Posts Tagged ‘Ono No Komachi’

Ono no Komachi, A Sensual Medieval Japanese Poet….

May 29, 2020

Ono no Komachi, A Sensual Medieval Japanese Poet

 

I’ve written before on this blog about Ono no Komachi. She continues to capture my interest as a woman and a poet.

Briefly, she lived from 834?-??. It’s not clear when she died. She served in Japan’s Heian court (then in Kyoto) and was one of the dominant poetic geniuses. She is also in the great Man’yoshu, a collection of 4500 poems.

She lived when a woman was considered to be educated once she composed, memorized and could recite 1000 poems. Her poetry is deeply subjective, passionate and complex. She was a pivotal figure, legendary in Japanese literary history.

The form: these are written in tanka form…the usual form of poetry most popular.

Don’t be put off by the lack of syllables or more than for the lines. These poems are translated into English and they don’t necessarily fit the form exactly.

There are parts of the world where her poetry is still studied and read. These cultures are richer for the doing, as are their poets.

Lady Nyo

Did he appear
Because I fell asleep
Thinking of him?
If only I’d known I was dreaming
I’d never have awakened.

When my desire
Grows too fierce
I wear my bed clothes
Inside out,
Dark as the night’s rough husk.

My longing for you—
Too strong to keep within bounds.
At least no one can blame me
When I go to you at night
Along the road of dreams.

One of her most famous poems:

No way to see him
On this moonless night—
I lie awake longing, burning,
Breasts racing fire,
Heart in flames.

Night deepens
With the sound of calling deer,
And I hear
My own one-sided love.

The cicadas sing
In the twilight
Of my mountain village—
Tonight, no one
Will visit save the wind.

A diver does not abandon
A seaweed-filled bay.
Will you then turn away
From this floating, sea-foam body
That waits for your gathering hands?

Is this love reality
Or a dream?
I cannot know,
When both reality and dreams
Exist without truly existing.

My personal favorite:

The autumn night
Is long only in name—
We’ve done no more
Than gaze at each other
And it’s already dawn.

This morning
Even my morning glories
Are hiding,
Not wanting to show
Their sleep-mussed hair.

I thought to pick
The flower of forgetting
For myself,
But I found it
Already growing in his heart.

Since this body
Was forgotten
By the one who promised to come,
My only thought is wondering
Whether it even exists.

All these poems were compiled from the Man’yoshu and the book, “The Ink Dark Moon”, by Hirshfield and Aratani.

Jane Kohut-Bartels

Copyrighted, 2018

 

Tanka Presentation For The Curious

May 18, 2019

Man'yoshu image II

 

I wrote this essay for a now-gone poetry group.  Poetry groups blossom and wither, but there is always something you learn.

 

The morning wren sings

I stand in the moonlit dawn

Kimono wrapped close

Last night I made my peace

Now free from all attachments

Lady Nyo

 

To understand tanka  go back into the Japanese literary history of the 8th and 9th century. Poets of this time, male poets, the only ones who counted in court anthologies, were writing in a Chinese poetic technique. They were still not able to use the language skillfully enough to present their own emotions. This would take another century but by the 10th century, women were using a new written language- kanji-something definitely Japanese, to write their poetry. And they, for the next two centuries, excelled in it. We’ll go over some of these poets who made such a mark on the literature of Japan, especially in the development and formation of tanka verse.

Tanka, whose earlier name was waka, was described in this way: “ Japanese verse is something which takes root in the soil of the heart and blossoms forth in a forest of words.”

This is a hint how tanka developed and its usage. Tanka, if nothing else, was the medium for lovers: written on a special paper, or a fan, or wrapped around a small branch of a flowering plum or cherry, it was the communication between a man and a woman.

There are so many social aspects of Japanese society to consider: married couples for a certain class (usually court people) didn’t live together. Perhaps a wife had her own quarters in a compound, or perhaps she lived in another town. A tanka was composed, a personal messenger delivered the poem, waited, was given a drink, flirted with the kitchen maids, and an answering poem was brought back.

People were judged as to how “good” their poetry was.

In the court, especially during the Heian court of the 12th century, tanka became one of the greatest literary influences. It developed great adherents to the form and large and prestigious competitions were developed by nobles and priests alike. Usually the striving was for the most ‘refined’ tanka composed. This lead to some very restricted poems because there were limited themes thought to be ‘proper’ amongst these competitions. Praise of nature, the Emperor, and more praise of the Emperor were pretty much the court poems.

However, it was still the written form of communication between interested parties and lovers. Poetry from that time, outside the court issue, still exalts the passions—makes connection between hearts —it fertilizes the soil of humanity.

 

Before I go into the ‘form’ of tanka, its development stylistically, I want to reveal the poets that drew me to tanka form. There were many early Japanese tanka writers, and some excellent verse written by Emperors, but these poets below have found their way into my heart and have become great influences in my own work. Ono no Komachi, Izumi Shikibu and Saigyo .

The first two were court women, great poets, and the third was a Buddhist priest. Saigyo is perhaps the most influential poet to come out of Japan. Even the famous haikuist Basho (17th century) said he studied Saigyo as his base for poetry.

