A Poetic “40 Years”

Poet Kathabela and PAM Curator of Education Amelia

Poet Kathabela and PAM Curator of Education Amelia

Two years ago, Pacific Asia Museum took a highly unusual approach with the addition of its audio tour. Although the technology is innovative – listeners use their own cell phones to listen in- that was not what made the tour so unique. It was the content.

Inspired by art and architecture throughout the museum, the Poetry Tour at Pacific Asia Museum uses the art of the spoken word to explore the visual arts, and to link one viewer to another. Rather than providing facts about an object, the tour provides another person’s vision as a means of interpretation and inspiration for the listener. The tour’s original poetry was written by members of the Pasadena-based “Poets on Site” performance group which has partnered with the museum in the past to create live poetry and music events based on special exhibitions.

In celebration of 40 Years of Building the Pacific Asia Museum Collection, “Poets on Site” are once again sharing their work inspired by objects in the exhibition, including “Persimmon and Pine Trees by a Stream,” 416# (see below for how to hear these poems). You’ll also hear impressions of objects we’ve discussed on the blog before, including “Eagle in a Snowstorm,” (415#) “Mount Fuji in Clear Weather,” (418#) and “Landscape After Snowfall” (419#). Each reading is accompanied by Rick Wilson playing his original music on a variety of traditional Asian instruments– listen until the end to hear more about them. The full list of objects and corresponding poem codes are available within the gallery.

Press play to hear poetry inspired by the Goblins and Ghosts scroll.

Many of these contributions are in haiku or tanka form. Tanka is a Japanese form similar to (but older than) haiku, which follows a five-line, 31-syllable pattern of 5/7/5/7/7. Tanka poetry has been adapted to the English language, sometimes using the 31-syllable pattern, other times using a more flexible short/long/short/long/long pattern of the five lines.

To hear the recorded tour at anytime, call (626) 628-9690 and enter the number of the recording you want to hear about, followed by the pound sign. The original award-winning Poetry Tour can also be heard, downloaded, or read in transcript form on our website here, but for the newest additions, you’ll want to get out your phone and give it a try! ~CM


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