Posts Tagged ‘sensual poetry’

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

 


%d bloggers like this: