‘Inspired By The Great Man’yoshu’

Heian era Woman with Tengu

Heian era Woman with Tengu


This short work will be published in “The Nightingale’s Song”, along with other essays. 


Inspired By The Great Man’yoshu

 It is right and proper to draw inspiration from other poetry. This pulls your own poetic voice into the mystery of love and passion. It’s fun and also a challenge to ‘fit’ your poetic voice into existing classical poetry. I have taken the words from poems from the great 8th century Man’yoshu and either fashioned an answer…or a continuation of the top poem. What I believe to be termed “call and answer”.

The Man’yoshu’s poems are in bold type. All else are my own poetry. These poems are a small part of poems I am working in this fashion. Most of these poems, both from the Man’yoshu and my own are used to head up the 14 sections of “The Nightingale’s Song”.

“The Nightingale’s Song” will be published late this autumn or early next year.

TENGUS: Tengus are mythological creatures that originated in China but have been very popular in Japanese  literature and mythology.  They are shape shifters and forever are tripping up arrogant Buddhist priests.  They come as a large bird, but assume human dimensions when they want.  They are recognized by long red noses. In mythology (???) they were teachers of martial arts to the yamabushi (mountain (yama) dwellers).  A Tengu figures prominantly in “The Nightingale’s Song”.

“My heart, like my clothing
Is saturated with your fragrance.
Your vows of fidelity
Were made to our pillow and not to me.”

Oh my wife!
My feet take me over mountains
In the service to our lord
But my heart stays tucked in the bosom
Of your robe.

Does he know?
Does he know?
Does he know about the letters?

“I stay here waiting for him
In the autumn wind, my sash untied,
Wondering, is he coming now,
Is he coming now?
And the moon is low in the sky.

The only company I have tonight,
Now near dawn, is the paling Milky Way,
And Oh, my husband!
There are not stars enough in the heavens
To equal my sorrowful tears.”

Strong man as I am,
Who force my way even through the rocks,
In love I rue in misery.

Perhaps a strong man
Should not offer love without
Having love returned
But this grieving ugly warrior
Still finds his love is growing


“The cicada cries
Everyday at the same hour
But I’m a woman much in love and very weak
And can cry anytime”


My thoughts these days
Come thick like the summer grass
Which soon cut and raked
Grows wild again.

Oh, I wish these
Obsessive love-thoughts
Would disappear!
As they fill my head
They empty my sleep!

I who have counted me
For a strong man
Only a little less than heaven and earth,
How short of manliness that I love!

On this earth and even heaven
This weakness in love
Turns my sword
Into a blade of grass.

Come to me
If even only in my dreams
Where my head rests upon my arm-
not yours.
Let this veiled moon
Above and these dark, brooding pines below
Be witness to our love, my man.”

Come to me,
When the rocks have disappeared
Under sheets of snow,
The moon appears through tattered clouds.
I will be
Listening for the sound of
Your footfall in the dark.

Come to me, my man,
Part the blinds and come into my arms,
Snuggle against my warm breast
And let my belly
Warm your soul.

Jane Kohut-Bartels

Copyrighted, 2014



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16 Responses to “‘Inspired By The Great Man’yoshu’”

  1. Grace Says:

    Full of passion and love, Jane ~ I like how your voice weaves along with the japanese words ~ Good luck on your publication ~All the best ~


  2. Brian Miller Says:

    really cool call and response…it fleshes out the story a bit…adds another depth of feeling…my heart stays tucked in the bosom
    Of your robe….was a cool early line for me…the break out verse at the end…wishing their arm over yours…i like…smiles.


  3. ladynyo Says:

    Hi Grace! These were a lot of fun…I would rather do this than just about any writing….lol!

    The Man’yoshu is nothing if it isn’t great passion…It’s so easy to pick up the sentiment and try to run with it.

    Thank you, Grace…I’ll be over tonight.



  4. ladynyo Says:

    Hi Brian…with this stuff (Man’yoshu) staring you in the face, it’s very hard not to pick up and run with it. hehe. The passion of the original just sets the stage for anything coming after. I find these things…this sort of writing, some of the most satisfying….and getting in touch with your own passionate response? Huh.

    Thanks for reading your comment Brian. Didn’t know if anyone at dversepoets would want to read these…they are rather different from the usual poetry.



  5. TR Says:

    Hi Jane,
    It is full of longing and desire. I love the call and answer approach, like Grace, your voice weaves nicely. I can see why you enjoy it. 🙂 xxTR


  6. ladynyo Says:

    Oh, TR! that is so nice of you to take time and read and comment. I was hoping you would…because I think you know and understand passion…in writing. You are a very passionate writer!

