Japanese Poetry

Sei Shonagon
means “minor counselor” was a lady-in-waiting for the Empress Sadako; wrote pillow book

Lady Otomo
wrote Manyoshu, an anthology of japanese poetry, wrote about nature, life’s small details, her daughters, and heartaches

Lady Murasaki Shikibu
wrote the tale of Genji, considered the greatest work of Japanese literature, provided characters and themes reworked by Japanese writers for nearly 1000 years, defined Japan’s national identity, long and complex text, filled with profound insights and beautiful prose, member of the imperial court, produced a diary that provided insights into court life, allowed women of the court to express their personal thoughts, demonstrates sophistication as writers of literature

Pillow Book
Has literary and historical value, first-person account that contributes to our understanding of a culture and a historical period, 4 stories: in spring it is the dawn, the cat who lived in the palace, things that arouse a fond memory of the past, I remember a clear morning

In Spring it is the Dawn
uses detailed imagery to describe the best part of each season in the order of Spring, Summer, Autumn, Winter; description of each season gets longer because its harder to appreciate autumn/winter

The Cat Who Lived in the Palace
a nurse jokingly calls for a dog to wake up a cat of higher ranking by biting her, but the dog thought the nurse was serious; nurse fired, dog banished; shows dislike for lower class, but also a need for lower class b/c they miss the dog; dog returns but tries to be different so he is accepted and doesn’t get banished again; they don’t recognize him at first, but eventually do

Things that Arouse a fond Memory of the Past
the sight of dried hollyhock sparks a memory from the past; a rainy day and boredom, looking through old papers and letters from a man they used to love

I Remember a Clear Morning
description after a rainy night the morning after, detailed imagery; when she tries to explain to others they are not as intrigued because they would have to experience it for themselves

form with five lines with 5/7/5/7/7 syllables

unlimited alternating lines of 5 and 7 syllables, later, emphasis is placed on brevity, and this form is almost entirely abandoned

chains of interlocking tanka, each tanka within this was divided into verses of seventeen and fourteen syllables, composed by different poets

opening verse of Renga, eventually developed into a distinct literary form, consisting of three lines of 5/7/5 syllable

formed from Hokku, with 5/7/5 syllables, soon became more popular than the tanka

Ki Tsurayuki
Cheif aid of Emperor Daigo; leading poet, critic, diary writer; his tanka was about visiting a girl he loved. but possibly being rejected. this can be assumed by the imagery at the end about the harsh winter weather and the plovers crying

Ono Komachi
Early tanka poet, works characterized by passion and energy, few details of her life are known, vast number of legends about her, however, these legends serve as the basis for a well-known series of plays, tanka is about a speaker who is in love with someone, and dreams about him and wakes up but wishes she didn’t – sense of longing

Priest Jakuren
Buddhist priest, tanka poet, poems filled with beautiful/melancholic imagery, entered priesthood at 23(young), spent much time traveling the Japanese countryside, wrote poetry and sought spiritual fulfillment, wrote about nature, tanka about loneliness about being an evergreen tree while other trees shed their leaves and get to leave

Matsuo Basho
greatest Japanese haiku poet, Born into a Samurai family; gave him a status, but he rejected it, became a Zen Buddhist after the death of his master, Lived the life of a recluse-poet, but traveled and supported himself by teaching and judging poetry contests, traveled with only the barest of necessities, relying on the kindness of strangers, recorded his observations and insights in poems and travel diaries, best poetry written in last 10 years of his life, simple style of poems reflect influence of his Buddhist faith, conveys observations of nature through sparse but vivid images, Aims to evoke in the reader the same insight or emotion that he experienced; his haiku used contrasting ideas; connections to humans; grass is last visions soldiers see before they die, nature providing something calming/ soothing/ protection for man

Yosa Buson
2nd greatest haiku poet, little known about his life, was a celebrated poet and painter, both arts reflect flawless craftsmanship; attention to detail, presents a romantic view of Japan’s landscape reflecting the wonder and mystery of nature, sometimes wrote a series of haiku on the same subject(wrote a series of at least 30 poems about spring rain ?), his haiku talks about people’s different lives when it rains, simplicity, random things, things are reminders of people; snapshots; but detailed

Kobayashi Issa
Talent not widely recognized until after his death, humble background, struggled throughout life to support himself and overcome loneliness and pain resulting from death of loved ones, poetry reflects an appreciation for the hardships of common people, simple, humble images capture the essence of daily life in Japan and convey his compassion for the less fortunate, his haiku is about small things seeing larger things around them, movement from wide scope to something tiny; nature moves these things; connects to his background, looking up at the upper class