Feature Photo: Karuta Workshop

Jeremy Reynolds, Arts Editor

Slam poetry may be familiar to many at Oberlin, but what about speed poetry? The Oberlin College East Asian Game Club partnered with the University of Michigan Kyogi Karuta Club to present a seminar on the lightning fast traditional Japanese game of poetry and memory: Karuta. The two-day workshop took place in the Carnegie Building’s Root Room on Saturday and at the University of Michigan the following day.

Mutsumi Stone, the guest of honor, explained the game’s history and rules before inviting participants to try it for themselves. Karuta is played in pairs, with opponents seated or standing across from one another. A reader recites the beginning of one poem drawn from a collection of 100 short poems, the Hyakunin Isshu, and contestants race to find the card that completes the poem. The game is primarily a test of memory, as players must not only remember each line of poetry but also where the lines are placed on the playing surface in front of them.

Stone claims that the game is not difficult to learn, even without prior knowledge of Japanese. She travels the world to give demonstrations of Karuta to promote interest in the game, and has met with success in Thailand, Malaysia, South Korea, China and the United States.