    I just call it ‘call and answer” because I don’t know what else to call it…LOL! But I think it works…the base is set there for any poet/writer and adding on is like falling into a warm, embracing lake…or something like that. It just well, was so satisfying…half the work was already done. The literature and poetry from this time in Japan is so passionate…so revealing and honest. It’s not self-conscious at all. Truly a period where the greatest work was done, until around the 17th century.

    Just my opinion. Thanks, TR…for reading and your encouraging comment.

    xxx Jane


  7. Victoria C. Slotto Says:

    I just love these, Jane. I think I was a Japanese poet or listener in a previous lifetime. It just resonate! :0)


  8. TR Says:

    Hi Jane,
    Thank you.
    The name is appropriate, imo. It is very cool how you build on another poet. It creates another art form. Art forms in music, like sampling, I love. Often I find the sampled piece of music/sound to be better than the original. I have a lot of sampled music on my iPod. xxTR
    PS. I have learned so much about Japanese poetry and their art from you, good luck on the book.


  9. Caliban's Sister Says:

    I loved these on first read and they are even more lovely the second time around. In fact, the Man’yoshu’ is better with your responses! sending love, CS


  10. ladynyo Says:

    Ahhh…that is so kind, CS! The Man’yoshu is a gold mine of wonderful poetry, but even more so…the sentiment of love and longing comes down 1200 years so clearly. People really don’t change in this expression of love!

    Thank you CS, for reading and your lovely comment.

    Love back, Jane


  11. ladynyo Says:

    Hi TR! Well, the Man’yoshu poetry just lends itself to this building upon! It generates such romance and sentiment. These small bites of poetry don’t overwhelm us, but concentrates our attentions I think.

    Japanese poetry is something that you can study forever….your whole life. Each attempt at doing so brings more and more into focus. It’s truly a wonderful literature and especially this early period. It was so unself-concious.

    Thanks, TR…for reading and your lovely comment.

    Hugs, Jane


  12. ladynyo Says:

    LOL! Victoria. You know what? I think it is so ‘humane’ in poetry…it goes to the heart of the matter in terms of relationships. It’s simple, and the angst of life and love is expressed so…directly. All this obscurity that we write now in our modern poetry just pales I think in face of the honesty of this Man’yoshu poetry. But then again,…forms progress I guess.

    Not all of the 4500 pieces of poetry in the Man’yoshu does this, but when you find some of the best, it goes deeply into our own modern psyche. One of the very best books cribbing poetry from the Man’yoshu is this marvelous “Love Songs from the Man’yoshu”. It’s from Japan, beautifully bound, printed on heavy stock and just..well, a treasure. I’ve bought a few on Amazon because they are just so perfect for gifts…plus the translations, the woodcuts, the history and analysis is some of the very best I’ve ever read. You would love it.



  13. czbz Says:

    So lovely to read, Jane.


  14. ladynyo Says:

    Hello, Dear Heart. When I write something….like this…I hope that these works bring some comfort. I think they do generally to me, but then again, there is this issue of the reader. Always the readers. LOL!

    CZ…I am so taken with the Man’yoshu. Not all of the 4500 pieces of poetry….LOL! But there are so many gems in there….too many actually…and none to my eyes seem to repeat themselves…Such originality! Well, they inspire (as the title of this says…lol) but more so…they are the full possibilities of love , deep, into the tissue love that is possible between two people. Ah! They should teach this stuff in marriage counselling, neh?

    I think they are a sharp sword (if this is a good word…lol) that goes against our dejection, our sadness in life becasue of all our sorrowful experiences. I find that these poems….the Man’yoshu…gives great hope for better possibilities between men and women.

    Thank you, CZ…for reading these. Many are not moved but those that are…well, they are closer to a better humanity I think.

    Love, Jane


  15. Björn Rudberg (brudberg) Says:

    I love everything that’s a can be seen as a collaboration.. and citing other poets work is one of the best one… If you ever feel like collaborating on poem drop me a line.. I love the thought of poetic dialogue and hey, good luck with your book.


  16. ladynyo Says:

    Hey Bjorn!~ yes, definitely! Of course these poets are mostly anon. and dead…lol!~ but live poets are good, too~! LOL~!

    The poets in the great Man’yoshu can take your breath away…they are so passionate~! Their lives and loves speak to us from 1200 years ago…and are as fresh as anything written today. As for collaboration, I’m willing to try…(with a live one…hehe) and it’s a great way to expand your voice…and learn.



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