Saigyo came from the Heian Court in the 12 century. He was of a samurai/warrior family and at the age of 23 he became a priest. He was always worried that his warrior background (he did serve as samurai) would ‘taint’ his Buddhist convictions and practice.   His solution was to wander the mountains and roads of Japan for decades. He left the court when the whole Japanese world was turning upside down with politics and the beginnings of civil war. He was dissatisfied with the poetry coming out of the court, and since he had developed a taste for tanka, he took this on the road with him, as he went across Japan and wrote his observations of the landscape, the moon and the people in tanka form.

For those who want a deeper history of Saigyo, read William LaFleur’s “Awesome Nightfall” about the life and times of Saigyo.

Saigyo’s wandering all over Japan was not so unusual. There were many groups of priests who went out to beg and some to write poetry and their observations. Saigyo travelled with other priests and welcomed their company on the lonely treks through mountains and remote terrain. Some were spies for the Court. One couldn’t really tell, because many priests wore a large woven basket over their heads, extending down past their shoulders. Some were Shakhauchi flute players who would play their wooden flutes under the basket as they walked.

What was so different about Saigyo was his interest in the common man. He wrote tanka about fishermen, laborers, prostitutes, nuns (who sometimes were prostitutes); more than the general poems of lovers, court, emperors, landscape. Of course the terrain he passed through figured as a background in his tanka, but he wrote so much more. Tanka is a vehicle for very expressive, emotional verse. Saigyo’s tanka spoke of his loneliness, his conflict as to his samurai background and how it would effect his Buddhist beliefs, and so much more over the decades of his roaming.

Generally Saigyo adheres to the 5-7-5-7-7 structure of tanka, but he is not shy about throwing in a ‘mora’ or two extra. I will give the original in Japanese of one poem, because the translation into English doesn’t necessarily follow the 5-7-5 etc. structure when translated.

1.

Tazunekite

Kototou hito no

Naki yado ni

Ko no ma no tsuki no

Kage zo sashikuru

 

“This place of mine

Never is entered by humans

Come for conversation.

Only by the mute moon’s light shafts

Which slip in between the trees.

 

2.

The mind for truth

Begins, like a stream, shallow

At first, but then

Adds more and more depth

While gaining greater clarity.

 

3.

(Remembering a lover)

The moon, like you,

Is far away from me, but it’s

Our sole memento:

If you look and recall our past

Through it, we can be one mind.

 

4.

Here I’ve a place

So remote, so mountain-closed,

None comes to call.

But those voices! A whole clan

Of monkeys on the way here!

 

5.

(On love like fallen leaves)

Each morning the wind

Dies down and the rustling leaves

Go silent: was this

The passion of all-night lovers

Now talked out and parting?

 

I find Saigyo to be such a wonderful, human and humane poet that I can fill my head and eyes with his poetry and be satisfied. This is only a teaser of his superb verse, but in a definite way shows the brilliance, power and inventiveness of the short burst of tanka. Of course, in the hands of Saigyo, the common becomes memorable and he is just one, but perhaps the best of tanka writers. There is so much more to and of Saigyo, and of his tanka, but there are others I want to mention in this segment.

Quoting from “Ink Dark Moon”, Hirshfield and Aratani:

“Ono no Komachi (834?-?) served at the imperial court in the capital city of Heian-kyo (present day Kyoto) during the first half century of its existence; her poetry, deeply subjective, passionate, and complex, helped to usher in a poetic age of personal expressiveness, technical excellence and philosophical and emotional depth. Izumi Shikibu (974?-1034?) wrote during the times of the court culture’s greatest flowering; a woman committed to a life of both religious consciousness and erotic intensity, Shikibu explored her experience in language that is precise in observation, intimate, and deeply moving. These two women , the first a pivotal figure who became legendary in Japanese literary history, the second Japan’s major woman poet, illuminated certain areas of human experience with a beauty, truthfulness and compression unsurpassed in the literature of any other age.”

There is so much more to be learned about these two women poets, but perhaps it is enough to give examples of their poetry here without further delay.

(These are not my translations: I am continuing to study the Japanese language, but my abilities are sorely short here. I can recognize many words, but Japanese is particularly difficult in the arrangement. These translations are from “Ink Dark Moon”, mentioned above.)

As with Saigyo, Ono no Komachi mostly writes in the 5-7-5-7-7 form of tanka.

 

1.

Hito ni awan

Tsuki no naki yow a

Omoiokite

Mune bashiribi ni

Kokoro yake ori

 

No way to see him

On this moonless night—

I lie awake longing, burning,

Breasts racing fire,

Heart in flames.

 

What is so striking about this poem is the imagery. No way to see her lover without the light of the moon, perhaps she dare not strike a light. But the repeated imagery of light: flames, fire, burning clearly relays her desire. “Heart in flames” is common, but “Breasts racing fire” pushing this poem up a notch.

2.

Since this body

Was forgotten

By the one who promised to come,

My only thought is wondering

Whether it even exists.

 

We have all been there: this feeling of unreality, surreal, even, in our relationship to another. Do we exist independently of the one we deeply love? Would we exist without them?

 

This next one is something so universal it needs no explanation.

3.

I thought to pick

The flower of forgetting

For myself,

But I found it

Already growing in his heart.

 

These are only a few examples of her unmatched poetry. She is so much fuller as a poet and woman then what I have quoted here.

 

Izumi Shikibu is a poet that can make one uncomfortable in the reading. Her poems are so personal, so erotic , you feel at times like a voyageur.   There is an emotional depth, a vibrancy that sings through her verse and goes deep into the heart of human experience.

