Posts Tagged ‘Poet’


January 30, 2017



(“Dawn Geese” Watercolor, 2004, Jane Kohut-Bartels)


Bjorn over at dversepoets pub is presenting a quadrille challenge, with the word ‘dawn’.  Quadrilles are poems of exactly 44 words.

Lady Nyo


Tender peach clouds at daybreak

Float over placid water.

The moon still hangs on

As dawn grows bolder.

Goddess Nut calls to her sleepy houri,

Tucking them under her belly.

I heard the earliest swallows

Twitter as they flew by,

Sharing the night’s gossip.

Saigyo, Poet Priest

April 9, 2016

This is a photo of a long dead Peach tree in my backyard.  I used it for an illustration to an older post and it turned up on the google search for Saigyo.


One of my favorite poets, if not my favorite, is the 12 century poet, Saigyo.  He was part of a military guard when he was young, and at 23 left this life to become a priest. He worried that his past, violent life would affect his religious duties, and this concern followed him.

Saigyo went on the road, travelled all over Japan for many years.  This isn’t unusual, this was the way priests supported their temples and themselves.  Some priests were spies for the court, for various daimyos, and wore a large woven basket over their heads.  There is some significance with this this but I don’t remember more than what I write here.  Nuns also travelled but many were prostitutes.  Another way to support themselves. 

Saigyo’s poetry amazes me.  Though most of his poetry is in the tanka form, it is hard for English readers to understand the form through the translation. Regardless, what is so unusual with Saigyo’s poetry is the humanism:  much of poetry were praises for the various emperors, and other nobles, etc.  Saigyo’s is observations, praise, etc. for nature, for common people.  My favorite is his about the flock of monkeys.

Now there are a number of collections of Saigyo published. People have found the beauty and the human characteristics of Saigyo.  When I stumbled upon Saigyo, there was only one book published in English, back in 1990.  Now, finding more of Saigyo’s  poetry is easier.

When I do the short presentation on Tanka for the new Metropolitan Library on April 18th, I am going to use his poetry (among others)  because I find it the most appealing to people who have never read Japanese poetry.

Lady Nyo


Not a hint of shadow

On the moon’s face….but now

A silhouette passes–

Not the cloud I take it for,

But a flock of flying geese.

Thought I was free

Of passions, so  this melancholy

Comes as surprise:

A woodcock shoots up from marsh

Where autumn’s twilight falls.

Someone who has learned

How to manage life in loneliness:

Would there were one more!

He could winter here on this mountain

With his hut right next to mine.

Winter has withered

Everything in this mountain place:

Dignity is in

Its desolation now, and beauty

In the cold clarity of its moon.

When the fallen snow

Buried the twigs bent by me

To mark a return trail,

Unplanned, in strange mountains

I was holed up all winter.

Snow has fallen on

Field paths and mountain paths,

Burying them all

And I can’t tell here from there:

My journey in the midst of sky.

Here I huddle, alone,

In the mountain’s shadow, needing

Some companion somehow:

The cold, biting rains pass off

And give me the winter moon.

(I love this one especially: Saigyo makes the vow to be unattached to seasons, to expectations, but fails and embraces his very human limitations)

It was bound to be!

My vow to be unattached

To seasons and such….

I, who by a frozen bamboo pipe

Now watch and wait for spring.

(Love like cut reeds:)

Not so confused

As to lean only one way:

My love-life!

A sheaf of field reeds also bends

Before each wind which moves it.

(And 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?

From “Mirror For the Moon”, A Selection of Poems by Saigyo (1118-1190)

Some Random Tanka….

May 16, 2012



So lonely am I

My soul like a floating weed

Severed at the roots

Drifting upon cold waters

No pillow for further dreams.



The truth of longing

Has nothing of nice logic.

A matter of hearts

So uneven, exciting!

But most painful, nonetheless.


The moon floats on wisps

Of clouds extending outward

Tendrils of white fire

Blanketing the universe

Gauzy ghosts of nothingness.


When nature is known

Reason for awe can be found

In familiar sights.

Intimacy at the core—

Astounding revelation!


Human frailties

wounds that bleed such heated blood

leave a dry vessel.

Without the moisture of love

the clay reverts to the ground.


Jane Kohut-Bartels

Copyrighted, 2012

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