Woodcut Snowscene


I was too late, so missed the exhibition

of Japanese snowscenes in woodcut.


I might go tomorrow

or before the show closes,

but in case I miss it entirely

I’ll make one now in my imagination.


It will be all in blues and greys and white.

Maybe a mountain, perhaps Mount Fuji,

will rise skyward in dignified silence.            


A humble cluster of huts

will suggest a settlement or village,

each hut drawn                                          

by barely more than three deft lines.


The landscape will stretch widely,

interrupted by the odd lone rock or tree,

implied by a few dark strokes.


Mostly it will be an expanse of white,

a ground of winter silence.


But see how here, down in one corner,

a blue river, free of ice, still flows,


and on it a small boat,

steered by a solitary boatman,

is gliding slowly


to who knows what new seasons . . . ?


Note  If you are not familiar with the style and content of Japanese woodcut prints this poem will make more sense to you if you look at some of the work of artists like Hiroshige or Hokusai. There is an exhibition of Japanese woodcut snowscenes currently on at the Fitzwilliam Museum in Cambridge (UK) running until January 2013. This poem is somewhat influenced by my memory of seeing the poster for that exhibition. The work of Japanese woodcut printers can be seen in many books and probably online too. See also my poem on this site 'Japanese Snowscene' if you are drawn to this subject.