Poetry Café Exhibitions

Throughout the year, a lively programme of art exhibitions inspired by poetry and literature


CURRENT EXHIBITION Sketches from the Poem Road
After Basho’s The Narrow Road to the Deep North – Drawings & Poems by Isao Miura & Chris Beckett, Mon 2 March – Sat 25 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 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

Programme of events

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 7 March, London, 11am-3pm, FREE. Meet at The Poetry Café (limited numbers).

Haibun Evening, Mon 23 March, 7.30pm, FREE. At the Poetry Café, London, with Ken Jones, David Cobb, Anna Robinson, Karen McCarthy-Woolf, Lynne Rees, Valerie Josephs & other

Basho at the British Museum, Wed 15th April, 11am (tbc), FREE. Study visit with Isao Miura
For full details and to book your place, visit afterbasho.weebly.com

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


RECENT EXHIBITION Louts, Love and London
Images inspired by London Books from staff & students of Middlesex University BA Hons Illustration, 2 Feb - 1 Mar 2015

Louts, Love and London is the latest exhibition by students and staff of the BA (Hons) Illustration course at Middlesex University at the Poetry Café, London.

The show in inspired by publisher London Books’ list of 1930s’ London literature – gritty, realist and much of it newly reprinted for the first time in many years. Books by authors such as James Curtis and Simon Blumenfeld, once popular and critically acclaimed, offer a unique, contemporaneous view of the triumphs and struggles of the working class between the wars.

Staff and students of the BA (Hons) Illustration course worked in and around London, drawing at locations described in the books. They have produced a collection of atmospheric, exciting images that complement and illuminate the stories that inspired them (including Amy Laker's image, shown above left).

This is the third time Middlesex University staff and students have shown at the Poetry Café. Earlier highly successful exhibitions, Haunts of the Poets, Happy Birthday Edward Lear (which toured nationwide) and War Stories, were held in 2011, 2012 and 2014.

Louts, Love and London, presented by the Poetry Society and Middlesex University, is at the Poetry Café, 22 Betterton Street, London WEC2H 9BX., 2 - 28 February 2015. All works are for sale; proceeds go towards the students' final degree show.

LONDON BOOKS is an independent publisher which aims to bring old and new fiction together in a tradition that is original in its subject matter, style and social concerns. The company believes that the marginalised fiction of the past can be as relevant and exciting today as when it was first published, that its classic reprints reflect the language and politics of tougher eras while the new fiction focuses on emerging authors with something to say and a novel way of getting their messages across. www.london-books.co.uk





Poetry Café (The Poetry Place)
22 Betterton Street
London WC2H 9BX

Email: Poetry Café
Telephone: 020 7420 9888

Opening times 

12 noon - 11pm Monday to Friday
7pm - 11pm Saturday

Closed on Sunday, and on occasion for private hire - please check the calendar before you visit.

Previous exhibitions