Ryokan: The Artist Book

Few poets have better brought to life Basho's call for dedication to 'the Way of Poetry', than the Monk, Ryokan.

Living a solitary Zen based existence in a mountain hut in the late 18th, early 19th century, Ryokan has become one of the most revered of poet-monks in the Japanese poetic tradition. Famous throughout Japan his verse are still recited and studied by children and adults alike.

Whilst the Monk Ryokan was a serious practitioner of Zen, he shunned institutions preferring the company of local village people especially children. As a complete eccentric many stories of his antics have been recorded despite his isolated circumstances.

The links below will take you to a short sample taken from The Monk Ryokan. The text is by Colin Campbell Robinson and is based on Ryokan's 99 Haiku translated by Joan Titus-Carmel. Colin chose to work with her translations from the original Japanese into French rather than attempting variations using the many excellent English translations available.

This may seem a little strange given that Colin's grasp of French, while somewhat better than his understanding of Japanese, is hardly that of a native speaker, nonetheless with the various translation aids available to him Colin managed to render the haiku into a satisfactory literal reading.

With these rough translations he worked on the variations attempting in both the visual layout and the juxtaposition of images to recreate Ryokan's poems and evoke his life story simultaneously. To do so Colin used a calligraphic style quite different, but hopefully in keeping with Ryokan's own practice.

To further enhance the calligraphic style he placed the simple, yet beautiful sketches and numbering produced by Jude Robinson, at various points within the text. Finally, Luke Robinson edited the piece.

Ryokan: Artist Book in situ

The Monk Ryokan will take the form of a limited edition artist's book printed on hand made paper. Copies of the book will be placed in a mock up of a child's playroom containing cushions, small tables and toys that could have been made in Ryokan's time e.g skittles, balls and spinning tops. A soundtrack of children playing will be faintly audible. A sign at the entrance will state: Play room - All Players Welcome - Age no restriction.

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