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Reality and how to put it to poetry take stage at Cikada Prize gathering

Staff Report

The second Cikada Prize Winners Commemorative International Symposium was held at the Kioicho Campus of Josai University on Nov. 18, in which Josai University Educational Corporation Chancellor Noriko Mizuta, a Cikada Prize winner herself, and others discussed poetry.

The Cikada Prize was founded in 2004 following the 100th anniversary commemoration of the birth of Nobel Prize winner Harry Martinson, a Swedish poet. Because of his interest in East Asian literature, the prize is awarded to Asian poets.

The symposium, which consisted of several readings and panel discussions throughout the day, saw participation by Mizuta, Cikada Prize President and former Swedish Ambassador to Japan Lars Vargo, and Japanese, Chinese, South Korean and Vietnamese poets.

One of the events during the symposium was a panel discussion titled “Poetry and Reality,” with Mizuta, South Korea’s Moon Chung-hee, China’s Bei Dao and Vietnam’s Y Nhi taking part in the talks. All four of the panelists are Cikada Prize winners, and Vargo moderated the panel.

Vargo made the point that some people feel that reality can be too horrible to describe.

Panelists argued that terrible incidents are actually good subjects for poems, and the worse the incidents, the better they are for poetry.

Bei responded with a different view, saying: “I’ve had doubts about reality in my life. Do novels have anything to do with reality? I would say what is said in a novel becomes reality. I’m always trying to write what’s beyond reality, rather than reality itself.”

Responding to another of Vargo’s questions as to whether poetry should be true to reality, Moon said: “I think it’s okay to have a bit of a lie in poetry. For me, being factual is not as important as a work being complete as poetry.”

Mizuta expressed her own philosophy on this subject.

“In times of changing reality, poetry asks itself of its own meaning. Poetry is a way of expression, and thus it will survive only by asking itself of its own meaning,” she said.

The symposium was hosted by the Josai International Center for the Promotion of Art and Science, co-hosted by the Japan Sweden Association and publisher Shityosya Co., and endorsed by several companies, including bookstore chain Kinokuniya Co. and The Japan Times.

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