Defense, poetry and crayfish

This past week we had several defense related seminars in the Embassy auditorium, the “Alfred Nobel Auditorium”, one on Swedish technological achievements and future research and one on international collaboration, “Future International Collaboration in Defence and Security”. The first seminar was organized by the Swedish Embassy, the second by the EBC, the European Business Council, in association with IGIJ, the International Geopolitics Institute Japan. Both seminars filled the auditorium to maximum capacity with Japanese and European participants.

Yesterday I had the honour to chair a bilateral Japanese-Korean seminar on classical poetry. I had been asked by the Korea Literature Translation Institue to lead the discussions between the distinguished Korean shijo-poet Lee Geunbe (季根培) and the president of the World Haiku Association, the Japanese haiku- and kanshi-poet Ishikura Hideki (石倉秀樹). Shijo (時調) is a classical Korean form of short poetry, while haiku (俳句) probably needs no special introduction. It is now a form of poetry that one can find all over the world. Kanshi is the Japanese pronunciation of the Chinese expression hanshi (漢詩), and  simply means “Chinese poetry”. It both refers both to classical Chinese poetry, not least written during the Tang (唐) and Song (宋) dynasties, and to Japanese poetry entirely written in Chinese.

It was a very interesting discussion, pointing at some similarities in the rythmical composition of the various poetry forms, but also showing how they have taken their own courses of development. Shijo is a very rich form of literary expression and it was often sung when recited. Although not comparable to the enormous amount of books on haiku poetry that one can find in various languages, more and more books about shijo are appearing in English. A good first introduction could for instance be Kevin O’Rourke’s “The Book of Korean Shijo”, Harvard Univerity Press, 2002.

Later in the evening the Swedish Chamber of Commerce organized a traditional Swedish crayfish party in the “Bellman Room” of the Embassy building. I had another engagement and could unfortunately not attend, but I later heard that the participants had been singing their form of poetry with the same enthusiasm as that of the old East Asian poets…

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