Saturday, 24 July 2010
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Sunday, 18 July 2010
Thursday, 15 July 2010
Wednesday, 14 July 2010
Monday, 12 July 2010
Performance from the show:
The poetry form of tanka is 31 syllables in a 5-7-5-7-7 scheme and may seem strange to some people who expect poems to rhyme; tanka do not.
Although not all Tanka were written to describe romantic feelings, today I will present some of the romantic poems from a book called “The Ink Dark Moon”
Seeing you is the thread
that ties me to this life—
if that knot
were cut this moment,
I’d have no regret
I cannot keep myself
for the handsome moon
The way I must enter
leads through darkness to darkness—
O moon above the mountains’ rim,
please shine a little further
on my path
In the Heian period, since men and women were divided, separated physically, so that anyone who hoped to have any encounter with the opposite sex had to do it through poetry. So it was an extremely important social medium.
It also became an important public medium because the ability to turn out a good verse put you in very good standing with those in higher authority.
Upper class women, as well as men, were expected to become experts in music, writing, and the art of dressing well, including what colors to wear when and the proper drape of a sleeve. Images from scrolls show ladies and men languidly lounging, eating, drinking and writing.
The most important writers in the Heian period were women who wrote between 950 and 1050. Much of what we know today about upper class life in those long ago times is from the detailed accounts found in their diaries, novels, poems, and letters.
At court the ability to write well was highly regarded. One might be called upon to demonstrate one's knowledge of a certain poem, and be able to write a poem on the spot. Highly formal "poetry parties" were staged, testing one's wit and cleverness.
An inept poem or misquoted phrase was laughed at and scorned. Poor calligraphy could also ruin a reputation.
A person who was learned and who knew how to write good poetry has a certain status. Poetry was often used as a go-between among men and women.
Some waka poems by Narihira no Ason and Ono no Komachi are good examples of this (although the poets did not actually write these particular examples to each other). Their poems show how ardent desire expressed by the man, may be countered in poetry by the woman's clever rebuff.
So, these poems are perfect examples to illustrate the type of compositions that might have been exchanged during courtship.
Narihira no Ason's poem begins:
aki no no ni
My sleeves are wetter
sasa wakeshi asa no
that night when we failed to meet
sode yori mo
than when of a moon
awade koshi yo zo
I have parted bamboo grass
traversing autumnal fields
Ono no Komachi's poem provides a response:
There is no seaweed
wa ga mi o ura to
to be gathered in this bay
Does he not know it—
karenade ama no
the fisher who comes and comes
ashi tayuku kuru
until his legs grow weary?
In the second poem, you can see Komachi’s clever use of double entendre (mirume can mean both “no seaweed” and “you cannot see me”) and associated words (engo) about the sea (ura, bay; ama, fisher; mirume, seaweed).
The response serves to discourage the lover that is pursuing her.
A more successful courtship exchange might be seen in a poem sent by Prince Otsu to Lady Ishikawa. In this exchange she has taken Prince Otsu's poem and cleverly rearranged it. She repeats in the forth line what Prince Otsu has repeated in lines two and five of his poem.
In this first poem Prince Otsu first complains that she has stood him up:
Gentle foothills, and
in the dew drops of the mountains,
soaked, I waited for you--
grew wet from standing there
in the dew drops of the mountains.
Yet though poetry Lady Ishikawa (7th C. CE) cleverly reassures him of her continuing love
Waiting for me,
you grew wet there
in gentle foothills,
in the dew drops of the mountains--
I wish I'd been such drops of dew.