 

1.

Lying alone,

My black hair tangled,

Uncombed,

I long for the one

Who touched it first.

 

2.

In this world

Love has no color—

Yet how deeply

My body

Is stained by yours.

 

3.

When a lover was sent a purple robe he left behind:

 

Don’t blush!

People will guess

That we slept

Beneath the folds

Of this purple-root rubbed cloth.

 

4.

If only his horse

Had been tamed

By my hand—I’d have taught it

Not to follow anyone else!

 

There is no wilting flower in the poem above!

 

This last poem quoted here is hard to read. Shikibu’s daughter Naishi has died, snow fell and melted. The reference to ‘vanish into the empty sky’, is referring to the smoke of cremation. The grief felt in this poem is overwhelming and speaks across the centuries.

 

Why did you vanish

Into empty sky?

Even the fragile snow,

When it falls,

Falls into this world.

 

These are just a few examples of the rich literary tradition of Japanese Tanka. To me, they speak cross cultures and time. They speak directly to the human heart.

The next section will be about the formation of tanka, the classical measures within tanka, the pivotal words, and other issues. I will end with some examples of my own tanka.

 

Lady Nyo

 

 

 

 

 

 

Call and Answer to Ono no Komachi

June 12, 2018

Tanka Presentation Illustration, Feb, 11

-Ono no Komachi’s appear first, mine (as answering) appear in italics.

Lady Nyo

Did he appear
Because I fell asleep
Thinking of him?
If only I’d known I was dreaming
I’d never have awakened.

“How long will it last?
I know not his hidden heart.
This morning my thoughts
Are as tangled as my hair.
My blushes turn my face dark.”


When my desire
Grows too fierce
I wear my bed clothes
Inside out,
Dark as the night’s rough husk.


No moon tonight
Only a cold wind visits
Murasaki robe
Stained the color of grass
Invisible on this earth.


At least no one can blame me
When I go to you at night
Along the road of dreams.


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


One of her most famous poems:

No way to see him
On this moonless night—
I lie awake longing, burning,
Breasts racing fire,
Heart in flames.

When my needing you
Burns my breasts-torments me
I tear open robes
To lie naked in moonlight
The wind your hands, caressing

 


Night deepens
With the sound of calling deer,
And I hear
My own one-sided love.’

Autumn wind startles–
Lowered to an ominous
Key—Ah! Mournful sounds!
The fat mountain deer listen-
Add their bellowing sorrow.


The cicadas sing
In the twilight
Of my mountain village—
Tonight, no one
Will visit save the wind.

Tonight, foxes scream
Cued by a howling wind.
Maple leaves quilting
A lonely time of season
No one to share the moonlight.

 

A diver does not abandon
A seaweed-filled bay.
Will you then turn away
From this floating, sea-foam body
That waits for your gathering hands?

So lonely am I
My soul like a floating weed
Severed at the roots
Drifting upon cold waters
No pillow for further dreams.

 

All Komachi poems were compiled from the Man’yoshu and the book, “The Ink Dark Moon”, by Hirshfield and Aratani.

Poems in Italics were mine.

Jane Kohut-Bartels
Copyrighted, 2018

 

Tanka Presentation for the Curious, Part One.

January 4, 2018

740962-Autumn-in-all-its-glory-1

For Frank Tassone who loves Tanka.

This short presentation was done a few years ago for a now defunct online group, Oneshot Poetry.  This group contracted and expanded into another poetry group.

Lady Nyo

 

The morning wren sings

I stand in the moonlit dawn

Kimono wrapped close

Last night I made my peace

Now free from all attachments

 

Lady Nyo

 

To understand tanka one must go back into the Japanese literary history of the 8th and 9th century.  Poets of this time, male poets, the only ones who counted in court anthologies, were writing in a Chinese poetic technique.  They were still not able to use the language skillfully enough to present their own emotions.  This would take another century but by the 10th century, women were using a new written language- kanji-something definitely Japanese, to write their poetry.  And they, for the next two centuries, excelled in it.  We’ll go over some of these poets who made such a mark on the literature of Japan, especially in the development and formation of tanka verse.

Tanka, whose earlier name was waka, was described in this way: “ Japanese verse is something which takes root in the soil of the heart and blossoms forth in a forest of words.”

This is a hint how tanka developed and its usage.  Tanka, if nothing else, was the medium for lovers: written on a special paper, or a fan, or wrapped around a small branch of a flowering plum or cherry, it was the communication between a man and a woman.

There are so many social aspects of Japanese society to consider: married couples for a certain class (usually court people) didn’t live together.  Perhaps a wife had her own quarters in a compound, or perhaps she lived in another town.  A tanka was composed, a personal messenger delivered the poem, waited, was given a drink, flirted with the kitchen maids, and an answering poem was brought back.

People were judged as to how “good” their poetry was.

In the court, especially during the Heian court of the 12th century, tanka became one of the greatest literary influences.  It developed great adherents to the form and large and prestigious competitions were developed by nobles and priests alike.  Usually the striving was for the most ‘refined’ tanka composed.  This lead to some very restricted poems because there were limited themes thought to be ‘proper’ amongst these competitions.  Praise of nature, the Emperor, and more praise of the Emperor were pretty much the court poems.

However, it was still the written form of communication between interested parties and lovers.  Poetry from that time, outside the court issue, still exalts the passions—makes connection between hearts —it fertilizes the soil of humanity.

