The Japanese Wordsworth comes to the Lake District

A new exhibition is being planned combining the works of Wordsworth and one of Japan’s most celebrated poets. Ben Lerwill reports

Illustration photo of The Japanese Wordsworth comes to the Lake District

Sometimes crossing continents can reveal more similarities than differences. A five-month exhibition is to be staged next year in the Lake District, combining the works of two of literature’s most celebrated lovers of the outdoors: William Wordsworth and Japanese poet Matsuo Bashoˉ. The pair are from different eras  Bashoˉ lived from 1644 to 1694, predating Wordsworth by almost a century – but both shared a passion for walking as a means of experiencing, and writing about, the natural world. The exhibition is set to be held at Wordsworth’s former family home, Dove Cottage in Grasmere, from May 26 to October 31 2014.

Bashoˉ, probably the most famous poet to have come out of Japan, was a master of haiku and a prodigious walker, writing predominantly about wildlife and landscapes. In his day he shocked the establishment by using colloquialisms and common expressions, rather than more formal language, in his prose. His work often took the form of large, elaborately decorated scrolls, at least three of which will be on display alongside a selection of Wordsworth’s verses and writings.

“We know that Wordsworth shared many of Basho’s ideas about the democratisation of poetry, using it as personal narrative and his interest in the natural world,” says Paul Kleian, head of marketing at the Wordsworth Trust. “We anticipate that the Bashoˉ material will be displayed with Wordsworth manuscripts, early published editions and letters which will provide a dramatic visual contrast, but a striking intellectual comparability.”