 tanka struck him as an appropriate way to record these changes, particularly as the medium commonly evokes traditional Japanese cultural ideas of impermanence, transience and the fleeting nature of moments in time.  

As he departed from Japan, and settled back slowly into British life, sorrows of a life left behind, impressions of natural beauty, and failed love affairs, are all enfolded into a collection of poems – in Japanese, but with English translations and notes – that represents an emotionally sensitive work of memory, of reminiscence, and of もののあわれ mono no aware, the ‘sigh of things’, the delicate knowledge that everything in this fleeting, floating world eventually fades and passes away.

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