 

Before I go into the ‘form’ of tanka, its development stylistically, I want to reveal the poets that drew me to tanka form.  There were many early Japanese tanka writers, and some excellent verse written by Emperors, but these poets below have found their way into my heart and have become great influences in my own work.  Ono no Komachi, Izumi Shikibu and Saigyo .

The first two were court women, great poets, and the third was a Buddhist priest.  Saigyo is perhaps the most influential poet to come out of Japan. Even the famous  haikuist Basho (17th century) said he studied Saigyo as his base for poetry.

Saigyo came from the Heian Court in the 12 century.  He was of a samurai/warrior family and at the age of 23 he became a priest.  He was always worried that his warrior background (he did serve as samurai) would ‘taint’ his Buddhist convictions and practice.   His solution was to wander the mountains and roads of Japan for decades.  He left the court when the whole Japanese world was turning upside down with politics and the beginnings of civil war.  He was dissatisfied with the poetry coming out of the court, and since he had developed a taste for tanka, he took this on the road with him, as he went across Japan and wrote his observations of the landscape, the moon and the people in tanka form.

For those who want a deeper history of Saigyo, read William LaFleur’s “Awesome Nightfall” about the life and times of Saigyo.

Saigyo’s wandering all over Japan was not so unusual.  There were many groups of priests who went out to beg and some to write poetry and their observations. Saigyo travelled with other priests and welcomed their company on the lonely treks through mountains and remote terrain.  Some were spies for the Court.  One couldn’t really tell, because many priests wore a large woven basket over their heads, extending down past their shoulders.  Some were Shakhauchi flute players who would play their wooden flutes under the basket as they walked.

What was so different about Saigyo was his interest in the common man.  He wrote tanka about fishermen, laborers, prostitutes, nuns (who sometimes were prostitutes); more than the general poems of lovers, court, emperors, landscape.  Of course the terrain he passed through figured as a background in his tanka, but he wrote so much more.  Tanka is a vehicle for very expressive, emotional verse.  Saigyo’s tanka spoke of his loneliness, his conflict as to his samurai background and how it would effect his Buddhist beliefs, and so much more over the decades of his roaming.

Generally Saigyo adheres to the 5-7-5-7-7 structure of tanka, but he is not shy about throwing in a ‘mora’ or two extra.  I will give the original in Japanese of one poem, because the translation into English doesn’t necessarily follow the 5-7-5 etc. structure when translated.

1.

Tazunekite

Kototou hito  no

Naki yado ni

Ko no ma no tsuki no

Kage zo sashikuru

 

“This place of mine

Never is entered by humans

Come for conversation.

Only by the mute moon’s light shafts

Which slip in between the trees.

 

2.

The mind for truth

Begins, like a stream, shallow

At first, but then

Adds more and more depth

While gaining greater clarity.

 

3.

(Remembering a lover)

The moon, like you,

Is far away from me, but it’s

Our sole memento:

If you look and recall our past

Through it, we can be one mind.

 

4.

Here I’ve a place

So remote, so mountain-closed,

None comes to call.

But those voices! A whole clan

Of monkeys on the way here!

 

5.

(On love like fallen leaves)

Each morning the wind

Dies down and the rustling leaves

Go silent: was this

The passion of all-night lovers

Now talked out and parting?

 

I find Saigyo to be such a wonderful, human and humane poet that I can fill my head and eyes with his poetry and be satisfied.  This is only a teaser of his superb verse, but in a definite way shows the brilliance, power and inventiveness of the short burst of tanka.  Of course, in the hands of Saigyo, the common becomes memorable and he is just one, but perhaps the best of tanka writers.  There is so much more to and of Saigyo, and of his tanka, but there are others I want to mention in this segment.

Quoting from “Ink Dark Moon”, Hirshfield and Aratani:

“Ono no Komachi (834?-?) served at the imperial court in the capital city of Heian-kyo (present day Kyoto) during the first half century of its existence; her poetry, deeply subjective, passionate, and complex, helped to usher in a poetic age of personal expressiveness, technical excellence and philosophical and emotional depth.  Izumi Shikibu (974?-1034?) wrote during the times of the court culture’s greatest flowering; a woman committed to a life of both religious consciousness and erotic intensity, Shikibu explored her experience in language that is precise in observation, intimate, and deeply moving.  These two women , the first a pivotal figure who became legendary in Japanese literary history, the second Japan’s major woman poet, illuminated certain areas of human experience with a beauty, truthfulness and compression unsurpassed in the literature of any other age.”

There is so much more to be learned about these two women poets, but perhaps it is enough to give examples of their poetry here without further delay.

(These are not my translations: I am continuing to study the Japanese language, but my abilities are sorely short here.  I can recognize many words, but Japanese is particularly difficult in the arrangement. These translations are from “Ink Dark Moon”, mentioned above.)

As with Saigyo, Ono no Komachi mostly writes in the 5-7-5-7-7 form of tanka.

 

1.

Hito ni awan

Tsuki no naki yow a

Omoiokite

Mune bashiribi ni

Kokoro yake ori

 

No way to see him

On this moonless night—

I lie awake longing, burning,

Breasts racing fire,

Heart in flames.

