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Katsushika HOKUSAI
The great wave off Kanagawa (c. 1830)
Past program

How Hokusai Inspired Poetry
Rainer Maria Rilke's The Mountain

Sun 8 Oct 17, 2pm
NGV International
Exhibition space
Ground Level

In one of his letters, Bohemian-Austrian poet Rainer Maria Rilke wrote: ‘What is close by means much, and the infinite in this way becomes singularly clear, free of meaning, a pure depth…’.

Struck by the power of Hokusai’s The great wave off Kanagawa, Rilke was inspired to write his poem The Mountain.

Reflect on the play of time and perspective in both Hokusai’s woodblock print and Rilke’s poem, and create your own Hokusai inspired poem with local writer and poet Lisa Gorton.

The Mountain

Six and thirty times and hundred times
the painter tried to capture the mountain,
tore it up, then pushed on again
(six and thirty times and hundred times)

to the incomprehensible volcanoes,
blissful, full of temptation, without counsel, —
while the outlines of his glory
went on without coming to an end:

Fading a thousand times out of all the days,
nights without comparison from which
dropped, as if they were all too small;
each image at the moment it was needed,
increasing from figure to figure,
not partaking and far and without viewpoint—,
then suddenly knowing, as in a vision,
lifting itself up behind every crevice.


Lisa Gorton is a Melbourne writer and poet. Her most recent poetry collection is Hotel Hyperion. Lisa’s poetry has been anthologised here and overseas and her awards include the Victorian Premier’s Prize for Poetry and Philip Hodgins Memorial Medal. Lisa wrote a doctorate on John Donne at Oxford University