poetry on a mountain

What do you write about when a pandemic is announced? That is the question that kept me awake this morning. Pandemic is all there is. Normal life cancelled. Schools are closed, sports competitions are being called off. I had been looking forward to the start of the Formula 1 season all winter, and although everything was set to go in Australia this weekend I was wondering if they really should, could go through with the Grand Prix. And no, when I woke up I saw that they had canceled the event just hours before it was set to start.

So what do you write about when a pandemic is announced, when normal life is cancelled and you do not want to write about the pandemic. That is what I am thinking now, while my tired wife is sleeping beautifully on our bed (after having cancelled work, not because of Coronavirus but pregnancy matters). And the only answer that comes to me is poetry. When in doubt, read poetry. When in pain, read poetry. When unearthly happy, read poetry. There is poetry for every situation, and if there is not, then it needs to be written. In times like this, the world needs poetry.

Even if books, magazines and information normally is quite hard to get for an English speaker in Japan, poetry is easy to come by. It is really to be found everywhere, on every street, in every store (ok, maybe a little exaggeration, but just a little) – even on a mountain top (no exaggeration). 

The way Japanese is translated to English very often, I find, has poetic qualities; probably unintended but nonetheless (or maybe therefore) quite beautiful. While my dream is learning enough Japanese to be able to in the future enjoy poetry written in Japanese, for now I have to settle with the translated kind of street poetry that I have come to love.

Just look at this poem, from a hiking course on a mountain in Japan: 

A drink isn’t being sold
at a mountain top.


Quite beautiful, with a meditative quality that stills my mind and gives me a sense of peace in the middle of this pandemic. I really would like to give credit to the author, but it seems to be an anonymous pice of art, so I send my acknowledgements to the unnamed creator and humbly borrow it for this little story. ありがとうございます。

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2 thoughts on “poetry on a mountain”

  1. I took the same photo in 2018 and wasn’t sure it was either a bad translation (I collected photos of badly translated signs while on holiday in Japan) or a poem. When I scrolled through the photos and decided to Google the text I found this blog. Thanks 🙂

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