 

What is so striking about this poem is the imagery.  No way to see her lover without the light of the moon, perhaps she dare not strike a light.  But the repeated imagery of light: flames, fire, burning clearly relays her desire.  “Heart in flames” is common, but “Breasts racing fire” pushing this poem up a notch.

2.

Since this body

Was forgotten

By the one who promised to come,

My only thought is wondering

Whether it even exists.

 

We have all been there: this feeling of unreality, surreal, even, in our relationship to another.  Do we exist independently of the one we deeply love?  Would we exist without them?

 

This next one is something so universal it needs no explanation.

3.

I thought to pick

The flower of forgetting

For myself,

But I found it

Already growing in his heart.

 

These are only a few examples of her unmatched poetry.  She is so much fuller as a poet and woman then what I have quoted here.

 

Izumi Shikibu is a poet that can make one uncomfortable in the reading.  Her poems are so personal, so erotic , you feel at times like a voyageur.   There is an emotional depth, a vibrancy that sings through her verse and goes deep into the heart of human experience.

 

1.

Lying alone,

My black hair tangled,

Uncombed,

I long for the one

Who touched it first.

 

2.

In this world

Love has no color—

Yet how deeply

My body

Is stained by yours.

 

3.

When a lover was sent a purple robe he left behind:

 

Don’t blush!

People will guess

That we slept

Beneath the folds

Of this purple-root rubbed cloth.

 

4.

If only his horse

Had been tamed

By my hand—I’d have taught it

Not to follow anyone else!

 

There is no wilting flower in the poem above!

 

This last poem quoted here is hard to read.  Shikibu’s daughter Naishi has died, snow fell and melted.  The reference to ‘vanish into the empty sky’, is referring to the smoke of cremation.  The grief felt in this poem is overwhelming and speaks across the centuries.

 

Why did you vanish

Into empty sky?

Even the fragile snow,

When it falls,

Falls into this world.

 

These are just a few examples of the rich literary tradition of Japanese Tanka.  To me, they speak cross cultures and time.  They speak directly to the human heart.

The next section will be about the formation of tanka, the classical measures within tanka, the pivotal words, and other issues.  I will end with some examples of my own tanka.

 

Jane Kohut-Bartels

Copyrighted, 2014-2018

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

“Call and Answer to Ono no Komachi”

November 21, 2017

Japanese Lovers II

“Call and Answer” is one of the earliest in Japanese poetry.  Continuing the theme, a conversation, a communication with different inferences.  I decided to try my hand at this, and it was instructive and mostly….fun.

Hers appear first, mine (as answering) appear in italics.

 Lady Nyo

Did he appear

Because I fell asleep

Thinking of him?

If only I’d known I was dreaming

I’d never have awakened.

 

How long will it last?

I know not his hidden heart.

This morning my thoughts

Are as tangled as my hair.

My blushes turn my face dark.”

 

When my desire

Grows too fierce

I wear my bed clothes

Inside out,

Dark as the night’s rough husk.

No moon tonight

Only a cold wind visits

Murasaki robe

Stained the color of grass

Invisible on this earth.

 

(Murasaki is a grass, lavender/purple, and also a name, etc.)

 

At least no one can blame me

When I go to you at night

Along the road of dreams.

Come to me, my man,

Part the blinds and come into my arms,

Snuggle against my warm breast

And let my belly

Warm your dreams.

 

One of her most famous poems:

 

No way to see him

On this moonless night—

I lie awake longing, burning,

Breasts racing fire,

Heart in flames.

 

When my needing you

Burns my breasts-torments me

I tear open robes

To lie naked in moonlight

 The wind your hands, caressing

 

 

Night deepens

With the sound of calling deer,

And I hear

My own one-sided love.’

 

Autumn wind startles–

Lowered to an ominous

      Key—Ah! Mournful sounds!

     The fat mountain deer listen-

   Add their bellowing sorrow.

 

The cicadas sing

In the twilight

Of my mountain village—

Tonight, no one

Will visit save the wind.

 

Tonight, foxes scream

Cued by a howling wind.

Maple leaves quilting

A lonely time of season

No one to share the moonlight.

 

 

 

A diver does not abandon

A seaweed-filled bay.

Will you then turn away

From this floating, sea-foam body

That waits for your gathering hands?

 

So lonely am I

My soul like a floating weed

Severed at the roots

Drifting upon cold waters

No pillow for further dreams.

 

 

Is this love reality

Or a dream?

I cannot know,

When both reality and dreams

Exist without truly existing.

 

Dreams, reality

How can one  know?

I stumble through dreams

I stagger through  days

Where reality and dreams are one.

 

All Komachi poems were compiled from the Man’yoshu and the book, “The Ink Dark Moon”, by Hirshfield and Aratani.

Poems in Italics were mine.

Jane Kohut-Bartels

Copyrighted, 2017

 

 

“Call and Answer to Ono no Komachi”

May 1, 2017

kohut-bartels-bop-6

(J Kohut-Bartels,  1995, ‘Birds’, watercolor)

Tonight is OLN (Open Link Night) at dversepoets pub.  I don’t know who is tending the bar tonight because I am posting this early, but they are sure to give a good reading of poems there and a stiff drink to boot.

“Call and Answer” is a work in progress…my attempt to riff in verse with Ono no Komachi.  One of my very favorite poets of any age.  She was a fascinating person and poet.  I included an essay on her in the ‘essay section’ of “Song of the Nightingale”, published 2015.  She is slippery, though.  Different translations of the same poem can give a variation in message.  I have found, for her, the best translations are done by Hirshfield and Aratani.  Jane Hirshfield became a mentor to me, of sorts, when I first started writing tanka.  From her it was: “Good start. Still not tanka yet.”  This was helpful.

