Five Views of Mount Fuji, Myra Schneider

Fisherrow, 2018  £5.00 — see details on how to buy a copy

Walking into the prints

Just yesterday the BBC reported that Japan has declared the heatwave a ‘natural disaster’. In fact yesterday, every headline seemed to point to environmental catastrophe. It was a relief to turn to these Five Views of Mount Fuji, which insists, in its final refrain ‘Fuji will endure’ (‘The Great Wave’).

The pamphlet’s slim and glossy, with lovely colour reproductions of five of Hokusai’s prints – including the iconic ‘The Great Wave at Kanagawa’. The pictures are stunning and each is faced by a poem, which seems a direct response. There are only five, but the journey through them seems longer. In a good way. You take your time and savour. Which is just what the poet seems to have done, as she’s imagined herself, I think, stepping into each print. The first poem (‘A Shower below the Summit’) starts:

Don’t linger by the cherry blossom in the valley
even if you’re feeling fragile
, a voice insists
in my head, when you begin to climb

the mountain will be irresistible

In the second, ‘River’, again the poet steps inside its facing print. In this one, she imagines ‘how / in the small hours this morning when I lost / my footing, slipped into bottomless marsh // and was struggling’, it was the glimpse of Mt Fuji that gave her ‘the strength to pull free’.

In ‘Measuring the Pine Tree’, she herself becomes one of the figures standing at its base, arms outstretched, failing to span the pine’s trunk. And in ‘Blue Fuji’, she envisions ‘the enchanting cranes, which flew through / my room as I drifted into sleep’.

I rather enjoy this sensation of drifting, with the poet, in and out of these lush landscapes — like a character from a magic children’s story. The pamphlet, with its striking lilac endpapers, is sold in aid of The Grenfell Foundation: £2 from each copy goes to the fund.

Charlotte Gann