We are delighted to present an outdoor poetry event at the beautiful Japanese Gardens, Irish National Stud, on Thursday 29th July with poet Nell Regan.
Nell will read from A Gap in the Clouds, a new version (co-translated by Nell Regan and James Hadley) of Ogura’s 100 Poems by 100 Poets, one of the most important collections of poetry in Japan. Originally compiled in the 12th Century, this is the first version to be published in Ireland (by Dedalus Press). Though the poets include emperors and empresses, courtiers and high priests, ladies-in- waiting and soldier-calligraphers, the collection is far more than a fascinating historical document. As the translators note, “these beautiful poems have endured because their themes are universal and readily understood by contemporary readers”.
The two translators, one with fluent Japanese and one with none, worked closely together. As Nell Regan notes, each poem was like ‘a puzzle’: “Myself and James – a poet with no Japanese and an experienced Japanese academic translator – met up fortnightly for nearly a year to work on the poems.” Nell Regan explains. “We researched their references, sank into the imagery and puzzled out the rhythms of these tiny poems – each an intricate puzzle. I learnt so much about the structures of the Japanese language and how different it is to English. Many decisions had to be made – what pronouns to use, which cultural references to leave in but really bringing over the immediacy and emotional tang of the poems into English was at the heart of our process, of our to-ing and fro-ing of questions, many drafts and versions.”
This event at the Japanese Gardens will be the first ‘in person’ reading of the poems by Nell Regan. “I am really looking forward to reading these poems, many of which are over 1000 .years old, aloud in the beautiful and apt setting of the Japanese Gardens, ” Nell Regan says. “The poems are bound to have an added resonance where they, in a sense, belong. It’s also my first live reading since we launched the book on zoom back in February so I am also very excited about reading in front of an audience and chatting with people afterwards in 3D”
In addition to the reading, Nell Regan will lead an outdoor poetry workshop. Following a tour of the Japanese Gardens, workshop participants will be encouraged to write their own nature poems, inspired by the beautiful surroundings. “I love leading workshops, particularly outdoors ones like this one.” Nell Regan says. “It’s always illuminating for me to see how different people respond to prompts in the environment. It’s most satisfying when people surprise themselves with what they have written.”
Nell is keen to welcome all participants to the workshop- no experience of writing poetry is required.
“The workshop will suit anyone who feels like picking up a pen!” Nell Regan states. “Beginners and experienced writers are welcome. The atmosphere will be relaxed and involve walking around the garden, looking, smelling and touching and making notes which we’ll then play around with to turn into poems.”
Finally, we asked Nell to choose a favourite poem from the new collection: My favourite poem changes depending on my mood, the season and what is going on around me! What has been so extraordinary about the book is the extent to which it continues to speak and and how readers have responded to it ( ‘a daily Vitamin pill’ – ‘ideal lockdown reading’ were just two of the comments ) despite the fact that the poems were written so long ago by emperors and ladies in waiting in medieval Japan. For today, a sunny July day, it has to be poem 2 by Empress Jito:
Our white robes air
on the scented slopes
of Mount Kagu. Spring has
passed it seems –
Summer is radiant.
The reading and poetry workshop with Nell Regan takes place on Thursday 29th July at the Japanese Gardens, The National Stud. The Poetry Workshop is at 11am (90 minutes duration including a tour of the gardens, €20) and the reading from A Gap in The Clouds is at 1pm (admission €5 – and access to the gardens). As capacity is limited, advanced booking is essential.