Lady Nyo

=–=

 

 

Did he appear

Because I fell asleep

Thinking of him?

If only I’d known I was dreaming

I’d never have awakened.

…..Komachi

 

How long will it last?

I know not his hidden heart.

This morning my thoughts

Are as tangled as my hair.

My blushes turn my face dark.”

……Lady Nyo (from “Kimono”, work in progress…)

 

When my desire

Grows too fierce

I wear my bed clothes

Inside out,

Dark as the night’s rough husk.

……Komachi

No moon tonight

Only a cold wind visits.

Murasaki robe

Stained the color of grass

Invisible on this earth.

……Lady Nyo   (Murasaki is the color purple.  it is also a grass that has dark lavender tops.  It was used as a dye.)

 

At least no one can blame me

When I go to you at night

Along the road of dreams.

……Komachi

Come to me, my man,

Part the blinds, come into my arms,

Snuggle against my warm breast

Let my belly

Warm your dreams.

…..Lady Nyo

 

One of her most famous poems:

 

No way to see him

On this moonless night—

I lie awake longing, burning,

Breasts racing fire,

Heart in flames.

…..Komachi

 

When my need denied

Burns my breasts-torments me

I tear open robes

To lie naked in moonlight

The wind your hands, caressing

……Lady Nyo

 

 

Night deepens

With the sound of calling deer,

And I hear

My own one-sided love.’

…..Komachi

 

Autumn wind startles–

Lowered to an ominous

     Key—Ah! Mournful sounds!

     The fat mountain deer listen-

   Add their bellowing sorrow.

…..Lady Nyo

 

The cicadas sing

In the twilight

Of my mountain village—

Tonight, no one

Will visit save the wind.

…..Komachi

 

Tonight, foxes scream

Cued by a howling wind.

Maple leaves quilting

A lonely time of season

No one to share the moonlight.

……Lady Nyo

 

 

 

A diver does not abandon

A seaweed-filled bay.

Will you then turn away

From this floating, sea-foam body

That waits for your gathering hands?

…..Komachi

 

So lonely am I

My soul like a floating weed

Severed at the roots

Drifting upon cold waters

No pillow for further dreams.

…..Lady Nyo

 

 

Is this love reality

Or a dream?

I cannot know,

When both reality and dreams

Exist without truly existing.

…..Komachi

 

Dreams, reality

How can one truly know?

I stumble through dreams

I stagger through the lost days

Tell me: what has more substance?

…..Lady Nyo

Ono no Komachi just begs for a call and answer.  Her poetry is sublime.  I just had to take this opportunity.  She inspires on the deepest level.

All Komachi poems were compiled from the Man’yoshu and the book, “The Ink Dark Moon”, by Hirshfield and Aratani.

Jane Kohut-Bartels

Copyrighted, 2017

Call and Answer: my tanka to answer Ono no Komachi.

December 1, 2016

 

My beautiful picture

My beautiful picture

(Morning sky to the east a few years ago…)

In the spirit of what was done 1500 years ago, I am answering the call of Ono no Komachi’s wonderful poems with a bit of my own, trying to stay ontheme in each one.

These are just fast written responses., but sometimes that fulfills the task.  As to whether there are ‘real’ tanka, I don’t know, and frankly right now, I am happy enough with what developed.

Lady Nyo

 

Did he appear

Because I fell asleep

Thinking of him?

If only I’d known I was dreaming

I’d never have awakened.

 

How long will it last?

I know not his hidden heart.

This morning my thoughts

Are as tangled as my hair.

My blushes turn my face dark.”

 

When my desire

Grows too fierce

I wear my bed clothes

Inside out,

Dark as the night’s rough husk.

No moon tonight

Only a cold wind visits

Murasaki robe

Stained the color of grass

Invisible on this earth.

 

My longing for you—

Too strong to keep within bounds.

At least no one can blame me

When I go to you at night

Along the road of dreams.

Come to me, my man,

Part the blinds and come into my arms,

Snuggle against my warm breast

And let my belly

Warm your dreams.

 

One of her most famous poems:

 

No way to see him

On this moonless night—

I lie awake longing, burning,

Breasts racing fire,

Heart in flames.

 

When my needing you

Burns my breasts-torments me

I tear open robes

To lie naked in moonlight

The wind your hands, caressing

 

 

Night deepens

With the sound of calling deer,

And I hear

My own one-sided love.’

 

Autumn wind startles–

Lowered to an ominous

     Key—Ah! Mournful sounds!

     The fat mountain deer listen-

   Add their bellowing sorrow.

 

The cicadas sing

In the twilight

Of my mountain village—

Tonight, no one

Will visit save the wind.

 

Tonight, foxes scream

Cued by a howling wind.

Maple leaves quilting

A lonely time of season

No one to share the moonlight.

 

 

 

A diver does not abandon

A seaweed-filled bay.

Will you then turn away

From this floating, sea-foam body

That waits for your gathering hands?

 

So lonely am I

My soul like a floating weed

Severed at the roots

Drifting upon cold waters

No pillow for further dreams.

 

 

Is this love reality

Or a dream?

