Posts Tagged ‘essays’

‘Inspired By The Great Man’yoshu’

February 19, 2014
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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