I cannot know,

When both reality and dreams

Exist without truly existing.

 

Dreams, reality

How can one truly know?

I stumble through dreams

I stagger through the lost days

Tell me: what has more substance?

I did my poems  fast. I will refine and revise later. And try to complete this with the remaining poems of Komachi.

All Komachi poems were compiled from the Man’yoshu and the book, “The Ink Dark Moon”, by Hirshfield and Aratani.

Jane Kohut-Bartels

Copyrighted, 2016

 

 

Ono no Komachi, A Sensual Medieval Japanese Poet

November 30, 2016
My beautiful picture

Autumn colors from my bathroom window today

 

I’ve written before on this blog about Ono no Komachi. She continues to capture my interest as a woman and a poet.

Briefly, she lived from 834?-??. It’s not clear when she died. She served in Japan’s Heian court (then in Kyoto) and was one of the dominant poetic geniuses. She is also in the great Man’yoshu, a collection of 4500 poems.

She lived when a woman was considered to be educated once she composed, memorized and could recite 1000 poems. Her poetry is deeply subjective, passionate and complex. She was a pivotal figure, legendary in Japanese literary history.

The form: these are written in tanka form…the usual form of poetry most popular.

Don’t be put off by the lack of syllables or more than for the lines. These poems are translated into English and they don’t necessarily fit the form exactly.

There are parts of the world where her poetry is still studied and read. These cultures are richer for the doing, as are their poets.

Lady Nyo

Did he appear

Because I fell asleep

Thinking of him?

If only I’d known I was dreaming

I’d never have awakened.

When my desire

Grows too fierce

I wear my bed clothes

Inside out,

Dark as the night’s rough husk.

My longing for you—

Too strong to keep within bounds.

At least no one can blame me

When I go to you at night

Along the road of dreams.

One of her most famous poems:

No way to see him

On this moonless night—

I lie awake longing, burning,

Breasts racing fire,

Heart in flames.

Night deepens

With the sound of calling deer,

And I hear

My own one-sided love.

The cicadas sing

In the twilight

Of my mountain village—

Tonight, no one

Will visit save the wind.

A diver does not abandon

A seaweed-filled bay.

Will you then turn away

From this floating, sea-foam body

That waits for your gathering hands?

Is this love reality

Or a dream?

I cannot know,

When both reality and dreams

Exist without truly existing.

My personal favorite:

 

The autumn night

Is long only in name—

We’ve done no more

Than gaze at each other

And it’s already dawn.

This morning

Even my morning glories

Are hiding,

Not wanting to show

Their sleep-mussed hair.

I thought to pick

The flower of forgetting

For myself,

But I found it

Already growing in his heart.

Since this body

Was forgotten

By the one who promised to come,

My only thought is wondering

Whether it even exists.

=

All these poems were compiled from the Man’yoshu and the book, “The Ink Dark Moon”, by Hirshfield and Aratani.

Jane Kohut-Bartels

copyrighted, 2016

 

 

Ono no Komachi, A Sensual Medieval Japanese Poet, one of the “100 Immortals”

August 27, 2015

Tanka image

I’ve written before on this blog about Ono no Komachi. She continues to capture my interest as a woman and a poet.

Briefly, she lived from 834?-??. It’s not clear when she died. She served in Japan’s Heian court (then in Kyoto) and was one of the dominant poetic geniuses. She is also in the great Man’yoshu, a collection of 4500 poems.

She lived when a woman was considered to be educated once she composed, memorized and could recite 1000 poems. Her poetry is deeply subjective, passionate and complex. She was a pivotal figure, legendary in Japanese literary history.

The form: these are written in tanka form…the usual form of poetry most popular.

Don’t be put off by the lack of syllables or more than for the lines. These poems are translated into English and they don’t necessarily fit the form exactly.

There are parts of the world where her poetry is still studied and read. These cultures are richer for the doing, as are their poets.

Lady Nyo

Did he appear

Because I fell asleep

Thinking of him?

If only I’d known I was dreaming

I’d never have awakened.

When my desire

Grows too fierce I

wear my bed clothes Inside out,

Dark as the night’s rough husk.

My longing for you—

Too strong to keep within bounds.

At least no one can blame me

When I go to you at night

Along the road of dreams.

One of her most famous poems:

No way to see him

On this moonless night—

I lie awake longing, burning,

Breasts racing fire,

Heart in flames.

Night deepens

With the sound of calling deer,

And I hear

My own one-sided love.

The cicadas sing

In the twilight

Of my mountain village—

Tonight, no one

Will visit save the wind.

A diver does not abandon

A seaweed-filled bay.

Will you then turn away

From this floating, sea-foam body

That waits for your gathering hands?

Is this love reality

Or a dream?

I cannot know,

When both reality and dreams

Exist without truly existing.

My personal favorite:

The autumn night Is long only in name—

We’ve done no more

Than gaze at each other

And it’s already dawn.

This morning

Even my morning glories

Are hiding,

Not wanting to show

Their sleep-mussed hair.

I thought to pick

The flower of forgetting

For myself,

But I found it

Already growing in his heart.

Since this body

Was forgotten

By the one who promised to come,

My only thought is wondering

Whether it even exists.

All these poems were compiled from the Man’yoshu and the book, “The Ink Dark Moon”, by Hirshfield and Aratani.

The fun and excitement of studying the tanka form and studying the examples of Komachi’s gives way to the development of our own verse.  These below are of no comparison to Komachi’s but they help a poet to write inspired by her beautiful work.  There is nothing wrong with this, and in fact, is of the great precedent that was common during her time.  These below are mine, now published in “Song of the Nightingale”, Amazon. com, 2015.

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.

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.

Last night I thought of you–

My face still bears the blushes.

You thought it was good health?

No, just reflects the liberty

of dreams.

My laughter is as hollow

as that stricken tree by the pond.

I have not laughed for a long time.

It strangles in my throat.

Bolts of lightning flash!

The sky brightens like the day-

too soon it darkens.

My eyes opened or closed see

the futility of love.

 –

Jane Kohut-Bartels

Copyrighted, 2015

Song_of_the_Nightingale_COVER

Recently published by Createspace, Amazon.com

http://amzn.to/1Cm8mZi

Introducing:  MIA, our new doggie.  She was a rescue, pregnant and HW positive. 4 years old.  Sweetest dog in the universe.

Ono no Komachi, Sensual Poems of a Medieval Woman Poet

March 13, 2014

Tanka Presentation #2

Crabapple/Peach Tree in back yard, Spring

Crabapple/Peach Tree in back yard, Spring

Ono no Komachi….Sensual Poems of a Medieval Woman Poet

Ono no Komachi continues to capture my interest as a woman and a poet.  For me, she personifies this very Japanese concept called mono no aware.  This is translated as “the sorrow of human existence’ but perhaps can be better translated as ‘a sensitivity to things’ mostly meaning an understanding of the perishability of beauty and human happiness.  Ono no Komachi’s poetry certainly was deeply based in this concept.

Briefly, she lived from 834?-??.  It’s not clear when she died.  She served in Japan’s Heian court as a lady in waiting to the Emperor’s consort and was one of the dominant poetic geniuses. Komachi’s father was a lord in Dewa, in the northwest of Japan, probably in the region known as Akito. She, like so many young girls, was sent to the court when very young, perhaps as young as ten years old.  This was common practice and a good place for her to find a husband with position within the court.

There are stories about Komachi, that she was a great beauty, attracted many lovers, but was very cruel to them. A few of her poems express her deep sorrow where one or the other died before she could make her peace with them.  But these are just stories passed down from centuries.  And, there is a final story, where when she was very old, and had lost all her beauty and was poor, she lived in a hut and people came to stare at this once great and famous beauty.  But perhaps, as was the custom for women of a certain class, she shaved her head and became a nun. Perhaps she lived out her life in a monastery.

 She is also in the great Man’yoshu, a collection of 4515 poems.  This was ordered by the Emperor to be compiled around the 9th century.

She lived when a woman was considered to be educated once she composed, memorized and could recite 1000 poems.  Her poetry is deeply subjective, passionate and complex.  She was a pivotal figure, legendary in Japanese literary history.  She is counted as one of the “100 Famous Japanese Poets”.

These poems are written in tanka form…the usual form of poetry most popular.  Don’t be put off by the lack of syllables or more than 31 for the lines.  These poems are translated into English and they don’t necessarily fit the form exactly.

There are parts of the world where her poetry is still studied and read.  These cultures are richer for the doing, as are their poets.

Lady Nyo

Did he appear

Because I fell asleep

Thinking of him?

If only I’d known I was dreaming

I’d never have awakened.

When my desire

Grows too fierce

I wear my bed clothes

Inside out,

Dark as the night’s rough husk.

My longing for you—

Too strong to keep within bounds.

At least no one can blame me

When I go to you at night

Along the road of dreams.

One of her most famous poems:

No way to see him

On this moonless night—

I lie awake longing, burning,

Breasts racing fire,

Heart in flames.

Night deepens

With the sound of calling deer,

And I hear

My own one-sided love.

The cicadas sing

In the twilight

Of my mountain village—

Tonight, no one

Will visit save the wind.

A diver does not abandon

A seaweed-filled bay.

Will you then turn away

From this floating, sea-foam body

That waits for your gathering hands?

Is this love reality

Or a dream?

I cannot know,

When both reality and dreams

Exist without truly existing.

My personal favorite:

The autumn night

Is long only in name—

We’ve done no more

Than gaze at each other

And it’s already dawn.

This morning

Even my morning glories

Are hiding,

Not wanting to show

Their sleep-mussed hair.

I thought to pick

The flower of forgetting

For myself,

But I found it

Already growing in his heart.

Since this body

Was forgotten

By the one who promised to come,

My only thought is wondering

Whether it even exists.

All these poems were compiled from the Man’yoshu and the book, “The Ink Dark Moon”, by Hirshfield and Aratani.

The fun and excitement of studying the tanka form and studying the examples of Komachi’s gives way to the development of our own verse.  These below are of no comparison to Komachi’s but they help a poet to write inspired by her beautiful work.  There is nothing wrong with this, and in fact, is of the great precedent that was common during her time.  These below are mine.

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.

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.

Last night I thought of you–

My face still bears the blushes.

You thought it was good health?

No, just reflects the liberty

of dreams.

My laughter is as hollow

as that stricken tree by the pond.

I have not laughed for a long time.

It strangles in my throat.

Bolts of lightning flash!

The sky brightens like the day-

too soon it darkens.

My eyes opened or closed see

the futility of love.

 –

Jane Kohut-Bartels

Copyrighted, 2014


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